Late last year, my home got flooded. A pipe burst in the street and my bedroom copped it. I had to clear out my belongings and allow the lengthy process of drying and repairing to take place.
My first thoughts went to a regular news theme – houses taken over by natural floods and fires. Adults by their tattered homes, grateful for their lives and only wishing they could have saved their family photos.
Images of memories, past experiences.
Nothing else mattered.
At that time, nothing else mattered than to fly to see a friend to celebrate her birthday. I didn’t want to let her down. The flood spoiled the plan.
I then looked at all the “stuff”. The stuff that was in the long slim storage box that sat under the bed. The telescope I bought two years prior. All the stuff I didn’t use.
I then looked at other rooms, put everything into audit and I realised I didn’t have attachment to any of it. Not that Vitamix I dreamed of for ages and thought I desperately needed. Not that teepee I deemed of pitching in the backyard that sat unused in my wardrobe for a year. Not the fancy kitchen knives or pots, not the countless number of clothes, not the hardly-if-ever worn baseball caps and not all the damn shoes.
The stuff I cared for were the things that I took with me everywhere I went: access to funds, keys, a pen and pad to write my thoughts, my phone, my laptop for work. Access to enough clothes, at least one rotation to fit into a work/social scene. The only indulgences were some incense sticks and a travelling drip coffee filter. Indulgences I could easily live without.
It was then that I was certain that experience was far greater than things… stuff.
Although I had to be responsible to the condition of the house, being forced in that state made me question my relationship with what I owned.
The internal monologue: If it’s not being used regularly, can it be sold, given away, donated, borrowed instead? Why collect anything but experience and memories? Hats are meant to be worn, not collected for novelty. Have one cap not 20. Use it to its death or give it away. Hand over those uncomfortable heels to those who’d appreciate them. Those books, all those books, give them away. Go to the LA Public library and borrow them instead.
Sell those electronics, make that quick buck. Add it to your flight fund for frequent trips to see your dear friends.
A life of minimalism: keep only what you use, often. The rest can come and go. It means less stuff to think about and more attention to what matters most.