Some things are absolutely necessary. Water, food and air aside- for me, these “things” would better be defined as experiences or actions. They are travel and writing. The two most important aspects of my life- when I go without for too long, my body and mind go through withdrawals. I yearn, I crave, I spiritually bleed for the chance to see that next unknown landscape, animal, mural, vignette of chaotic human life. I wake from dreams desperately trying to find pen and paper. I keep my bloodshot eyes open til dawn pouring reflections, words, ideas into my laptop. I feel I will burst at the seams if I don’t express the deep wells of thought within me through the written word. And, similarly, I weep in gratitude when I read someone else’s words that strike me, dagger-like, as my own- making me aware of the connectedness of this human condition. There are kindred souls feeling, breathing, thinking the same exact emotions and reflections as you in this exact moment.
In short, for each individual, there are particular necessities in order to feel complete, happy, inspired, alive. And, more than likely, these “necessary things” aren’t things at all. Things are inanimate objects, materials, superfluous products, clothing, knick knacks, furniture, and pieces of crap that lay around gathering dust and taking up space not only in our homes, but also our inner beings. We crowd our environment around us so tightly with things that we forget who we are- a chaotic space inevitably becomes an unquiet mind unable to achieve peace or clarity.
As I rid myself of my belongings, Erykah Badu’s song, Bag Lady, comes to mind. “Bag lady you gone hurt your back/Dragging all them bags like that/I guess nobody ever told you/All you must hold on to/Is you, is you, is you. One day all them bags gone get in your way…/So pack light.” Baggage can be literal and figurative, and I believe that holding onto the literal can prevent us from letting go of the figurative. As someone who has always embraced the idea of minimalism and never considered herself materialistic, I am absolutely floored by the amount of shit I’ve collected over my lifetime. The irony of it gives me a profound belly-laugh, while equally appalling me.
I wonder- is one of the reasons I feel so free while traveling the fact that I carry only what is absolutely necessary with me? That I focus more on my human experience than trivial distractions made of plastic, metal, or cotton? Does an object’s “cuteness” merit the equivalent of hours we have spent hard at work (i.e. money), only to sit on our desks scornfully staring back at us? Can’t we just enjoy the visual pleasure of that object and move past it, having enjoyed the moment and remaining unburdened by more belongings?
One of my favorite books that explores this theme is Fight Club. Beside being a bad-ass writer and inspiring speaker, Chuck Palahniuk drove the truth into my skull when he wrote: “The things you own end up owning you. It’s only after you lose everything that you’re free to do anything.” The narrator reflects on all of his IKEA furniture, Gap clothing, and so on that have come to control his life. He is only able to achieve freedom when his alter-ego, Tyler Durden, sets him free by burning down his apartment. He loses all his belongings- everything that up to that point defined his life. But once he has been stripped of his things, he is free to discover who he truly is and what his existence really means. He becomes the anti-bag lady, if you will.
And so, as I sell furniture; give away jewelry, clothing, products; donate books and bags and boots; I sense I am approaching the core of my true being. As I let go of material items kept for sentimental value, I hold onto the good memories and let go of those past moments that previously weighed me down. I feel lighter in being, happy to be generous, and grateful to lose the clank and clutter of distraction.
All I need to hold onto is me, to be true to my passions and aspirations, to appreciate the beautiful people in my life, and that’s it.