“It is an illusion. And, in fact, that which you have possesses you more than you possess it. The possessor finally becomes the possessed. You think you have so many things – riches, power, money – but deep down you are being encaged, enchained, imprisoned by those same things.” — Osho, the Zen master
Our life is all about persons, situations and things. Things, those seemingly inanimate, provide us with a sense of security, joy, and pride. Once we own or possess it, things mostly belong to us unconditionally. Relationships (people) change, situation changes but our things perhaps provide us with as much of a sense of permanence that our impermanent and ever-changing world can.
How can we then, not love them so; how can we then not want more of them? They have a functional, emotional and sentimental value for us. While the functional and sentimental value is easy to categorise and understand, the emotional value we draw from them is a tad complicated and personal. For some people, things are a source of their identity. They are what they possess. They derive their worth from their possessions. Such people are obsessed with things, the more exclusive their possession, the more worthy they feel.
For others, it is an imagined cure to their sense of anxiety. They hoard objects out of a sense of insecurity pertaining to certain objects. These objects are specific to people. Some hoard (stockpile) a particular brand/style/copy of things to ease their insecurity regarding the same (lest they run out of stock).
The third category of people is those who mindlessly buy things. They know not what they buy or how much they buy. Their object proliferation gives them a sense of fulfilment, no matter how transient it is. Though the sense of fulfilment is corroded by a sense of guilt, it does not stop such people from buying a temporary reprieve from their emptiness when the feelings of guilt and fulfilment subside.
Yet, why is it that in spite of being surrounded by objects that provide us with security, worth and fulfilment, we find ourselves feeling insecure, inadequate and unfulfilled in life? To understand this, first we need to reflect on our relationship with things. We need to identify our reason for seeking them. Only after we have established our equation can be proceed to develop a healthy relationship with things.
The basic premise that will help us in the process of understanding our relationship irrespective of which category we fall in, is that by our very nature we, as humans, have a propensity to hoard. Our sense of acquisitiveness is the greatest cancer that we as mankind suffer from. And our environment constantly extols its virtues through in-your-face media and advertising.
But as creatures of intellect, we have the choice to shake ourselves from the slumber of mindless consumption. We have the ability to mindfully create a surrounding of beautiful and functional things that matter to us rather than being painted in a corner by our hoardings. Achieving this state may be easy for some people, but for most getting rid of the habit of hoarding and initiating the process of decluttering can be quite discomforting. However, what can be more discomforting, almost daunting is when we review the total volume of our possessions. It is no exaggeration but sometimes, people possess enough quantity to sponsor an entire village of a specific need, for instance – clothes or shoes or any other object of their obsession.
However, the process of decluttering works when it is individualised and for that we need to examine our attitude towards our things. This attitude decides our approach. For some, their relationship with things/objects is very dense and requires a gentle weaning off. So great is their attachment to things that they feel as though a part of their body has been amputated when they part with their things. This can be very traumatic and yet if such a degree of attachment exists, it has to be countered with professional help.
The key to decluttering lies in observing our surrounding. We need to study the emotion that our ambience in general and individual objects in particular, evokes in us. Every object evokes a positive, negative or an indifferent emotion out of us. Once the nature of our relationship with them is established, it facilitates the process of decluttering. If our things seem dull, lifeless, dusty and rusty, trapped in the nooks and corners of our house, it’s time to free them. According to Marie Kondo, author of bestselling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, one needs to “free them (things) from the prison to which you have relegated them.”
Since there is no interaction with these objects, there is no generation of energy and these objects begin to emanate a negative energy. This makes our surrounding toxic and we feel lethargic at all times. The best way to part with these seemingly innocuous objects is to give them to people who we know have a real need for it, not an assumed or an imagined one.
When we pass on our things to people who don’t need it, we are merely absolving ourselves of the guilt of hoarding. But when we give it to people who we know are truly in need of it, or to people who have expressed a need for it, the guilt transforms into joy.
This is an alchemical process – what was lying dead and lifeless in our space, comes out alive and vibrant with someone else. This generation of positive life energy is also a source of good karma.
Being surrounded only by things that evoke positive sentiments brings peace, joy and contentment in our lives. Having detoxified our surrounding, we now have positive energy at our disposal which allows us to move beyond mere survival (instinctual tendency to hoard) mode to discovering our latent potential. Once we have discovered our calling in life, our relationship with things become even more organic, that is, one of mutual respect. It is no more defined by one of seeking, possessing or hoarding. We value and cherish them for facilitating the process of our growth and evolvement.
This new year, let us transform our life and free the objects that we do not need or use any more from the prisons of our emotions. And as Ms Kondo suggests, “let it go with gratitude” for the worth it may have added at some stage of growth in our life.