Joys of downsizing

The act of letting go and decluttering can help our soul find peace and contentment.

A few days ago, there was a major plumbing problem in one of the toilets at home. In anticipation of the breaking down and the fine dust, the entire room, wardrobes, lofts et al had to be emptied and the stuff placed elsewhere — the sheer volume of which overwhelmed me.

Heirlooms enough for a mini utensils museum, unused gifts, not-so-nice looking mementos which were never displayed, letters, books (bought and yet to be read), files, paper cuttings, magazines, old pocket radios (vintage value you see), clothes the children had outgrown but which held memories of a different time, unstitched material, Ganesha icons and Kalamkari paintings for my collection and so on and so forth.

The house was in a state of complete chaos leaving me edgy and irritated. All the clutter, mess and disarray had fouled up the energies.

The message was loud and clear. It was a temporary phase — yes, but it was also a wake-up call for downsizing and reducing.

I was at once reminded of a favourite nun in my school who graciously accepted gifts that we gave her but almost immediately gave it away to her young nieces or others she came in contact with. As a renunciate she had taken the vow of poverty and did not stake claims of ownership over anything. I realised what a wise and selfless approach that was.

While it is true that our home and whatever we have in it does tell people about our tastes and style to some extent, it does not define us entirely. Refraining from developing deep attachments towards material objects in our possession will stand us in good stead. When we start collecting anything, be it stamps or gramophone records or bronze icons or designer wear — initially, anything that can swell our collection catches our fancy and tempts us to give in. Marketeers, malls and retailers of course are only doing their job when they use every possible bait to lure us.

Keep your head above the din and instead of wanting more, start expressing gratitude for what you have. Cultivate contentment. As the proverb goes: “A harvest of peace is produced from a seed of contentment.”

The happiness from acquiring material objects is fleeting and momentary and never lasting. On the contrary, protecting and guarding our collections only makes us anxious.

Remember that it can all come to naught in a flash. A natural calamity such as floods or an earthquake or fire can completely gut and totally ravage it. Or an accident in the routine process of cleaning when our favourite china or expensive crystal slips out of our hands and breaks into pieces can reduce the object of our desire to nothing.

Even if you just start buying less from today, you will be taking a significant step forward in your spiritual journey. Self-control and restraint are not so difficult to cultivate if we train ourselves to let those intense urges pass. This will strengthen us spiritually. We will also be doing our bit to preserve the resources of Mother Earth for future generations.

Take stock periodically and involve the family in giving away whatever you can do without, while things are still usable. Don’t wait till you are forced to give — when children fly the nest or parents pass on.

Do your homework before you give, so that it reaches the person/charity who is likely to put what is given to good use. This makes giving easier. Today people even fund raise with gently used designer clothes. The gratitude of recipients creates ripples of joy in return and will help you discover the joy of owning less.
The exercise will leave you feeling liberated besides freeing up more space and cutting the cords that hold you back.


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