Letting go of old belongings and creating room for new memories

Taro Okamoto, my favorite artist, believed that life is not about accumulating as many of us tend to think, but it’s about using up what we have. When first I read the very first paragraph of Okamoto’s book Jibun no Naka ni Doku o Mote or Have Poison Inside You in English, which expresses that belief of his, I was impressed and inspired. I think I was 16 year old or so, and I didn’t fully understand… or feel what he meant.

I wish I could say I learnt the idea of using up my life over the last 10 years, but I started getting it only recently. I came to understand this idea deeper and better by working on designing my life. What kind of person do I want to be? What do I want my life to look like? Answering these questions helped me clarify my vision and move towards it, because it tells me what I need to leave behind in order to get to where I want to go.

Some exercises in Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way gave me some initial momentum. You get asked to get rid of your old clothes and what doesn’t belong to your vision. Once you get used to getting rid of some of your old belongings, you’ll get used to making more room for a new stream. At least that was the case for me.

Thankfully, I’m not an accumulative person in general. Even though I didn’t have many clothes, I still could manage to get rid of my old T-shirts that I didn’t wear anymore. I did have some attachments to them, though.

What makes it hard to let go of personal belongings is probably attachment we have for those items. It seems as though they store our memories and throwing them away is almost like erasing those memories. Of course that’s not really the case, although our belongings might function as triggers for our memories. And I can understand that sentiment about letting go of old memories by throwing away old belongings.

But, I decided that I need to make room for new memories anyway. If I end up forgetting those old memories by losing memory triggers, so be it. I trust my brain for keeping what matters to me. In any case, I’m determined to make new, even greater memories.

I’m aiming at becoming minimalistic about my possessions. By ‘minimalistic’, I mean as much as I could pack everything I have in a backpack and be ready to go. It will be really difficult to keep a hundred of books with me given this goal, but I’ll try as much as I can.

Getting rid of clothes was easy for me. I still have some that I could release from my hands, but I guess it’s OK for the time being.

I really don’t have much, apart from CDs and books. I did manage to get rid of most of my CDs – so, what’s left is a pile of books.

Although I cleared some of my books, there are a number of books making towers in my room still. Most of them are specialized books written in English (i.e. philosophy books) and I don’t really want to let them go. In fact, I could, but the problem is that I wouldn’t be able to access to those books at a library in Japan easily. I’ll do something about it though.

Instead of accumulating things in my life, I now want to give and share more. Not necessarily material things, but experiences, feelings and memories. To me, that’s what using up my life means in a nutshell.

On that note, I’ve decided to give away a copy of The Artist’s Way to one lucky person among not-so-many readers of this blog. It’s my copy. If you want to be considered for this give away, please write a comment on this post and tell me your story or tips about letting go of old belongings. I will pick the one lucky person at random on Monday and announce the winner in the next post. In the mean time, have fun letting go of your old belongings…

photo: Magda Sobkowiak