Do you have more stuff than you want? Do you have trouble keeping yourself from acquiring it? Do you wish you could get less stuff?
I’ve been working on getting less stuff for a long time. I find the most important part to not having too much stuff is not acquiring stuff in the first place. Often when I’m with people and they can see I want something but hesitate to buy it, they think I’m trying to decide if I can afford it. Usually I’m figuring out how hard it will be to get rid of it when I’m done with it. I don’t like filling landfills. I don’t mind taking things to thrift shops, but I also prefer not creating demand for things people quickly and easily throw away.
I end up not getting a lot of things I used to. I also find myself compelled to justify not buying things to people, which says something about our society.
The movie Harold and Maude has many great scenes and lines. In particular it has the following vignette where Harold, who has fallen in love with Maude, gives her a ring — no doubt the first time he’s given a woman something like that. She’s bringing life to him. So far he’s been moribund and fascinated with death.
He gives her the little piece of metal.
MAUDE: Oh, a gift.
She reads it.
MAUDE (continuing): “Harold loves Maude.”
She looks up. Harold is blushing.
MAUDE (softly): And Maude loves Harold.
They both smile at each other.
MAUDE: Ohhhhh! This is the nicest present I’ve received in years.
She kisses it and tosses it happily into the ocean. She turns back to Harold. His face is one of disbelief. He looks out to the ocean and then back to Maude. He begins to form the word “Why?”
MAUDE: So I’ll always know where it is.
I love her simple reaction. She doesn’t want to get attached to something she knows can mean a lot to her. She also knows the ring itself isn’t the memory. Nor can she relive the past.
Beyond what you see in this part of the script, she also knows she’s made life choices that were right for her that the ring, however monetarily valuable, would interfere with.
Sometimes you have to not accept things before they create attachments — remember, attachment comes from the emotions you create in interacting with something. Mainstream society seems to value things based on their monetary value, but sometimes something expensive creates emotions that make your life worse. You can only know when something expensive makes your life worse if you know your values, which means knowing your emotions.
Incidentally, many times when I avoid getting something others find valuable but I decide doesn’t make my life better I think to myself, in Maude’s words:
So I’ll always know where it is.
I love how she uses not having something as a way of having better access to it.
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