“Anyone who has lost something they thought was theirs forever finally comes to realize that nothing really belongs to them.”
― Paulo Coelho
Without consciously doing so, we turn the things we own into symbols of who we want to be and who we once were.
As I started the task of minimizing my stuff, I envisioned that photographs or old journals would be the sentimental things that’d be hard to let go of when I move into the tiny house. But what I didn’t understand is how memories are embedded in our everyday things. I have had this faded brown jacket with metal buttons since college and it stirs up thoughts of who I was when I was younger; it triggers pleasant memories of chilly fall weather in Northern Wisconsin, where I was living at the time.
The concept of “impermanence” has its roots in Buddhism, which says that nothing is fixed or permanent and for everything, decay is inherent. It is like the old adage: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” Of course we and the people around us are changing everyday, but what about our inanimate, physical stuff? I have a theory that a lot of these things (old clothing, books, trinkets) don’t change much unless they are used, and then they change with us–new memories are drawn up each time, new signs of use (stains, burn marks, tears) are imminent. Some people try to protect the things they own with the utmost care so they don’t break or get dirty, but I’d rather own a few quality things that are used well.
Items that stay on the shelf, however, like my old well-worn jacket, become like dusty time capsules holding stories of who we were when we actually used those things, stories that are unearthed only in spring cleaning (or perhaps, preparing for your tiny house). It leaves me conflicted. At first, I think: Do I really want to get rid of this jacket and chance forgetting the memories of wearing it in Northern Wisconsin?
And then I think: Who wants a house full of dusty old time capsules?
If memories are balloons, then our “things” are the strings that tie them down to us. But after a while, all we are tugging on are cobwebs and dead skin cells. And it is time to dust off and clear out. The things we own have a life cycle–they live with us for a while and eventually, we let them go. This is healthy.
So for now, I’ve decided to consciously choose the items I keep, items that still have a lot of use left in them, ones that I wouldn’t mind making new memories with. In other words, let’s all say goodbye to the jacket.