The Slow Art of Letting Stuff Go

We’re giving away our things, and it’s taking time. 

So much time. 

Regarding having no possessions, this sloth is way ahead of me.

Some people, I hear, can decide to unload their possessions and then just do it. I heard a podcast interview once with a man who, while on a meditation retreat, was seized by the need to unload every possession he owned. He called up a friend and asked her to take care of it. That generous soul called an estate sale company–they sold off every last object–and then she sold his house. He moved somewhere else without a picture frame or a dish to his name. 

That might be nice. We’re several months into The Great Unloading, and while we’ve made fantastic progress, we have a ways to go. Sometimes when I’m up to my elbows in a basement box, I imagine walking away, nothing in my hands, arms swinging at my sides, calling over my should to some imaginary person, “Sell it! Burn it! Give it away! I don’t care!”

But gone-all-at-once isn’t for me. My slow labors serve a purpose. For one, I’m keeping this stuff from going into a landfill. I’m finding homes for everything–some sold, a lot given away. 

And also, it takes time for me to loosen my grip on my possessions. Exposure therapy, I call it.

Take my now-distributed craft supplies. I know I’m going to live nomadically with very little storage, and I know I don’t want to use up any of that precious storage space for craft supplies, so each and every bit of it must go. It would have been logical to haul it away all at once, but our possessions–why we bought them in the first place and why we’ve kept them–don’t dwell in logic. 

Cross stitch supplies went first. I had to let that simmer awhile, allowing myself to adjust. Next went fabric and sewing equipment, eventually the book making and painting supplies, finally the scrapbooking stuff. I’m gentle with myself, because each removal is a tiny adjustment in identity. When the crocheting things went, I was no longer a person who crochets. Never mind that I haven’t crocheted anything in many years–only when that stuff is gone does that sink in. With each removal I mature a bit more–I clear out stuff that belongs to other identities that didn’t quite fit. To clear out is to make peace with the person I actually am. It’s an act of self acceptance. 

I have a friend who’s also doing a Great Unloading, and she wrote that she’s so angry with herself for spending money on all the stuff she’s letting go. Such waste, she says. What was I thinking? 

I could be really angry with myself, too. Geez, so much stuff. So much I either ignored and must deal with now, or stuff I spent perfectly good weekend afternoons organizing and labeling, when I didn’t need it at all.

But anger takes energy, and I need all my energy to let this stuff go. So I go slow. I laugh at myself. I’m gentle. I celebrate each cleared box, shelf, whole room. I’ll get there, to the open space I crave, the freedom from possessions that’s essential for the traveling life we’re creating for ourselves.

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