Last night, my external hard drive crashed. 100 GB of music, gone. As I brushed a few tears from my eye and started making my list of essentials to rebuild my library (that’s right, folks – it wasn’t backed up), I realized how few of the songs and albums in my iTunes library I would actually want to pay to download again. And then I looked around my house, and started wondering how much of THIS STUFF I would pay for again if given the chance.
I’ve long known that I have a stifling relationship with stuff. That became evident when I had to delete most of my belongings when moving from a 700-square-foot apartment, where I lived solo, to a 1200-square-foot rental home, where I live with my now-fiance. I sold stuff, donated stuff, and generally rid myself of years of unhealthy associations. It felt awesome.
Then, we moved into our house, and I started piling it all on again. My common refrain for months was, “Look what I bought – but it only cost me $20!” After doing that 7 times every month, I struggled to figure out why I was always short in my checking account, when I never bought anything pricey. It was my rush to get more stuff.
Today, I look around and see things I’m hanging onto “just in case.” Art supplies I may still come to use. Books I might still read – and books I will never read, but which my kids may want to read. Clothes I may still fit into, or grow to love. Board games we may still play. Tchotchkes with which I may still adorn my home.
Every time I start to do a clean-out, I pause. But what if I regret this? What if 10 years from now I wish I hadn’t thrown away my 6th grade yearbook? What if 6 months from now I decide I want to start reading Agatha Christie and wish I still had those “Five Classic Murder Mysteries”? What if I decide I want to wear my orange suede skirt one day, and while scrambling to find it I realize, with regret, that I donated it to Salvation Army?
I think the biggest thing I need to let go of, bigger than even the stuff and the urge to accumulate stuff, is the sense of panic I feel when it’s time to shed all those things. It’s my association with things that I’ve had since a little girl – shoeboxes of pebbles from the playground, notes from my 6th grade friend, journals and drawings, barely started collections.
How do you shed your stuff – and your urge to fill the gaps with more stuff?