Finally, with 2013 breathing down my neck, I’m getting rid of this baggage. It’s been weighing me down. But, while I’m inclined toward neatness and order, discarding stuff is painstaking. Why do I keep things that I don’t need, barely like, or rarely use? Why is it hard to let go?
Seriously, why keep two pairs of running tights that never quite fit? CDs downloaded into iTunes? Jewelry once treasured but now not my style? Travel guides (unused but obsolete) to places I want to go?
Part of my problem is sentimentality. I like having visceral reminders of the past: photographs, calendars, writings, and letters, obviously, but anything (my late calico‘s favorite toy, my sister’s scrubs from residency) can make the cut. They keep memories sharp (sharper, at least) and give context to my life. Where was I five, 10, 15 years ago? Who was I? If I discard this thing, am I forsaking that part of myself?
Another part is practicality. I might need that stuff someday. There’s space, so why not keep three portable fans, a lifetime supply of Lonely Planet business cards, and those running tights? (Case in point: when my old external hard drive recently died, I lost my entire iTunes library (gasp), but at least have the original CDs.)
A regrettable part is acquisitiveness, i.e., greed. In spring 2011, I purchased two sets of blocks—one in cork, one in hollow cedar—to diversify my longtime foam blocks (at a glance, they resemble lava rock!) from San Francisco’s Yoga Props. Soon after, I scored an awesome set of solid cedar blocks from a yoga colleague who’s a cabinetmaker. Later, I bought a pair of standard foam blocks to leave with my parents in Hawaii. Each type of block differs in size, heft, and touch-feel, but I might’ve gone a bit overboard.
Even if you’re not greedy, things simply pile up. If you think you’re immune, check your sock supply, tee shirt collection, and any “miscellaneous” drawer in your house.
I’m reminded of a quote by a lawyer I met before I even started law school. When he moved his family to his wife’s home state, Florida, forgoing his California career (and facing another bar exam), I expressed surprise. In response, he quoted the late Bill Walsh, who won three Super Bowl championships as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers and, after the third, immediately stepped down:
The most difficult thing a person has to do with his life is [to] decide when it’s time to move on.
That quote struck me years ago—and it still gets to me today.
It’s one thing to be fired or dumped, to be wiped out by natural disaster, to be forced to change. It’s another challenge altogether to control your course—to quit a job, to initiate a breakup, to get rid of once-valued objects no longer enriching your life. Whether big or little, these decisions are all part of moving on and letting go.
In an odd coincidence (maybe even ironically), I’m publishing this post on Boxing Day, the biggest shopping day of the year in Canada. Shoppers, myself included, buy only what you really need or really love!
- Clearing the clutter
- Simplify, simplify, and get rid of unnecessary stuff
- Shopping, sales, and greed
Image: A clutter of cats, Le Pen Now and Again, Collective Noun series