On being ruthless

“Here.  It can go in the ‘trash’ pile.”



“Yes!  Finally!”

The item in question was an ornamental miniature version of a Greek statue.  It had been given to my husband by his grandmother when he was a child, and he had been carting it around ever since.  We’ve gone through three moves together, and with each one he insisted on packing it and taking along, even though it always just ended up in some random dark corner, never to be seen again till the next move.  However, since we’re going to be downsizing to a two bedroom apartment, we had already agreed that we would be ruthless in our determination to get rid of everything that we didn’t get regular use out of.

Now, to be honest, I’ve got an advantage here.  For reasons I can’t remember, I made a conscious decision to never grow attached to physical items when I was 18.  Looking back, it was a pretty messed up thing for a teen to decide, but it’s true.  I had a box that I kept all my friendship keepsakes in- you know the type (or at least you probably do if you were ever a teenage girl): ticket stubs, notes passed between friends in school, photo booth pictures, presents that represented inside jokes, etc.  I can remember wishing I were less sentimental, looking at that box, and coming to the realization that if I tossed it, I’d never have a hard time getting rid of anything from my life.  And so I did.

Now that we’re packing, that lesson is coming in handy again.  Those little wooden boxes I’ve collected over the years from around the world: they don’t actually mean anything.  I still have all my memories and pictures from those travels.  They just take up space, and space costs money (in terms of paying for storage or paying for a larger place to live).  Donate.  All those books I’ve read over the years in my carefully curated collection: How likely am I going to read them again?  Probably never, for about a quarter of them.  Sell.  My old dvd collection, which has been in a drawer for 3 years ever since my last dvd player died and I started streaming everything instead. Throw out.

When I learned to be ruthless and get rid of all the clutter I’d collected over the years, physical items meant less and less to me.  When that happened, I also became less tempted to replace them.  I stopped buying souvenirs when I traveled.  What’s the point?  One more thing to dust for a couple years until the next time I purged.  I haven’t bought a knickknack or anything strictly ornamental in years.  What purpose does it serve?  It’s a lot easier to keep money in your wallet when you only look at purchases in terms of their functionality.

Of course, I haven’t achieved a true monk-like separation from all belongings.  I still have lots of books that I’m going to read again.  I still have the cabbage patch doll that was my cherished childhood friend.  I still have the wooden box that my grandpa carved decades ago.  However, I know that I’m never going to have so much useless stuff that I end up paying for it over and over through the years in terms of needing to park it somewhere.  Think about it this way: if you’re ever tempted to buy something, imagine your house burning down.  On your way out, would you care enough to try to save it?  If not, and if it doesn’t serve a purpose, why buy it?  Your money can be used for so many better things.


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