As an artist and someone who loves beautiful things, its fascinating how much I can attach myself to objects. Some are healthy attachments while others are not so healthy. With that in mind, the practice of downsizing and de-cluttering is excellent practice of discernment.
The more things we have, the more things we want. Materiality is part of human nature; we are built to create, collect, and consume. Some people blame modern culture, a structure that defines success and happiness by the quantity and monetary value of material possessions. Others highlight external pressures enforce feelings of lack and encourage individuals that consumption will solve their problems. But this criticism won’t really get us very far.
Even ancient nomadic people created small, pocket-size trinkets and sculptures to carry around with them throughout their lives. Material objects, both aesthetic and functional, have always served some sort of purpose for human beings. Overconsumption became an issue with the development of agriculture, where civilizations settled down in one place for longer periods. This shift led to larger, more individualized, living spaces, followed by the production and collection of larger, more elaborate artwork and an excess amount of objects and clothing – simply because there was more space!
Minimalism is no modern phenomenon. Often people feel inclined to lessen their list of belongings during a transitory period or when there is a sense of either overwhelm or stagnancy. When this desire arises, there are two ways we can deal with it. 1) We can reactively & carelessly dispose of our collected belongings without really understanding or contemplating why. 2) We can reflect on our possessions’ inherent value, the meaning and memories that these objects provided us, and then mindfully choose which ones are no longer of service. In my experience, when I get rid of things without proper reflection, it can cause a reverse effect on my psyche. My feelings of attachment appear to get stronger when I neglect to appreciate the objects that I have garnered. And the satisfaction of “getting rid of things” seems to fade more quickly if I dispose of these items without feeling/ expressing some sense of gratitude.
Downsize & De-clutter Exercise:
- Find clarity
Before de-cluttering, observe your personal response to the idea of material things. Do you have any associated memories or personal beliefs around the possession of objects? Is it negative or positive? Do you feel any resistance — physically, mentally, emotionally?
2. Find closure
Imagine that you are in a committed relationship with your accumulated objects. Just as you would need a sense of closure at the ending of human relationship, find a way to do the same with your belongings. Remember, these are not just things. These are objects that you have chosen to hold onto, which most likely have some sort of meaning or memory — an inherent value that cannot ever be replaced. So before you let go, reflect on these three questions:
Why I have held onto this object?
How has it served me?
How will I benefit from letting it go?
by Maria Borghoff