Letting Go of Things

What is value? What do you value? Why do you value it?

As Erika and I transition to the next phase in our lives, we have been challenged by these questions. During our eight comfortable years together, we did what most people do – we accumulated things, many things. Our closets were full of wonderful clothing, our kitchen counters covered with cooking conveniences, our garage with tools for every occasion, and our lives in general full of gadgets. Things were everywhere.

Homes are often compared to nests. They are places were we find sanctuary from the daily grind. But, Erika and I had created a nest that was so comfortable, we rarely left it. More and more often, it was easier to remain nest-bound and make excuses to avoid leaving, to avoid potential discomfort. Our comfort had numbed our senses.

The things we own, own us as well. They come to define us. They demand our time. Computers need upgrades, lawns need mowing, dishes need cleaning, houses need dusting. Neglecting maintenance is breaking a social code.

Things are also social shorthand for our class distinctions, for our interests, for our achievements. Our things indicate our hobbies and tastes as much as our tax bracket. They also reveal how we spend our time.

When we began to consider selling our things, there was a strong desire to cling to our things, to cling to those definitions. After all, we had purchased them. We had earned money through work and wasn’t that our prize? Wasn’t that the goal? Who would we be without them?

Attachment is an odd an uncomfortable tendency. I knew I was attached to things, but I never knew the extent until I began to cut the links of the chains that bound me to my life. I would have glimpses of attachment here and there, like when people asked to borrow my favorite pen or when I couldn’t find my cell phone or when there were crumbs in my car, but it was not until I watched stranger after stranger walk away with boxfuls of my life, that I realized how firmly those attachments bound me.

Yet, as we cut each link, they become less important and less difficult. I almost look forward to cutting them now, whereas before I feared them. Our last link, our car, goes to auction at the end of the month, unless someone wants to buy it sooner. After that, we wander until January seeing, feeling, and being at a depth heretofore unimaginable.

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