Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Guest Post: We don't own our things, we rent them

In a message board discussion on clutter, "Crayfish" had this brilliant insight, which I've received permission to republish in this guest post. There are references to specific items; these refer to the original discussion. Substitute any item you're having trouble letting go of.
Would it help to think of it as renting stuff?

That is, very few things are bought because you're going to have them forever. Most things are bought because you have a use for them now. You're not buying the thing, you're buying the utility, the use of that thing for a specific purpose for a limited time. You're paying money for a limited period of utility. Therefore, you're essentially renting the thing.

So when you bought that eight-dollar toy, you bought a playing experience. When your mother bought you those clothes, she bought an upgrade to your interview experience.

Those experiences are past. Maybe the experience was good and the money was well spent. Maybe the experience was lousy and the money was wasted. But the experience is over, just as much as a movie or amusement park trip that you bought a ticket for is over. The physical thing left is just the "ticket". The empty shell. The remains of the experience.

A used movie ticket is not worth the sixteen dollars that you may have paid for admission and popcorn and Coke. If the experience was fabulous, the ticket isn't needed to allow you to remember it. If the experience was lousy, the ticket isn't going to enable you to get your money back. The ticket is an empty shell, the should-be-discarded "wrapper" for the experience.

The same is true of toys that aren't played with and clothes that aren't worn. Your mother loves you, and she demonstrated that love by buying you the clothes when you needed them for a specific purpose. The money was spent, for better or for worse, when that purpose was completed. You don't have to keep the "wrapper" that she once delivered her love in. Her love is just as real if you discard the wrapper. The clothes have served, or failed to serve, their purpose. They're empty now. It's time for them to go.

And, again, it's the _experience_ that matters. It's your life that matters. That means that a clean, pleasant serene home, a home where you can have happier experiences, is more important than a home full of empty shells. You can keep the memories, but keeping the shells, the wrappers, the skeletons of old experiences, will corrupt your new experiences.

You don't want to live in a museum or graveyard devoted to the past, giving up on happiness and on making good new memories because you're devoted to trying to squeeze new value out of old empty wrappers. That toy cost you eight dollars; if it and dozens others like it stay in your house, cluttering it up and making it less pleasant, then that toy is costing you more every single day.

Me again. I love this idea. It's a brilliant mental trick that can truly benefit those of us who hang onto things because...it was a gift, we paid "good money" for it, it belonged to a loved one who has passed away, it's an antique. You name the reason for letting it hang around, just by thinking of it as rented instead of owned can be the scissors that cut the thread.


paisley penguin said...

This is such a good idea and really puts things in to perspective. Thanks for posting it!

Anonymous said...

Andw e should be stweards of the Earth's resources, too.

Momma P