What is it about ownership that makes it hard to let go of our worldly possessions?
If you’ve ever watched the show Hoarders, you probably sat there wondering how anyone could have their head so screwed up that they would find it distressing when asked to throw away things that most people could recognize as unhealthy trash. Yet when my Mom and I spent a few days trying to clean out her basement, I saw a similar uneasiness at work in her mind.
The longer we worked, the more difficult it became to make a decision about each object. Which bin to put the thing in, trash it, donate it, or keep it? I could see the angst and confusion as she weighed the matter like it was something vastly important, like there would be a grade given at the end of the test and dire consequences for not passing with flying colors.
I’ve been thinking about moving back to Illinois one day and there are times when I sit here and think how much work that would be. You have to pack all this crap up, pay big bucks to have someone haul it away, or almost as many bucks to load it into a truck and drive across country with it yourself. How much easier it would be if I could just throw a few things in a suitcase, invite my friends to cart away anything they wanted, and throw the rest in the dumpster.
Then I start thinking about things with sentimental value. My mom’s hope chest would not fit in my car, and I can’t give that away or throw it out. In my bedroom, I have a bookcase and nightstand that are painted antique green. Remember that antique painting technique that was popular in the 60’s? Yeah, that’s how long I’ve had those. I reclaimed them from my great grandmother’s basement and painted them when I was in high school. They pretty much look like crap compared to some beautiful pieces I could buy now if I had the money. Except, well, they still do the job, don’t they?
Oh, and I just bought that pillow-top mattress a year ago and it is so comfortable and they are so expensive to replace. And the Ikea entertainment center is useful because you can take it all apart and pretty much configure it any way you want to fit any room. Then there’s the Mirra chair I bought after years of using an uncomfortable folding chair at my desk.
You get the idea. When it comes to the point where I am trying to pare down the items in my tool box and end up filling a plastic sandwich bag with odd screws and plastic bits because what if I need them when I finally remember what they go with, aren’t I almost as strange as that hoarder who can’t throw away the carcass of her dead cat?
I have moved many times in my life, and always had to let go of some possessions as not worth the energy to relocate. I don’t even remember what most of those things are anymore. I know this, my head tells me this. Yet still my closet has a box of dresses I love but will probably never fit into again, and the carcass of a once-stuffed teddy bear my dad gave me sits in the hope chest that won’t fit in my car.
Why do we cling to things? Because they are our possessions, or because they possess us?