Let me be frank with you – I kind of love stuff (especially pretty stuff). I am not a light packer and I never have been!
I hold on to old ribbons and wrapping paper, dresses and hats from years ago, countless postcards and letters, books and beads. I love making collages and I often engage in spontaneous crafty projects, but this is a poor justification for all my stashing of randomness.
I have this fantasy in which I only own enough stuff to fit in 4 boxes. One for clothes. One for books. One for memories and art and one for shoes, jewelry and accessories. But seriously, even that’s a bit excessive. Basically – I would be a terrible ascetic! But, no harm in trying to pare it down a bit now and again.
And yesterday was a day for deaccessioning! My father took advantage of the rare opportunity of having all 3 kiddos in town to get us up in the attic sorting out old stuff. It was quite an ordeal. 30+ years worth of dusty treasures! We combed through furniture, books, children’s toys and costumes, games, crafts, pictures, artwork, suitcases and a lot of clothes.
The biggest project of all was deconstructing the “memory boxes” that my mother has been compiling for us individually since birth. These boxes were full of pictures, favorite clothes, videos, cds, school papers and grades, newspaper clippings and more! My brother found some pretty hilarious stuff in his like the apology letter he wrote in elementary school to a neighbor kid that he beat up. By the end of sorting, my 3 overflowing boxes were down to a single small box only half-full with a few pictures, cards and clothes.
I also had to pull down 4 huge cedar hanging bags of my vintage clothes collection to be shipped to CO. I have decided that the time has come to let go of this collection so one of my big projects for the winter will be organizing and photographing these pieces for a new etsy shop!
Anyways, all this attic-cleansing got me to thinking about attachment to material stuff. Each of these items in the attic had personal memories and real strong emotions connected with them. I realized that in truth, I didn’t actually want to be in possession of all these things, but the thought of not having them made me feel sad. I guess I thought they would always be there, safely tucked away in the rafters for whenever the time came that I might actually “need” or want them.
But without them, I am the same. The things that were mine do not make “me”. There’s not a massive gap in my heart just because I gave away some sweet things from my childhood, because my heart is already full to the brim with the intangible joyful memories of those times.
This past year I’ve been whittling down my closet too. I’ve probably given away/consigned a quarter of what was there in the beginning of the year. Because I’ve literally been this same size since I was 14 and even as a kid I loved fashion, I still have dresses that I wore in 9th grade. I love a lot of these funky clothes, but rarely wear them. My lifestyle these days doesn’t call for a lot of outrageous dresses like it used to in high school and college. So, I’ve been slowly liberating these items, and thus, feeling more liberated myself.
It’s so easy to get too attached to material objects to the point of letting them define us. I remember I had a fantastic huge citrine necklace that I wore in college every day. Then, near the end of my senior year, it was stolen/disappeared. I was devastated! I called my mother and just sobbed to her. I couldn’t imagine myself without that pendant around my neck. She soothed me and told me that if it is meant to turn up, it will, but if not, life would go on and I would still be “me” without my signature piece. She reminded me that we are not what we own but what we do. This was an important lesson to learn.
For me, practicing aparigraha means to let things be, to appreciate the material world for what it is, but not cling to it. All things must pass and by possessively holding on to material things (the body is included in this as it is just a material thing too) you are only causing yourself more suffering and pain.
Understanding and practicing aparigraha is one of the most essential tools for happiness in today’s world I believe.
It’s so easy to get distracted by all the shiny glitzy things out there, to crave and covet, to be greedy and hoard what you possess. But we all know this doesn’t actually bring happiness, right? I think most of us have had the experience that we receive more joy giving a present than getting one. This is symbolic of so much in life.
It is through service and sharing our gifts with others that we find the most fulfillment and peace in our lives.
So as I deaccessioned yesterday these material things, I thought a bit more about what else in my life I could “give away”. What false identities, what stories, what grudges or resentments could I let go of? What bad memories or feelings of unworthiness or inadequacy can I release?
There is no need to grasp and hoard those things either, the citta “mind-stuff” that we falsely identify with (yogically speaking, thoughts are technically just as material as an old dress).
Without these stories, I can still be me; actually, I can be even more me without all that baggage that was actually a distraction from the core of me, the spirit-soul of my heart.
So I offer this to you today as a challenge….
What can you let go of? What can you release? Where can you make space? What can you clean up in your home, your car, your office, your heart and your head?
And then after you’ve done a little scrubbing and sorting, ask yourself,
Who am I without this thing/story/identification?
Let me know what emerges….
Love and Blessings!