The language of letting go

Probably no one else remembers this book. Being an insatiable book nerd and growing up at the feet of someone connected with the publishing world, later working in books myself, I am acutely aware of every trendy book that has ever been published in the last twenty years. Especially trendy pop psychology, because it sells well where I live.

Anyway. I was thinking today, not about this book, but about letting things go.

I recently gave up two things where were dear to my identity, and expensive when I bought them. But they had outlived their usefulness. One of them I got money for, which pleased me. The other I just ended up giving away.

It was a weird moment. Here was this thing, this expensive and recalcitrant thing, that had been with me and been used every day for six years, and I just handed it to someone else and said “here, have fun.” It was kind of a cool moment, though. This thing has been replaced by another thing, so I wasn’t using it. And I had a friend who needed one, and I thought well, I could sell it to him. But that wouldn’t really be cool. I mean I could get some money out of it, but I was just going to hang onto it forever. I should just give it to him. And so I did.

“Uh, you know,” I said, “you can just have my old one. I’m not really using it.”

“Really,” he said. “Are you sure? You could sell it.”

“Yeah,” I said, “but I’d rather see it go to someone who needs it and will use it well.”

It had more frequent flyer miles that most businessmen. It had been on three continents. And it was time to let it go to someone who would use it and appreciate it as much as I did. So I handed it on.

How many things are you keeping around your house that someone else could be using? How many of those things are going to end up being thrown away in a couple of years when you move again and can’t figure out what to do with them? The Chronicle had an interesting article recently about a group who decided to buy nothing new (other than food and personal sanitation items) in 2006. I’ve already broken the rules, but it did make me think about recycling belongings and spreading the love around more. I think that part of a zero waste goal is ensuring that things which are still usable do get used, even if not by you. There’s something great about handing something to someone in person. I could bring things to charities and let them distribute them, but I would prefer to have a history of my former belongings that I can log and follow, see in a mesh of connections. It would be neat to see parts of the thing I gave away still being used in years to come by people in my social network, my tribe. I also feel that I am too concerned with my possessions sometimes, and a good way of addressing that is to get rid of them, relinquish my selfish hold, and move on to a lighter world.

[letting go]