Possibilities Playground Newsletter

Is It Okay to Love ‘Things’?

Last night I couldn’t turn off my brain. We’re currently purging the house of estate items as well as our own self-induced excess, and nearly everywhere I look there is another pile waiting to be dealt with before we can move on to the next major step of home renovation.

Funny how I’m so eager to get rid of so much, while at the same time dreaming of the ‘new’ and ‘cooler’ stuff that will replace it. For someone who lost everything once thanks to a natural disaster and again after a divorce that led her sell nearly everything and travel the country in a 200 square foot RV – this really is a mind bender.

You see, until my second divorce freed me of a lot of baggage, I had long struggled with being what I felt was a materialistic person. My mother is anything but and I admire her tremendously for the simple and wonderfully fulfilling life she leads and demonstrates. So I was super proud to join her ranks when I cruised the country in my RV, having reduced my worldly possessions to what would fit in my friend’s spare bedroom (haha, can you imagine?!)

After all, stuff is just stuff. It can’t talk to you, it doesn’t love you, and it won’t ask how your day was or hold you when you feel blue. Stuff is made of the things we collect like trophies and, whether that’s to show the world how worthy we are or simply prove it to ourselves, it comes from a place of weakness and self-doubt.

Yet here I am feeling some of those old ‘materialistic’ desires coming back to visit. The human side of me likes nice things and wants to be surrounded by them. The spiritual side of me doesn’t think we need much at all and at times chastises my human side for not being happy with what we have (which is SO much more than what I’d lived with for three years in my RV!)

Honestly, I’m torn as I keep asking the question, “Is it okay to love things?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not asking if it’s okay to love things more than people; I’m just talking about possessions. I’ve learned that they define us. That’s what makes me so careful about getting tied up with possessions… they can trap us into a life that no longer serves us. Without a doubt, they actually contribute towards the identity that both others and we create about ourselves. As we mature we outgrow our identities (the ones we once wore with such incredible pride), but because we are so defined by them, we can barely comprehend that another alternative exists.

Okay. So if possessions define us and we don’t want to be defined – again, I’m wondering, “Is it better to remain totally ambivalent to things and beware of any kind of excitement or rush they may offer?

If you’ve ever contemplated the duality I’m describing, you’ll understand what a conundrum this is. Oh my gosh, I just realized…my latest ‘identity’ of living without is actually defining my thoughts about this very subject right now!” Geez, no wonder I get dizzy thinking about this!

Thankfully on this particularly fateful night, I chose to watch an episode of Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday and wouldn’t you know it, the answer was revealed to me as she interviewed Nate Berkus, an interior designer who experienced the devastation of the 2004 tsunami, about his book The Things That Matter.

Between that show and the ah-ha’s I had when journaling afterwards, I believe I’ve found peace with these questions and am eager to pass it on to you. As a matter of fact, I’m going to take it a step further as I know many of my readers are in fact on an inward journey trying to bridge ambition and meaning.

In just a few questions I’ll help you evaluate your attachment to things and how they are serving you (or not). Then I’ll share some ideas Nate passed along that I thought were so good, I plan on renovating our house with them in mind. Okay, here we go:

1. What possessions can you hardly imagine living without? (List them and leave room under each to answer the following questions.)

2. Do you enjoy sharing them with others (even if just to show)?

3. Why or why not?

4. With those reasons in mind, categorize your list into how they serve you:

  • Things that serve a utilitarian/efficiency purpose
  • Things that remind you of your past, present or future
  • Things that make you feel good vs. bad (Yes, even feeling bad serves us in some way.)

5. Now go down your list and identify how these possessions make you feel:

  • Good (happy, wistful, hopeful, loved, respected, proud, etc.)
  • Bad (guilty, inadequate, unworthy, hurt, sad, etc.)
  • Indifferent

No doubt these questions provided you with some new insights as they did for me when I worked through them.

In the end stuff is just stuff, but it does have meaning … the meaning we give to it.

Considering the meaning you’ve given to your possessions, ask yourself these two questions: Are you surrounded by things that lift you up or bring you down? Do you have more things designed to simply get by in this life or things that actually delight you?

When I look through this lens, my questions and doubt about whether or not it’s okay to love things melted away. I now understand things can remind us of people, experiences, triumphs, hopes and dreams. We can influence how we feel by surrounding ourselves with things that make us feel good in some way.

I took this a step further and would encourage you to consider how you might do something similar. It’s a quick 3-step process that I’m using to redesign the home we live in.

STEP 1: I listed my most cherished possessions and identified exactly how they made me feel.

For example, I have select tchotchkes and pictures I’ve collected on my global travels (like the wooden donkey figurine from our Mediterranean Cruise and the art on papyrus paper I got in Egypt) that bring back feelings of freedom and discovery.

STEP 2: I considered how I wanted to feel in each room of our home.

For example, in our living room I want to connect to the outdoors and feel energized. I want to relive my various travels and feel awe and wonder for this world we live in.

STEP 3: As we reclaim each room with the work we’re doing, I will be selecting the color and contents of each room based on Steps 1 and 2.

For example, our living room will be a grey blue with accents of white to create a nautical backdrop and be punctuated with both nautical and travel pieces – perhaps a massive wall of pictures from our travels.

Other than that, I’ll be discarding the things we don’t need for some utilitarian purpose that also don’t have some kind of positive or uplifting meaning to them. I mean really, why keep them otherwise? For the sake of what?

In the end I’ve come to realize our things can help us or hurt us. They can support us in our endeavor to feel good and follow our dreams, or weigh us down – both literally and emotionally (both of which can affect us physically).

I don’t know about you, but I feel so much better knowing it’s ‘okay’ to love things! It’ll still be awhile before this is done in my own home, but at least now I have a clear understanding and a plan to guide me – and that’s motivating in it’s own right!

Wishing you peace with your possessions and all the glorious possibilities that peace will bring you…
image gif sara sig clear


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Is It Okay to Love ‘Things’? by Sara Russell of Feel the Possibilities
Visit Sara at: www.feelthepossibilities.com
Send email to sara@feelthepossibilities.com