One spring, somewhere within the mode of spring cleaning and simplifying my life, I decided to do something that had been on my mind for a few months. It was a simple, yet bold move that had a significant impact on my life, and before I share what it was, allow me to explain the steps that led to my decision.
During this particular spring cleaning, I decided to go through my jewelry drawer and reconnect with what was in there. I consider myself a minimalist and hence do not like anything extra in the house in terms of clutter. I am in no way, you know that saying, a “pack-rat”. “If I don’t use it, then I don’t need it and hence it should not be there” is I guess a general way of understanding my outlook on “stuff”.
I don’t like to have many versions of one thing, because
a) you lose appreciation for your items more and
b) there is only so much one needs and can use at a time
Well, I follow that idea very well when it comes to household stuff and knick-knacks, clothes, and even food in the fridge. So I thought, how about my sentimental and precious jewelry pieces?
I find that in the Western World, we are so captivated and addicted to abundance and the idea of “more”. So many people hold on to so much and for so long, some till their death. Then their survived ones go through piles of stuff and junk, for the most part, that was collected to no end over the years of that lifetime. Did you ever ask yourself who benefits from such actions? Did you ever ponder about why so many of us seem so unable to get out of these habits? And what would happen if you did?
I really cannot agree with this concept as like I said before, there is only so much one can use in a set amount of time during their life here. I also think about it this way; if I happen to have more than I need of something and clearly I cannot use “it” or “them” all at the same time then why not share, pass it onto or donate it to someone who could make use out of something that may just sit in my house for the sake of sitting. Again with this idea, I know a lot of people have the thought “but one day…” To this, my response is: if that one day has not come yet or is not now, then chances are it will never come. Granted there are some exceptions like holding onto baby clothes for your next child, but that is generally speaking an exception to very few things.
Now, as you are reading this, alarm bells might be going off in your head saying “but what about sentimental value?” And that is where I will continue “my” story to shed some light on what really is this idea of “sentimental value” and who really benefits from it.
Okay so a few months ago, I am going through my jewelry drawer and as I open the main box where I keep all my gold jewelry I noticed about 6 yellow gold rings that I have not worn in years, okay honestly decades, and some I have never once worn! And you may be wondering then why do I have them, well the same thought crossed my mind at that time and the answer was simple… As I picked up one after another, I thought “aunt so and so gave me this…” and “this one I got for this occasion…” So as you can see sentimental reasons took me over. But then I changed my view and thought wait a minute, so this is the only way I am going to remember these people or these moments? Once a year if that when I look at these rings that I am never going to wear? (And yes I was 100% sure that I was never going to wear these rings again, for one because they are yellow gold which I do not like and two because I have 3 beautiful rings on my fingers from my husband and that is all I need for the rest of my life)
I realized at this point that something is very wrong here. I needed to break out of the old conditioning. I thought of not only my rings but any other jewelry that is sitting in my drawers simply for “sentimental reasons”. And so I thought, so these items are supposed to just sit there and waste away, literally collecting dust when they could be used by someone else who would actually use them and appreciate them? Am I that attached to the past and to these items? Well, I know myself better than that. The answer was simple and quick – of course not! And no I do not believe also in “future sentimentality”, you know when people say “you can pass it onto your kids”. Are you kidding? These items are already outdated, why would I want to subject any future kids to them and make them feel obligated to like them because they are “your mother’s”. So that is how my idea was born, to get rid of any of the items that I was not and would not be using and break away from the stories that brought with them a false sense of self.
So last week I went through all my jewelry again and got rid literally of every yellow gold piece, chains, bracelets, rings, earrings, you name it. Thank God there was not that much, but still, I feel anything sitting around doing nothing is already too much. I won’t lie, a small stab of guilt passed through me as I packed them all into one box, but I continued and did not let my uncomfortable ego at this point get in the way. I decided to take them to a pawn shop. I was not interested in making money off of them by selling privately but thought, getting a few bucks for them would be nice, even if it paid for the next few gas fill-ups. Now to tell you the truth, based on how many items I had, I thought of a much higher number in my head as to what they would be worth at a pawn shop. I was thinking around $500. What I got was $140. I laughed, as again through attachment to things we assign to them a much greater value than what items actually have.
As I left the shop, I cannot tell you what an amazing feeling I had. I literally felt “lighter”. I felt like I detached myself from something that had a hold over me and just like that felt freer. I think I also proved to myself that I do have the strength to let go and not being attached to “sentimental stories”. It is always easier to do away with things we do not “love”, but still some people refuse to get rid of things they really do not like. I did not like many of these items, but they did have a strong sentimental value.
Ultimately I am very happy with my decision.
Now to conclude let’s focus on sentimentality. Many people in our society today feel they need this aspect in their lives. If you question them, often they are not able to really answer why. The thing is that sentimentality instills within us a sense of comfort. Comfort does not force us to think or reexamine things, which ultimately would lead to change. And change is something that not many of us do too well with. For many reasons, all of which are not good, change makes us feel uncomfortable. Someone may say that through what I did I lost something, like a piece of history or family heritage. But think about it, by releasing all these items, did I really lose something, or did I gain?
If one truly examines a situation like this, it will become very evident that one can gain a lot out of it, not lose. One can gain many things through it, but above all, a sense of strength by knowing that you are not these items! Neither they nor the stories they carry with them make you who you are. You are what makes you who you are.
Author Eckhart Tolle describes concepts like these wonderfully in his book A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose (Oprah’s Book Club, Selection 61), which if you read many of the other posts, you can see I explore in great depth. Through attachment to things, we form this idea very strongly of “me and my story”. I could have taken out all those gold pieces and gone around explaining to everyone or even just myself on an ongoing basis, who gave it to me, when, why, etc. But what am I doing through that? Creating more detail in “my story” and constantly reliving the past, which again ultimately does not benefit me or make one bit of who I am. Many may disagree with this, and that is fine. One cannot grasp it until one acknowledges their ego and learns how to detach from that first.
The items do not make me who I am. They do not make me any more or any less, regardless of what the outside world says. “My story” also does not make me who I am. It is only through consciousness and “being” that I am who I am and feel as “rich” or “poor” as I choose to feel.
You know on a side note, think also about why so many people dread break-ins…because they may lose “their stuff”. I actually did not fear break-ins very much before this and definitely fear them even less now. Sure there is an element of personal safety, but let us just look at the material aspect. If there is nothing you are attached to, then there is nothing to fear. If the stuff goes, so it goes – remember you were not it, and hence do not let it define you. It is truly a matter of living life in an easier or harder way. Either way, the choice is yours.
Finally, our world is full of many beautiful things, both natural and humanman-made and one cannot deny that some material things make us feel “good”. And I am in no way here asking you to denounce all that or make you think that I live not needing anything. It goes above and beyond that. I do enjoy nice material things, and there is nothing wrong with that as long as we always keep in mind that these items are not us, do make or define us. And we should definitely not derive our happiness or worth from them. Living life this way, allows you to enjoy the things of this world and be happy when they are there, but at the same time be fine and happy when they are not.