Monday, 28 February 2011

Escaping the Tyranny of Stuff - tips and musings

One of the biggest barriers to getting started on our cruising life has been the mountain of goods we have acquired over our combined century or so on the planet. At the start, this was quite overwhelming, and it has taken us the best part of three years to be almost totally de-cluttered. I thought it might be worth sharing a few drops of wisdom I've managed to distill from the process. There are many books and other sources to advise about the practicalities, but really, the main barriers are psychological and emotional - sometimes even spiritual - so here are a few tips on managing the emotions of detachment from your stuff.

1. Often the emotional attachment is much more important than the inherent value of the thing. This is particularly true of photos, children's artwork, cards and letters, mementoes and souvenirs. If the piece is not special enough to be displayed or carefully preserved to store, just take a photo and save or scan it into your computer. That way you can still look at it and all those memories (the really valuable part of the thing) will still be there for you.
2. Share the love. I found it difficult to get rid of books in particular, as they have always been important in my life and I associate them with pleasure and learning. I found that if I was generous with my books, giving them to people I knew would appreciate and enjoy them, they gave me another kind of pleasure. I especially enjoyed giving my professional library to younger colleagues and student teachers, and my literary collection to students who would enjoy the works. Many of my books had sat unopened on shelves for twenty years; now they have a second life. Selling books cheaply at local markets was also fun.
3. The other thing that made it easy to give away the books was, of course, the purchase of a Kindle. An electronic reader really is the only way to take a decent library with you on your travels.
4. Actively imagine other people enjoying your stuff. For example, I gave a miniature workbench my father made to a friend's son, and it was great to see another child having fun and learning with it, rather than seeing it accumulate dust and rubbish in the shed.
5. Just leave it behind. When we sold our 1 acre property, we offered all the machines, tools and gadgets necessary for its upkeep very cheaply to the new owners, who were delighted not to have to go out and do it all for themselves. We'll leave much useful stuff behind for the family who rent our new place. It's good that it will be used, and if it isn't there when we return in a few years, who really cares?
6. Enjoy the feeling of liberation. You don't realise how much of your mind is occupied by responsibility for stuff - that internal inventory of what you've got, where it is, when it needs cleaning or servicing, who you've lent it to, keeping it secure, how to acquire more of it - until it's gone. It feels good.

1 comment:

  1. Whilst I haven't had to get rid of a whole house full of things acquired over a lifetime, I am often faced with a desk full or office full of a year's (or sometimes two) worth of stuff. Almost everytime I discover I don't need any of it, but for some reason I've let it accumulate because I've thought it valuable at the time. I imagine getting rid of so much stuff (like a houseful) is liberating - and please do imagine the things of yours that we now have as playing an important part in our lives. I'm particularly looking forward to putting up your Christmas tree with your decorations this Christmas, and intermingling some of our favourites with it. We'll think of you everytime we watch tele, or when we read from one of the many books we've scored. Robbie has already started reading a History of Ireland. I have already cooked the ANZAC biscuits from the mix that Terry gave me - Robbie said this morning that he was enjoying them thoroughly until he chipped a tooth! It seems that even when the mixture comes from a packet, I am still crap at making biscuits! :)