What You Own, Owns You: Minimalism For People Who Love Things
Benjamin Foley

I can attest to the freedom a minimalist life gives you. My husband and I moved from the East Coast (Northern VA) to the West Coast (Eureka CA) almost 4 years ago. We left everything behind except what would fit into our two suitcases each and our carry-ons. So we’re talking 4 suitcases and 2 carry-on bags. We did pack up some boxes with stuff his parents would send us later, but more on that in a minute.

We literally arrived in Eureka with the clothes on our back (and the clothes in the bags). Having no furniture, we were not limited as to what kind of apartment or house we would rent. We would buy what we needed that would fit into this place. And yes, 3 years and 7 months later, we have a lot more than that in our home now. But everything has a purpose or I get rid of it. I am in the process of selling an inversion table we thought might help me (and didn’t), as well as a mobility scooter that I no longer need because I am in a wheelchair.

Remember those boxes we so carefully packed up, to be sent later? Well, they went into a friend’s storage locker until his parents could get them. And for various, mostly unknown reasons, someone went through EVERY box, taking what they wanted — like my extensive crystal/semi-precious stone collection. Our rice cooker — which is a Zojirushi and costs about $800 retail. (We replaced it at $400 new on Amazon, which means that we paid about $800-$1000 for a rice cooker after buying the first one and needing the second. Yes, it’s really that good and so worth the money.) Stuff like that and when the in-loves got the boxes, they were open and not packed at all, let alone carefully. So they repacked and sent what they had. Now I have things that were to go to the thrift store or sold on eBay by the friend whose storage locker we used. So I am also in the process of sorting out all of this into 3 categories: mine, for my kids if they want it, and thrift store. If there’s something that truly has value, either from age or what it’s made of (silver), I will take that to a professional who can give me an idea of what it’s worth and if it is also worth selling. Hell, I could even pawn it, if I wanted.

Even with getting some of the things I thought I wanted…I find most of the items to be completely useless and I have no need of them. It’s not hard to get rid of them. I once told my mother that I was thinking of selling everything I could and having only enough that I could live out of my car (PT Cruiser)…or becoming a Buddhist nun. She was horrified — not for me, but for all the “heirloom” items I had, from my grandparents and great-grandparents. I told her then (and still believe it today) that I can remember my family without any item needed to trigger that memory.

Saying the word “minimalism” makes most people jump straight to the idea of a stark and sterile room, with one bowl, one spoon, one chair, one table … when it should probably be called “mindful living”. Keep that 148 cup collection of “Slurpee Cups Through the Years” — but you may want to actually USE the cups (if possible; some promotion items were never meant to actually be used) and you certainly want to display them. Otherwise, why keep them? My ruler for minimalism is this: “How many (insert item name here) can you actually USE? How many cars can you drive at once? How many shoes can you wear today? How many t-shirts with beer slogans do you really need, and are they still appropriate for you to wear out? What is the minimum of dishes you need and use, to include having dinner parties and BBQs — and if you’re hosting events that use table settings for more than about 20, do you really want to wash all of those dishes? If you don’t want to use paper products, that’s commendable and did you know that you can rent ALL of that: china, glass, silverware, serving pieces — at your local restaurant supply store, party supplies store, places like that. You might have to search a little to find it, but they do exist. And that, my friends, is living very mindfully.

I am not owned by my belongings. Everything I have, I use — or it goes. I give out belongings like party favors sometimes. I have no particular attachment to probably 99% of my belongings and am very happy to give it to someone who needs it, forever. I have done that pretty much all of my life, so it has nothing to do with my change of status from gainfully employed to gainfully disabled.

Minimalism = Mindfulness = LIVING your life instead of taking care of what you own.