I've been a collector of stuff, things that were so important to me that they've been hauled across the country and back again, but not so important that I used or looked at them even occasionally. Why did I have to have this baggage, where did this need to accumulate come from? When did the I Want become the I Need? Who knows? Not me, that's for sure, but I had to have this stuff.
I had a huge collection of children's books. I'm talking into four digits, I'm sure, but I never counted. I do know I had an entire wall of IKEA shelves six feet high that was nearly full. It all began with one book, The Boy with a Drum, a Little Golden Book that was so loved by my older son we wore it out and had to buy a second copy. "There once was a boy with a little toy drum. Rat-a-tat-tat and a rum-a-tum-tum."
We loved that book. It never got old. It has a rhythm to it that's mesmerizing. (Go ahead, read those sentences out loud and tap it out on the table. See?) The replacement copy was purged along with other childhood things as my sons grew up, but somewhere I got the idea that I'd like to have that book again. Listen to me, children, and do as I say, not as I did: don't buy that first book! There was exactly one copy on Amazon when I went looking and I paid $20 for that sucker, I had to have it so bad. Thus I began my descent into madness.
The collection spread like a virus. Later, I wondered why in the heck I'd ever bought some of these books. I know now, just as any recovering addict knows to avoid dangerous places and situations, that it's not safe for me to go to used bookstores or sales at the library or even, God help me, to look in a bookstore window.
At some point I decided to lighten the load. I sold many, many books on Amazon. I took another big chunk to my grandsons because kids, unlike their grandmothers, can never have too many books, and I've kept some. OK, many, but a small fraction of what I started with, including The Boy with a Drum.
When I decided to cruise at 60 I had to decide what to do with all of my stuff, not just the books. There's another pile of boxes to go to the grands. More books went on Amazon, including craft books that were a good idea when I bought them. I weeded out a lot of craft things, but interestingly, this has been the hardest category to purge, I think because I sunk a lot of money into it. Still, a lot is gone. The little girl next door who I taught to knit is the beneficiary of a good amount of yarn. All the furniture and almost all belongings that are not being claimed by my ex-husband are being split up between my sons. What a bonanza for them! We have some nice antiques that came down through the family. Art we collected is going the same way. Christmas ornaments. Pottery. Lamps. Canning equipment. Paint, electrical, and plumbing supplies. A tile saw. Garden tools. Shop tools. Generators. Folding tables. Patio furniture. Clothing. Jeez, we have a lot of crap. I had a choice to pay to store it somewhere for however long I'm on the road, or to let them have it and enjoy it now. It seemed like a pretty easy choice. The more I parceled out the better it felt. I would never have thought it possible to let go, but these things had turned into an anchor and now they've been cut free.
The fraction of the things I'm holding on to is being foisted on one son who has storage space. I think it's only fair that he stores it all for me because I've ferried his belongings around the country for a long time. In a year I'll look through the boxes again and see what else I can live without. I'm sure I will distribute more and it will feel good all over again to unburden myself. I want to see how simply I can live. It's taken me a long time to realize that it's not the things you own that make you happy. We all need to find our peace and contentment inside ourselves. I'm workin' on it.
Thought for the day: Even Socrates, who lived a very frugal and simple life, loved to go to the market. When his students asked about this, he replied, "I love to go and see all the things I can live without." Jack Kornfield (After the Ecstasy, the Laundry)