From the Braver Institute
There was a time when I hung on to everything that I could get my hands on. I held on to things the way people who lived through the Great Depression did. I remember the old-timers who lived through those days, and they had these collections of odds and ends that were essentially worthless in and of themselves, but since there might be some use for them somewhere down the road, they had kept them stashed away in garages, closets, and barns.
I could completely understand this line of thinking even though I was born well after the depression.
As a kid I was always tinkering with things, and having spare parts around was always handy. If they were actually the part I really needed, it was a bonus. Frequently, parts were borrowed from one thing to be used on another thing that the part had never been designed for. It usually took an element of creativity and imagination to make it all work. Rube Goldberg would have been proud.
Years ago when I lived in the woods I managed to acquire so much stuff that I thought I would have to purchase additional acreage just to store it. I had plans of building cavernous warehouses just to store the accumulated stockpile of flotsam and jetsam that had washed up on the shores of the world I lived in at the time. I used to tell my friends about the grand auction that would be held to dispose of my earthly possessions once I was gone.
Then one day I did the unthinkable—I got rid of most of it. It wasn’t really because I wanted to part company with it, it was mostly due to the fact that I was selling the property and the new owners couldn’t see the value of the treasures held therein.
While I never did return to my hang-on-to-everything ways, I didn’t completely abandon them either. I still held on to the things that I was convinced I would find use for down the road. I no longer had dreams of giant auctions after my ultimate demise, but I did imagine a decent rummage sale or two.
The turning point was the day I found myself in possession of two lawnmowers that no longer ran. I was pushing them from the house out to the garage, where I had planned to store them until I had need of them again. About halfway between the house and garage I started to laugh a little. It struck me that I knew full well I would never use these mowers for anything— ever.
I immediately turned around and pushed the mowers out to the end of the driveway. I walked to the garage and grabbed a scrap of plywood I had been saving. I then took a few partial spray paint cans I had been saving for just such an occasion, and I sprayed the word FREE on the plywood. I placed the sign with the mowers and waited to see how long it would take for them to disappear.
While the sun was still shining people who were interested or just curious would slow down to look, but no one stopped. As soon as the sun dipped below the trees, and the grayness of twilight provided a level of anonymity, the mowers then disappeared as if they had been spirited away by an elite special ops force while no one was looking.
In the following years I found this scenario playing itself out timeand again with most of the items that I put at the end of the driveway with the FREE sign. All day long these things would sit, but at dusk scavengers become uninhibited. Nothing ever remained at sunrise. Sometimes even my FREE sign would disappear.
A decade ago I discovered eBay, and the idea of turning my amassed collection into cold cash was a temptation too hard to resist. I started selling off everything that wasn’t nailed down.
In the last year or two I have started to embrace a minimalist lifestyle. I am not quite there yet, but I am working at getting rid of the things in my life that I do not use, and I am trying hard to not acquire more stuff. It seems the more I get rid of, the more I have. Like coat hangers that multiply when left alone in closets, I acquire stuff when I am not looking.
Selling everything and starting all over again may be the only option.
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