Saturday, May 22, 2010

Letting Go of our Stuff... Materialism, Priorities, Memory and more...

This weekend I have been helping my mother with her moving sale - a garage full of docoratives, craft items,  a quilter's "stash" and some very nice and rather expensive small items..  and, surprising to me, a number of "As Seen on TV" items... all of which are now going for very low prices.  She is "downsizing" - moving from a full-sized multi-level house to a smaller one-level duplex. At 76, she is slowing down and gradually losing mobility, and wanted to do this while she could make choices for herself.

Carried off by some happy buyers for next to nothing, this morning went my mom's 1960's Americana punch bowl - last used at my wedding 36 years ago.  My grandmothers's food mill, which she used to make homemade applesauce, sits here, un-purchased  most likely destined for the Salvation Army with the unsold.   I know they are only things... and things I do not have room for, but they also are invested with memories.  Still, I choose to let them go, knowing it will only be a matter of time before I, too, will be considering de-cluttering my own life.

Stuff can sometimes take on a life of its own... witness the weekly hit TV series "Hoarders".  When the things we own begin to control us instead of us controlling them, we have to deal with the consequences of buying too many things simply because we can. Why do we do that?  Sometimes we actually buy because we need something.  But sometimes, we buy because we are bored. Sometimes when we are lonely or upset. And... sometimes we buy to fill some perceived need, which does not actually exist,  which some Madison Avenue advertiser has created through skillful promotion. I suspect there are as many reasons to buy something we do not actually need as there are people.

Part of the difficulty in parting with things, if you watch shows like "Hoarders" or "Clean House", comes when we become too emotionally invested in them.  If an object is associated with a cherished memory (especially of someone who has died) or if we are somehow afraid that we will miss an opportunity to use an item if we get rid of it - it becomes problematic.  Attachment to material items is as old as humanity  - however, the scale on which it now exists in affluent first-world countries is no doubt unprecedented.  In the United States, it has reached the status of corporate sin, as well as individual.  The video "The Story of Stuff"  illustrates this well, showing how our addiction to "stuff" leads to harmful effects on the environment, on workers, and more.

So, what to do? (Maybe try a reverse prayer to St. Anthony to help us "lose" our stuff?)  For me, this signals a call to re-priotize.  Not sure how long this will take, but at least I am thinking about it... and that's a start.

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