January 3, 2014

Decluttering Is Like Dying

Letting go of our possessions can feel like
the death of our previous identity.
Philosopher Bertrand Russell must have been a minimalist. He knew the hold things have on us and said, "It is preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else, that prevents us from living freely and nobly."

If this is so Mr. Russell, then why is it so hard to rid ourselves of those nasty encumbrances?

Over the past decade Linda and I have been on an ongoing quest to become less preoccupied with possessions, and this is what we have found. Decluttering is hard.

As time has gone on it has become easier, but not by much. It is a conundrum that has spawned a lively household debate. Like good little thinkers, we have had long discussions and have theorized on why it is so hard to get rid of stuff.

Linda came to the conclusion recently that it is because decluttering is a lot like dying. Or more like a bunch of little deaths every time we part with something. No wonder it is hard!

Consumer culture places great emphasis on material possessions, and we are trained to derive our sense of self from them. There is no getting away from this misplaced view of our identity - we are reminded by brash commercials thousands of times every day - we are what we own.

If we get our sense of identity from the things we own, what happens when we declutter those things out of our lives? Getting rid of them is like getting rid of little pieces of ourselves.

As I pare down my possessions to only that which I require to meet my goals, I can feel my past identity dying. But it is a delicious death because it frees me to discover who I really am.

I am finding new concepts besides consumerism and materialism with which to identify. Concepts like the rightness of Nature, or the power of good deeds, peace and compassion.

Ultimately, the death of our past selves by putting possessions in their place, allows a new identity to form which is based on the oneness of everything.

Take a risk - declutter and die a bit. Then be reborn to your new free and noble life.


  1. My past identity is beginning to die too, and a more lovely death I couldn't imagine. Every time I drop stuff at the charity bin, at least a couple of times a week right now, I feel so much lighter. It's an in-body, out of body experience. Great post.

    1. T.M.,

      You are on your way. Lighter is better.

  2. I've been getting rid of stuff for a couple of years now. It is amazing how little you really need.

    To me it feels as though my eyes have been opened, I feel more alive and lighter. Don't hesitate, start this year by getting rid of something, rather than buying something.

    Happy New Year all.

    1. T.B.M.,

      Happy New Year to you. Hope your 2014 is great.

  3. I love the Quaker idea of unencumbering oneself. It truly is a feeling of weight being lifted. At the same time, it is difficult to let go of of things that seem to define who we are. I'm looking forward to truly being laid bare and open to the universe.

    1. Miss Marla,

      The Quakers are getting the last LOL.

      Being laid bare means having fertile ground for creativity, change, and growth.


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