For years, I taught a workshop that included a guided imagery experience where participants, in their mind’s eye, emptied every room in their house and placed the contents of those rooms outside onto an ever-growing pile of belongings. I also had them visualize how big a nomad’s pile might be if he did the same thing.
Can you imagine creating that kind of a pile for yourself, i.e. removing every item from your living room, bedrooms, kitchen, bathrooms, dining room, basement, garage and every other room in your house and turning it into a mountain of belongings? How big would your pile be? Do the same process for a nomad. How does your pile compare to the nomad’s?
Next, I had the participants add all of the earth’s resources they believe they use in a year’s time to their piles, and asked them to “see” the nomad doing the same.
What would your pile look like if you added all the food you eat, the trash you discard, as well as all of the water, oil, natural gas, gasoline, wood and other resources you use in a year to your other belongings? See the nomad doing the same thing. How does your pile compare to the nomad’s?
Through that guided imagery, I hoped to give the workshop participants a sense of the “weight” belongings may add to their lives. I also wanted to give them a taste of the difference between wants and needs. Many attendees left that workshop with plans to organize a garage sale as soon as possible!
Does seeing your mountain of belongings give you a sense of being burdened or weighed down? How many of your belongings are wants and how many are needs? How many of your wants are very important to you?
I have lived in the same house in Seattle since 1973. You can imagine how much “stuff” I could have accumulated in 42 years. I have always valued experiences over material belongings though, so have used my financial resources to take trips to India rather than buying a lot of material possessions.
Even so, over the years my shelves, drawers, and closets filled. Around eight years ago, I decided I was going to give away anything I hadn’t used in the last five years, unless I planned to use the item in the near future. One of the articles I gave away at that point was a loom I had purchased in 1974. I hadn’t used the loom since my children were born. For decades, I told myself I would start using it once my son and daughter grew up and left home. They both moved out in the 90’s and I still hadn’t use the loom, so in 2007, I added it to my “to go” pile. I did a major purging of stuff that year.
Several years later, I felt compelled to go through my belongings again. This time I wanted to create an empty shelf every place in the house where shelves were located. I loved the sense of relaxation and peace I felt when I gazed at those open spaces. The shelves stayed empty until I decided to take in a roommate; at that time the empty shelves were needed for the roommate’s possessions.
Last year, I again felt pulled to reduce my belongings. The desire was so strong I wondered if something was about to happen. Was I going to be moving? Was I preparing for my impending death? (I have no terminal disease but fantasies can take any form!) I still don’t know the “why” but even as I write this post, my yearning to further decrease my possessions is stronger than ever.
Now I am giving away anything that I haven’t used in the last two years unless I have a strong desire to keep it. Once again, I have become a regular at the Goodwill drop off station!
I am loving the sense of lightening-up I am experiencing as I continue to let go of personal belongings I no longer need or want!