03. We Watch Our Stuff Disappear (Am I a T-Shirt?)

Years of living in one of the most capitalist countries in the world has made its mark: we’re addicted to that kick of endorphins you get when buying something new. The kick doesn’t last very long, but the stuff that you get does, and then it just sits there, occupying space. But not anymore, now it’s time to let go. This is of course part of our brand spanking new lifestyle: simplifying, reducing, needing less, living more.

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We never anticipated how emotional, even distressing this process can be. Overwhelmed, we decided to do some research and found a wealth of knowledge on the matter, from ancient Zen wisdom to the latest trending philosophies (mostly based on ancient Zen wisdom). These were the winners:

Does this bring me joy? This is the question you must ask yourself whilst holding that vase that’s been living in a cupboard for years. If the answer is yes, you keep it otherwise it goes. In principle this is a very straightforward process. But hang on, this is a hideous vase that someone you love very much gave you for your birthday. Conflicting emotions. The guilt is eating you up! So it stays. As it turns out we’re more complex than a simple joy/no-joy dichotomy. On top of that... there are so many things that bring us joy! Particularly shoes (Veronica) and lightbulbs (Enrique).

Make rules. This is a good one too because since you’re the one making your own rules, you get the false illusion of being in control of the detachment process. In our case the rule was that if something enters the bag of donations, it doesn’t leave. Now, this is torture. The bag stays there for days on end waiting to be filled up and every time you pass by, you see that cringing but super snuggly jumper that’s been with you since you were 15, or that lovely dress that doesn’t really suit you but has such a beautiful pattern… Maybe it could be reborn and have a new life as a tea towel?

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The philosophical approach: Who am I before and after I get rid of this t-shirt? What does this unicorn poop say about me? Do material possessions define who I am? How do socks and sandals make me feel? We pour a coffee and ponder long and hard upon these big life questions as we put the unicorn poop in the growing ‘to keep’ lot, along with the vase.

Pray. Sometimes nothing works and all you can do is invoke a higher power. May these jeans don’t fit me anymore... Please! You mutter in front of the mirror as you clench the jaws and try to squeeze into that pair of jeans that, lo and behold, only go halfway up the thighs. Hooray! All those missed Zumba classes have finally paid off!

Once we’ve gone through the agony of severing our ties with unflattering outfits, kitchen gadgets that we don’t know how to use and useless little things, it’s time to dispose of it. Donations to charity shops are the easiest and most satisfying option as it comes with the reward of feeling good about yourself and making other people happy too; we can tell because every time the volunteers see us approach with our granny trolley, they make a Mexican wave behind the counter. Selling things online is a full time job but you get to meet some lovely people. Dining table: gone. Wardrobes: gone. Drawers: gone. Bed: gone. It’s all getting very minimal at this stage but isn’t that what we were aiming for? Essential living? By the way, anyone in need of a sofa? Mates’ rates of course!

We realise how privileged we are to be in a situation where we can sell and give away so much stuff and how spoilt we are that we’re traumatised for having to decide whether to keep a lamp or not. So, raised fist and defiance in our stare, we promise ourselves: Never again! Cross our hearts...

Next: The Zip Lining Metaphor