For a moment I want you to imagine – imagine that you no longer have almost all of your possessions. Now this is not a fashionable minimalist challenge where you slowly remove items that are superfluous to your existence or the things that don’t bring you joy are consciously discarded.
This is where suddenly all but a quickly packed weekend bag of items, packed for a unknown future, are gone. Lost. Literally blown away. How would you feel?
And what was not initially destroyed had to be abandoned as you were evacuated on a small plane that hardly had space for the one bag you had.
When you packed the weekend bag you had no idea really of what you were going to do or where you were going and hadn’t fully realised that what was left behind being essentially lost to you (rather than being things you’d pick up later which is what I’d assumed).
But things are only things right? Things are material and can be replaced, so I should be thankful for my life. Well actually no. Fuck that. I like things. I need things.
So, I had a lot of things, more than enough for me, you could even say too many probably. I had things I didn’t use anymore or things I hadn’t used yet and things I would most likely never use.
But I also had things that I used all the time. Things I looked at every morning. Things I touched everyday, and they meant something to me. They were pieces of me. They would hold memories or feelings, or sometimes just bring me joy.
I had a huge painting of a tiger by an artist called Dave White. I had never heard of him when I bought it, but I saw it in a shop window and fell in love with it. Literally fell in love with it, instantly. I had to have it. It was the first ‘proper’ grown up thing I bought and was immensely proud of it. It took pride of place in the one bedroom flat I was renting in London (trying to be a grown up) and had been with me everywhere I’d gone. It was then the first thing I put up in my new house when I moved to the BVI. It was beautiful. But sadly now it’s gone.
There were the knick-knacks I’d collected from various places I’d visited, the books I’d been given as gifts and had read multiple times, the photos of me and my mum that made me smile, and the last things she’d bought me in the year before she died. Those ‘just things’ were pieces of me. It’s not as simple as saying ‘you can replace material things’ – because sometimes you can’t. (I was able to save some of the things from my mum thank you to some wonderful friends, I will be forever thankful for that)
Now, I also recognise that I did also have too much stuff. The too small clothes for when I lost weight and the duplicates in case stuff broke and the beautiful but highly impractical bits bought slightly tipsy on a whim (don’t judge me, I know you’ve done it too).
There were the things I had because I’d always had them, or the things I had because I thought I should have them. And ultimately lots of things I didn’t need. I used to be rather materialistic – ‘keeping up’ with London life had definitely added fuel to that fire, and the perceived status that came from having certain things was something I used to think was important. Interestingly moving to the BVI last year helped me to recognise this – I couldn’t just buy things as and whenever I wanted (well, without a huge expense I didn’t have available) – there was no amazon prime or House of Fraser or Oxford Street or Westfield shopping centre. Most people didn’t give a shit whether or not you had the latest (insert famous designer here) handbag/coat/shoes – and that meant I didn’t either. I focused more on the things I could do in the BVI rather than the things I could buy. And that definitely made me a better person.
I’ve always liked the idea of a minimalist existence, and one of the Project 35 focus themes I was considering was decluttering. Everything having it’s place. Knowing where everything is. The organised-ness of it all was appealing. Not that there’s much need for decluttering now obviously, but I know I need to think about how I’m going to ‘replace’ my things. It’s not just a case of replacing everything, I don’t want to just #buyallthethings
A read a lovely book a few years ago – it was called 100 pieces of me. Immensely sad, but part of it is to do with the main character reducing their belongings to just 100 things (unmentionables excluded) – and it reminisced over the memories the different belongings had or what they brought to the character’s life. (Highly recommended read – on Amazon here)
I’m kind of doing the opposite – I’m not thinking about what to take away, but rather what I want to bring into my life. Made all the more interesting by not currently having a fixed abode or knowing where I will be living next (once I get back to the BVI anyways). So I need to do some planning – my middle name! – and since i have the luxury, to take the rebuilding of my life slowly. And the finding of my things.