Just Because It’s Yours Doesn’t Mean You Have to Keep It

I used to know a guy who had a photo of a cat. “Cute cat,” I said, “What’s his name?”

“I dunno. A pen pal sent that picture to me 30 years ago.”

“Are you still friends?”

“No.”

“Then why are you keeping the photo of a long-dead cat that belonged to someone you no longer know?”

“Because she sent it to me.”

He also keeps every gift he was ever given, including clothes that he never liked that never fit, and toys that he never played with that he’ll never sell. It’s a thing with him. He’d rather be a dumping ground than hurt someone’s feelings.

Personally, I can’t remember the vast majority of the things that I’ve given to people. So unless something is outrageously expensive or a family heirloom, if I’ve given you something that you don’t like, use, or need, feel free to get rid of it. You were not put on this earth to preserve my psyche. If it’s that fragile, then your hoarding my tchotchke isn’t going to keep my morale intact anyway.

We place entirely too much emotional value on “stuff”. I guarantee you that there are very few possessions that are worth your life. If your house is engulfed in flames, I doubt you are going to run back inside to rescue that cute pair of shoes.

Now that I live in a tiny little house, I’m trying really hard to pare down. It’s teaching me to be selfish and cold-hearted. In a good way.

If I’m reluctant to part with something, I examine that instinct closely. Why am I keeping it? Am I doing it for me or for someone else? Because here’s the thing (yes, there’s always a thing): No one else has to live in my space. I’m the one who has to dust, maintain, trip over, and be irritated by the stuff I choose to keep. George Carlin made a very good point when he talked about our houses being very big boxes with lids.

The older I get, the less I’m willing to deal with the detritus of life. My time is even more limited than my energy. It’s a safe bet that when I die, 95% of what I own will wind up either in a landfill or in the hands of complete strangers. How’s that for perspective?

Incidentally, this theory works for emotional baggage, too. Food for thought.

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