I have made many changes over the past few years. I have decluttered our house, reduced the number of belongings contained within, downside from a 4 bedroom house to a 2 bedroom apartment, and all of this has led to greater freedom. Freedom in the form of more time, less wasted effort, and the ability to change or move quickly.
All the changes we made were predicated by a single change. This single change made all future changes possible.
This change was the single most important change in my life. It made the decluttering, the downsizing, and the move possible. It created a feeling of freedom as I have never experienced in my life.
This change was to:
Eliminate my attachment to stuff
I didn’t eliminate all my stuff, and I still have stuff that I like to own and that serves a purpose or brings me joy.
What I did do was to eliminate my attachment to the stuff.
What I mean by that is everything I own could be swallowed up by a sinkhole, burned in a fire, blown away in a tornado or hurricane, and I wouldn’t feel a sense of loss.
The Essence of Minimalism
This is the true essence of minimalism – the detachment from stuff, things, and physical possessions.
It’s not about having less, getting rid of stuff, decluttering, or downsizing. These are all results of minimalism, but are not the core of it. The core essence is to detach. Once you detach, you are free to craft the physical world around you.
One way to achieve this state can be seen in my Breaking Up With Stuff series. I went through a series of small breakups, and each time I released the hold that stuff had over me.
The biggie for me was cars. I canceled my subscription to all my car magazines and I started view my car as transportation rather than as a status symbol, ego booster, or sense of entitlement. The only real purpose a car has is to transport you rapidly from one place to another. It’s not there to prove anything or to make you feel good. It’s there to get you from point A to point B.
The car happened first, and then nothing else happened for a while until I started to consider breaking up with my house. When I realized I didn’t have to have the exact house I was living in, and I could be quite happy in a variety of living arrangements, I started to release the hold that stuff had on me.
From there I quickly moved on to TV, tools, books, and many other things that had seemed important to me.
Stuff is not important. People are important. Fun is important. Pursuing your passion is important.
After taking a series of steps to break the hold that stuff has over you, life takes on a new perspective.
You are no longer impressed by the new things your friends and coworkers are showing off. You are less affected by advertising. You tend to save more and have more to spend on rewarding activities.
You feel a sense of freedom like you never have before.
It’s liberating to eliminate your attachment to stuff.
Let’s get started today.
How to Eliminate Your Attachment to Stuff
Think of one item in your life that you feel attached to. It might be a car, computer, phone, TV, game system, a wardrobe overflowing with clothes, shoe collections, jewelry, magazines, books, etc.
In your mind, break that item down to its core purpose. A car is transportation, a phone is communication, a TV is entertainment, shoes are for walking, books are for reading.
Next, consider the downsides to your one item. A car is expensive to buy, own, operate, and insure. A phone is a source of distraction. A TV encourages sloth. Shoes are expensive and must be stored when they are not being worn, and you can only wear one pair at a time. Books serve no purpose when they are not being read, instead they sit and take up space and collect dust.
Consider what life would be like if you didn’t own that one item, (or consider if you had a lesser version of that item.) Would your life be noticeably different without that item?
Would you still be able to fulfil the core purpose of that item in other ways? If you drove a used Toyota instead of a new Lexus, would that prevent you from getting to work? If your new phone cracked a screen and you had to use a cheapy, would that prevent you from communicating with those you care about? If you TV went kapooey, would you still find a source of entertainment? If your shoe collection was abducted by fashionista aliens, would a single pair of less stylish shoes keep your feet protected? If your bookshelves spontaneously combusted, would you find entertainment and learning in other ways?
Make the break. After realizing the world will not end without that item, break the attachment. You can make the break mentally, by acknowledging the decrease in importance. You might also find it useful to make a symbolic break through a detachment ceremony.
Symbolic Methods to Break Your Attachment to Stuff
Find an image or draw a picture of the item. This image will represent the item and the attachment you feel towards it. Say aloud, “I am no longer attached to this item. Through detachment comes freedom. I release this item.” Tear the paper into tiny pieces or cast it into a fire. Fire is a great tool for release, as it is strongly symbolic of permanent release. Once it’s burned it never comes back.
To enhance the detachment, perform the ceremony with family or friends. Gather around a campfire or gather together in the living room. Take turns releasing attachment by stating, “I am no longer attached to this item. Through detachment comes freedom. I release this item.” Then burn or tear the items.
After you break your attachment with stuff, you will find that you are more at ease with the stuff you have, and you will find it much easier to declutter your home. An added bonus is that you tend to lose the “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality.
How attached are you to your stuff? Share in the comments section.