Divesting Myself of Fifty Percent of My Belongings

So Betty, How is that plan to give away fifty percent of your belongings going?

Well, it’s going. I  have given away the equivalent of one kitchen garbage bag per week in items that are not actually garbage. This week so far I have a stack that includes seven issues of Poetry magazine, a children’s melody harp without strings, six or seven clothing items, and a bunch of my daughter’s shoes that no longer fit (including a pair of Real! Wooden! Shoes! from Holland). My husband would say that all of these items are actually garbage, which may be true, but it takes longer for me to see it that way.

I also have a piano in my entry way that is free to whomever comes to pick it up–but I’m not sure it counts, since, (this is embarrassing) I have another.

And the pièce de résistance…a full set of dishes. This one was hard for me, and I wouldn’t have done it if I weren’t giving it to someone whom I knew really wanted it. But the aftermath was very liberating.

I was reading this morning in the Magnificat about how giving alms is a way of restoring likeness to God, because it’s reckless, and “God gives to all and sundry without stint, without calculation.” (Father Simon Tugwell, O.P.)

I also realize I’m not actually giving alms per se, since most of this is stuff I don’t want anymore. But a major overhaul does involve getting rid of some things I do want, even if no one else is clamoring for them. It does feel reckless to move things out of the house regardless of the fact that they might come in handy someday. And it feels reckless to bestow them on unwitting someones who have no idea what they once meant to me, who will receive them as though they’ve never had any sentimental baggage attached to them.

And it feels reckless to lay waste to the dreams and sentiments that informed the original purchase of an item. I’m realizing how often these were dreams I’d thrust on other people. My daughter is never going to wear the clogs that look so Hannah Anderson-esque. The boys will not touch the hand-knit fisherman’s sweater. And the hiking boots…no child wants to lace those, especially since we’re not actually hiking.

One of the more pleasant side effects of getting rid of stuff is the feeling that we are living more in our present state of life, rather than skirting around the objects that represent what we might become in an ideal world. We become more fully ourselves rather than an amalgamation of our material goods.

The project is going well (even if it doesn’t look like much)–will continue.

 

Related: Buying Stuff For a Life I Don’t Live

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About Elizabeth Duffy

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