If you have ever been on a 42-foot boat you know there is very little storage space.
Storage space allows us to accumulate things - rooms and piles of stuff. You can't keep many possessions without a place to put them. I have been thinking about possessions lately. I am also in the process of downsizing although I won't be living on a boat (as delightful an idea as that may be). As I do downsize I have been wondering about the balance between enough and too much. What are the benefits and costs of having possessions?
Some things can be quite beneficial, extending our range of function, adding to our resources. I am really happy to have the thing called a "coat" when the weather turns cold. If I want to put a nail in a piece of wood, using a hammer is a whole lot more effective than trying to push the nail in with my finger. The coat and the hammer are tools.
And some of us need tools to negotiate a world generally designed to accommodate "able-bodied" people. Environments are mostly designed for "able-bodied" people - a section of the population who walk and climb stairs and see and hear without restriction. Some of us need ways to enable us to interact more fully with these "able-bodied" environments and required the assistance of tools created to bridge our abilities so that we can fully engage with world around us. Perhaps we use a wheelchair or a one-handed cutting board and rocking knife, or hearing aids, or voice recognition software to interact with our computers.
Tools add to our freedom of movement and our freedom of choice, allowing us to do things and go places we might not otherwise be able to do or go. In effect they increase our ability to live fully.
But owning things, even tools, also requires using our attention just to keep up with them. We have to take care of the things, give them a place to be protected from the elements, worry about their security, sometimes polish them, oil them, clean them, insure them, repair them. This can take time and it can also take money. We may have to work more to make enough money to manage. Keeping up with possessions uses our time, energy and resources. Lately I have been wondering if keeping up with possessions is taking over my life - if I am being "possessed" by my possessions, as my late husband, Bob, used to say, rather than the other way around.
Understanding our personal balance with regard to possessions is like understanding our response to the volume of sound.
Some people enjoy loud music and some enjoy quiet music. Some people are comfortable managing a lot of possessions and some people prefer few. But in our consumer culture I wonder if many of us have been conditioned to increase the volume past our comfort levels and wind up with more stuff than we actually need or want. Are we being so "deafened" by the volume of the message to buy stuff that we no longer know how or if we prefer to live with fewer things?
Once we own and live with something, the thing takes on meaning for us, becomes a part of the stories of our lives. Every thing we own has some kind of story attached to it. Some stories are big and complex, charged with emotion. Some are small. No possession is truly neutral. The stories of our possessions are generally about something that has already happened. This is the mug my mother gave me. I remember the day she gave it to me. Remembering the past enriches my life when it informs the present. It does not enrich my life when it keeps me looking backwards.
So what does it mean to be possessed by possessions? When do possessions become a limiting factor rather than an enabling tool? For me it's a matter of staying present. If I am distracted by dealing with possessions, if dealing with them does not allow me to pay attention to the life I am leading now, if I am no longer free to be present in my own life in this moment, then the possessions have possessed me.
Article Source: psychologytoday.com