Liberation is hard. Just ask the founders about rejecting a monarchy for a new way. Liberation is not an easy set of choices. You don’t (or at least, very rarely) get to be liberated without effort, focus, will, and determination. Oh, and don’t forget tenacity, fearlessness or desire.
As we embarked on readying ourselves for this journey, I found that once I started taking stock of “stuff,” I found that it is very much a hard path. But then, great things in life are never easy.
Prioritizing Quality Over Quanity
The first step is psychological. You have to examine what it means to be happy, and the many ways you can achieve it. Balance that with pragmatism and you can quickly see just how much of a conundrum your life can be.
I’m not advocating that my/our choices are for everyone. I’m not sitting here typing this out to convince you that I’ve chosen the right path and everyone else has chosen poorly. Happiness is an individual thing. We must all evaluate and choose according to our own internal compasses. Though, when you voluntarily choose to turn a magnifying glass on what you prioritize in your life, you can find that point A to point B is quite a bumpy road.
Quality of life is something we all strive for. We want to be comfortable and happy. Even so, comfort and happiness are quite individual. I can only give insight into my journey there, even as that journey is really just beginning.
I’ve always held the philosophy of quality being greater than quantity. Sure I’ve been an active participant in consumer capitalism. I’ve worked hard to have a comfortable life. But as surely as the sun rises in the east, comfortable can come at a price. If you are watching closely, you can course correct with minimal life impact.
Or you can go down if a fiery ball of flame and destruction. Your choice.
Regardless of the path you choose, doubt exists even for the most adventurous. That is exactly what the point really is: to push yourself beyond comfort into quality. So, buck up campers, it is totally manageable.
Purge, then purge again, then…wait for it…PURGE again
We began the process of purging months ago. Honestly, we didn’t start soon enough or with enough gusto. We (well, at least I) didn’t know that at the time. I’m much more attached to my “stuff” than I care to admit. Essentially, I did, as most would, the easy stuff first. I won’t enumerate all of what I’ve let go of, it would be a long, long list.
Did I say long? I underestimate.
As an adult in my early 50’s, I accumulated a lot of things and stuff. I used to justify keeping it all with one simple statement: What if? What if I need this? What if that 1 thing happens and I need this very specific thing to resolve that thing? What if I regret getting rid of it?
Well, that’s horseshit. It is a psychological battle that you choose to lose. What if is an excuse, a crutch. Sure, that is easy to say, but living it is different. You fully understand just how much fear of losing your stuff you really have when you are purposely choosing to eliminate it from your life. It isn’t necessarily a fault or a character flaw, it is simply the world we live in. Buy things, get stuff, prove to the world you are successful. Ultimately though, it is empty and shallow attempt to fill something missing in your life, which is totally unique to you. Your story, your stuff is ultimately just you.
At first, I found purging cathartic. I mean, it is a cleansing of your psyche as well as your life. That feeling of accomplishment when you let go of that thing you’ve kept with you for two decades yet never used. You feel good…you feel like you are advancing.
But then, it just keeps happening.
It was at a moment like that that I realized just how much baggage I had chosen to carry with me. Sentiment is a strong force in humans, almost as strong as tradition. We keep things because we bought/received them and have guilt associated with releasing them into the wild.
Overcoming your own psychology
Fear, guilt, sentiment, desire. These are all elements of “keeping” things, this being the “gathering” part of our hunter/gatherer historical past. We keeps things we feel might be useful, needed or wanted. All good reasons, of course. But if you look at the BOOMING storage unit business we, as a species, are keeping too much. If you can’t carry it with you, why are you keeping it, right?
When you are moving into a smaller space, it sometimes makes sense to keep things in storage. Smaller is typically temporary in our society as we (the collective “we“) are conditioned to want bigger homes that need more things in them. For those that seek that, I’m not judging or criticizing…seek your dream if that is what you desire.
Moving into a space that is about 250-300 square feet (smaller than my first apartment) requires a much greater release than most other moves, especially if you are pushing to NOT have a storage unit to keep things. Julie had a very strong desire to not have anything in storage as we embarked. I had different leanings, but, ultimately, we had friends and family that had need of much of our stuff. The hardest to let go of were my instruments. I had strong attachments to them. I see them as works of art, fine objects made by artisans (though, likely made in a factory). I even had some that were custom made to my specifications, though they were unusual (a stand-up dulcimer, wait, two; a 2 string bass). I hadn’t played them in four years. Gone. Though one went to a young friend who’d had his stolen.
Oh, and tools. Tough to let go of several hundred dollars of tools. But, friends in need got good tools to replace theirs that were elsewhere in the country.
All of that was simple in comparison to letting go of books. I love books. I prefer still to read a real book than a digital version. I at one point had a couple of hundred books that I’d collected over decades. I also had a fair collection of antique books. So, my psychology said “you must keep at all costs.” I had to overcome that with a firm application of rational logic. Had I read any of them recently? Would I in actuality read them later? If I answered yes to either, I then had to ask myself, “will you honestly read them if you keep them?” No. So away they go.
Being honest to yourself is often difficult
The psychology of comfort and the perceived comfort that “things” bring is a tough nut to crack. You have to be brutally honest (and when I say brutally, I mean BRUTALLY) about why you are keeping them. Most of it is the psychology of “my stuff” that has no rational basis in the real world.
So, if you want to have an experience in life of really understanding what you covet, get rid of everything. It is rewarding, even though it is very hard work. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Liberating for sure, but a brutal process.