About a month ago, I dove into a discarding project as suggested by Marie Kondo's book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up." First order of business: clothes. The task: take all of your clothes and put them in one room. The intention: ask yourself as you hold each piece of clothing, "Does this bring me joy?"
I worked tirelessly for four days holding every individual article of clothing from blouses, to dresses, to belts....to my yoga pants (so you can imagine how long it took). With each garment, I implored myself to give a totally honest assessment-- did that particular item bring me a sense of joy? Some pieces I barely had to touch before knowing that they did not bring me joy. They were easy to cast aside, and it left me wondering why I hadn't donated them earlier. Other pieces brought gushes of memories- some from the best days of my life, others from not the greatest phases. Some had simply never been worn. And others- whether heavily weathered or still with tags- were given as the most thoughtful and heartfelt gifts. Those were the trickiest of all.
I have an attachment to things that are given as gifts. As long as they are not forced or obligated, gifts are a sign that someone has taken the time to think of me. Someone spent time, thought and money to bring joy. Whether I like the purchase or not, that in and of itself is enough to make me feel loved and appreciated. So I hold on to them. Holding out for the day that I'm going to fall in love with a particular shirt or use the strange device that solves the problem I'm always complaining about. In some cases, that day never comes, and I find myself with a crazy pile at the back of my closet of rhinestones and tangled cords that I can't seem to discard. First-world dilemma.
As harped on by the book, everything has a purpose or service. And oftentimes, everything has a cycle. The book suggests that in order to part with these items and sentimental gifts, you hold each item and truly thank them for their service. Then discard them.
As the massive days of gift giving- and more relevant here- gift receiving approaches, I have found myself focused on these philosophies of stuff more and more. I find myself not so much attached to the "things" as I am to the meaning behind the things. For me, the giving/receiving transaction is truly an exchange of energy and I believe that both participants, especially the receiver, should have the energy of giving.
Let me explain...
Let's say you and your best friend go to winner (my new slang for wine + dinner, and I highly recommend you give it a whirl) to exchange your yearly gifts. Every December, your friend knocks it out of the ballpark. One year handmade mala beads with all the exact energy you need, the next a belt that goes perfectly with your new designer boots, another year a hand-letter original that goes perfectly in your office. So this year, you can't wait to tear apart that perfectly-wrapped box like the inner eight-year old you are. After two glasses of wine, the exchange comes. The tissue paper flies and inside you find....a strangely ornate glass ornament that you just can't seem to figure out. Is it a swan? Or something just really abstract? Obviously, your confusion is apparent on your face, as you quickly try to reposition your eyebrows and cast a wide smile. She senses your dislike and now her continuous time and energy spent on finding and selecting this exact gift for you, is wasted and feels unmatched. Bleck.
How could it have been different if you had understood that it is a gift, just to receive a gift?
During this time of intense materialism, I challenge you to see that gift for what it really is: the effort it took for your friend with four kids to wrangle her twins out in the cold to your favorite boutique, the thought it took for your spouse to peer into that jewelry case and find a bracelet he/she envisioned on your wrist, the time and energy it required for your great-aunt to knit a magenta scarf because she remembered you loved that color as a child. These are the gifts inside the gifts. THAT is the gift. Not the actual item. So no matter what the object is or it's intended usage, its true purpose is for you to feel loved, appreciated, and thought of. (It's a bonus if it's the best thing ever). These are innate human needs that are gifts in and of themselves, and the best you can immediately give back is the gift of true unadulterated gratitude.
Wishing you and your family the best ever,