More about My Stuff

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As I am working through my apartment to make sure I only have what we really want and need for the months ahead, I have rediscovered parts of myself that I thought I had left behind. Namely, the ideal self… my imaginary self of the future. Years ago, I amassed a very large children’s book collection. I wasn’t planning on having children at that time. I kept finding books that I enjoyed when I was a young person and instead of leaving them for other people to enjoy, I bought them with the idea that I would share them with other young people. Maybe my nieces and nephew, maybe the children of my friends, maybe the children I worked with in various settings were going to read these books.

They sat on the shelf and then I moved. I was so happy to get to my new place and that all of the books were able to fit in the front closet. I loved looking at them and knowing that they were there. I still expected to share them. I didn’t really read them since I spend so much time every week at the library, but someone someday was going to read them and enjoy them as much as I had in the past. Then Bean was born. I imagined Bean and me sitting together on a weekend afternoon reading our respective books together as she got older. That was a good dream.

Time passed and I decided to participate in a community project and move to another side of town. I got involved. The books fit on the shelf and in a window this time. They looked so nice there. Bean and I had a large selection to choose from as we spent a long commute back and forth between home, work and the babysitter every day. We read so many pictures books during that time, but as it is with children, we read our favorite ones over and over. We didn’t even touch the chapter books. I did read a few of the books I bought for me, but mostly, the books sat there. I gave a few away and decided that I absolutely could not live in that community. I moved back to our current apartment with 18 boxes of books. The poor movers were almost crying.

Since moving here, I have been giving books away. I realized that I never wanted to move with that many boxes of any one thing again. I read somewhere that many people move the same unopened boxes over and over again all of their lives. That sounded like madness to me. I am not mad, right? Well to prove it, I started letting those books go…except I wasn’t really.

I have a great love of reading. We did not grow up with a television in our home and I believe that contributed to my passion. Bean doesn’t have a television at home, however, she hasn’t taken to reading as much as I had hoped or envisioned. I have been hanging on to several series of books that I just knew Bean would love to read. Last year I parted with about 200 books. But I kept those few. Last month I parted with about 75 more. But I kept those series. Every week, I take a few books to the free library book houses that have popped up in neighborhoods everywhere. I still kept those series. Until this week, that is.

It finally clicked that I was holding on to an idea; a fantasy about an imaginary time with imaginary people. Bean likes to run and jump, dance and talk. She will sit and read on occasion, but she would prefer to color, write or draw. The time has come for me to part with those few books I have been hanging on to with the expectation that one day she will read them. Every day, I realize more that one day and someday never come. I spoke with a lady at work who has three daughters. I asked her if her daughters could use some books. She said yes. I am happy to say that though it has been hard, I am finally giving those books another home. They can go where they will be read and, I hope, appreciated.

In giving new life to things I have held so tightly, I feel a small happiness. When I look at the faces of others who have seen my things, liked them and can find room in their lives to appreciate them, I find a small joy. I am discovering that even though I loved everything that was in my apartment, the best path for me to follow is to use everything that I love. I don’t want to hang on to something that I love having around when it could bring more joy to someone else as they use it.

I found that many of the few items I have hung on to were things I expected to use one day. There were a few clothes items, beautiful French grocery bags, the books of course, and kitchenware. It has been a revelatory experience for me. I am very close to being my real self in my possessions, stripping away the person I want to be. I will be who I am.

Have you encountered your imaginary selves in your possessions? How do they appear?

4 Comments on “More about My Stuff

  1. That is so interesting, this week I haven’t been able to shake the feeling that the past doesn’t matter as much as it once did. I finally feel able to make strong decisions and let go of things I was keeping for sentimental reasons or because I used them previously. I wonder if I do all the clearing out of my past, and then let go of my future hopes like you, will I reach that perfect state of ‘in the moment’?? It’s looking more and more possible ! Minimalism has been the best gift I’ve given to myself.

    • Nic,
      I am still working on being in the moment. I have a million plans for the future and I want to just relax and enjoy what I have now. I am in a constant struggle to just enjoy today. I believe it is possible and I am one step closer.

  2. I loved this. I have thought if something makes me happy or I love having it around, it fits my minimalist goals. However you’re right that if it’s making you happy because you think it fits some model you, question why you are schlepping it around as a constant reminder that it’s not really you.

    I think this is minimalism 2.0. First you get rid of everything not giving you joy or use, and then you can look at what remains and figure out why it gives you joy and whether that’s a real or facsimile joy.

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