Over the course of many months and to be honest, the last 5 years, I’ve been dealing with clearing out the clutter and just the massive amount of worthless stuff I had accumulated over my life. It’s been a mammoth task to fit all this useless stuff into our rather crowded 4 bed detached.
The strange thing is, over time this clearing out has become a kind of central to my way of thinking. My wife has a great phrase to live by just when you’re about to buy something. “Imagine it in 3 months time and you have to dust it.” Pretty soon you realise you don’t need these things and all they become is a source of guilt. Guilt for yourself and for your children, yes, your children. I primarily associate my spiritual side with Buddhist principals and although I don’t follow rigidly I more and more realise the futility of desiring things.
Possessions fall into one of two categories. They are either things that enable you to do things you want to do and improve your life or they are just a source of guilt. All those little nick-nacks, ornaments and things that used to belong to your grandparents, they only bind you down.
Then there those things that are for a hobby that you no longer do, the sketchpad and drawing boards for your brief obsession with drawing. The guitar that you never play but you really want to keep for some reason. The snowboard that you used on one holiday, one visit to the snowdome and then has sat in the shed for the last 3 years.
They bring you guilt for many reasons. They can be something that you feel you should be doing or that you used to do that you think define who you are. But they are not who you are. If they were, you would still be using them and doing that thing. You’re probably doing something else now that you think defines you. This is not true.
You define you and the things you have are because of who you are. We’re a very materialistic bunch in the west and find it hard to judge a persons worth based on non tangible assets. You have to release the guilt and the item associated with that guilt.
The other way they bring you guilt is by it being something that used to belong to someone that you miss or was given as a present. Even if you don’t really like it, you have it because you think you should. You can’t bring yourself to throw it away because you feel guilty about doing it. “Grandma gave that to me.” So what? Grandma didn’t want you to have a load of guilt. You stick it in a box in the loft and then sometime down the line you look through it again and remember who gave it to you, why you should keep it and the guilt propagates again. You pass them on or die and someone has to sort through your boxes of crap. They look at it and keep them because they belonged to you and they care about you. They keep them, then feel guilty about wanting to throw them away.
Never give anyone a present that you know they will not want. Don’t give someone something that you would throw away. Don’t pass on guilt to someone else. Don’t keep loads of little crappy things for someone else to sort through after you die. Better still, don’t buy them in the first place. There is a big difference between what you need and what you want.
I’m still in the middle of ‘The Purge’ as I like to call it. Everything I own is coming under scrutiny and if it is something that brings me guilt it goes. If I haven’t used it for over a year, it goes. Even if it’s something I really, really wanted at the time but have no real use for, it goes.
The cool thing about this was that this way of thinking paid for my first set of Bogu.
Back when our Dojo was still very young and those of us who made up the core of the first intake of Meirinkan reached the level where our sensei said we should get into Bogu, I was feeling a little guilty about the prospect of shelling out £250 on my first set. My wife wouldn’t have been impressed either so I made myself a pact. I had to sell enough stuff to pay for it. The funny thing is, I managed it, in time to get my set at the same time as everyone else and also had some extra money left over. Additionally I have more space in the house, less items that I thought I might need one day, subsequently less guilt and none attached to the Bogu I had just purchased.
I now reach payday and think, “I’ve been paid. I can buy something I really want to. I don’t want anything.” Okay, maybe a really expensive Shinai, but I’m happy with the nice smoked one I got from Nine Circles for my birthday from my wife this year