If it brings you joy, you keep it. Otherwise it has to go.
It made me think about why we hang on to ‘stuff’, whether it’s the physical things around us or the stuff we carry around inside our own heads.
I caught up recently with a travel writer who has spent the last three years traversing the planet, with no home base.
“But where is all your stuff?’ I asked, incredulously.
“I just got rid of it all,” he told me.
It made sense for him to live as simply as possible.
And it made me question whether I could do the same.
As someone who likes to accumulate things, I have always been fascinated with the psychiatric disorder of hoarding.
Not for the shock reality freak show aspect of the condition.
What I am interested in is not the ‘stuff’ that people hoard, but the meaning that they attach to otherwise meaningless bits and pieces.
And that’s why as a psychiatric disorder, it is so difficult for many people to overcome — because people who hoard can be so emotionally connected to the flotsam and jetsam of life that the rest of us throw out.
For them, cleaning up can literally be soul-destroying.
And it’s often that living life through a lens of loss and grief that brings those feelings sharply into focus.
What lies behind that desperate desire to hang on to objects can so often be the sense of impermanence with loved ones and relationships.
How many cake tins does one cook need?
Coming from a family of cooks, what’s most meaningful to me and my sister is pretty simple really.
It’s the ceramic baking dish that Gran used to make our favourite lemon delicious in, or the wine glasses where the adults would make champagne cocktails (sugar cube soaked in brandy, filled with good champagne.)
It’s not the bits and pieces themselves — it’s the meaning we’ve attached to them.
When I look around my home and family, I hope my own boys will want to hang on to some of those treasured items that we have used to cook together and share experiences.
I have to be honest and realise that maybe, I am not going to be adopting the Japanese approach anytime soon and appraising each item in my life for ‘joy’.
But I will think about what I hold on to and why I hold to it.
Just like tidying up your bedroom and getting rid of the unnecessary clutter can feel productive and bring a sense of order, so too can collecting your thoughts and throwing out the emotions and thoughts that are no longer serving you.
And while my globe-trotting friend is happy to unload his ‘stuff’, I think I will be hanging on to some of my things (well, my baking trays at least) for a bit longer.
What can’t you let go of?