Are your things holding you back?

  
Do our belongings make us ‘stand still in time’?  

After watching a fantastic play (for free!) last week at the Barbican, this is the question I came away asking myself.

 

The play was called The Encounter and was based on the true story of National Geographic photographer Loren McIntyre who went missing in the rainforest in 1969 as he tried to capture images of a reclusive tribe.

 

I won’t give the plot away but in a wonderful performance, one scene really stuck in my mind. There is a point where the tribe burn all their items; everything they have spent time and energy creating. All items are thrown on the fire in a giant purging exercise, everything that is useful or beautiful is done away with.

 

McIntyre, an American, wonders if this type of purge would ever be seen in the streets of Manhattan and he laughs at the notion that people would chunk their sofas out of their apartments and set light to their possession in the streets.

 

When he asks the tribe why they are burning their belonging, they answer that the items make them ‘stand still in time’ and that the items are ‘jealous’.

 

They’re two interesting concepts. The idea that our things make us ‘stand still in time’ is true although it might be more easily expressed as ‘our things hold us back’.

 

If we have to stay on the treadmill of stuff, if we have to purchase ever more, if we have to have the latest and newest items then we are being held back. Maybe we have to work long hours in a job we don’t like to pay for the items or pay off our credit cards. Or maybe we have to pretend to be a version of ourselves we aren’t because we think we should project a certain image.

 

The second idea, that our items are jealous of us, is a bit more abstract but what I read from that is that items our possessive. They take our time, they take our money, they take our energy.

 

The things we own keep us for themselves as we have to take time to shop, look after, insure and repair things.

 

Maybe what I’m trying to say is that we think we own our items and that we are in control but the real truth is our possession own us, they hold us back and take up our time.

 

By taking the first step to free ourselves of our stuff we are taking back control, although a trip to the recycling centre or charity shop will do instead of a giant bonfire!

 

M

PS the picture is of our ‘room of shame’. It is full of decorating items that I think are holding me back – until the house is finished and this room empty it will keep hanging over me. 

12 thoughts on “Are your things holding you back?

  1. I am getting rid of and using up lots of fabric at the moment. When there’s too much I don’t get much work done. It seems to hang over me.
    I’m also learning to say “no, thank you” when people offer me more fabric.

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  2. Wow – sounds like such an interesting play. I am definitely a sentimental person and enjoy looking through old photos, etc. but I really don’t love talking about the past that much – even talking about happy times like when my husband and I first started dating, etc. It drives my husband nuts, but it makes me uncomfortable. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to enjoy the present and live in the moment that while I appreciate how our past has shaped this moment, I don’t like to talk about it much. Perhaps its that I fear they might hold me back? Something to consider – thank you for putting the thought into my mind. http://www.meredithtested.com

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    1. Hi Meredith, thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Really interesting that you enjoy the sentimental trinkets but not talking about the memories. Would be really interested to hear the reasons why if you come to a conclusion. M

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  3. Having had several months off blogging, I’m slowly working my way through older posts. I’d been wondering how your room of shame was doing 😉 It ironically makes me feel better as mine is the Harry Potter cupboard. I love the idea of our possessions being jealous. A jealous partner can elicit a range of emotions including guilt and cause us to doubt ourselves. Cx

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    1. Hi! The room of shame is…shamefully, exactly the same!!!! We have the paint to decorate now need the time and motivation. My mum is coming over at the end of the month to give me a kick up the backside I need as she’s an ace decorator. We’re going to work on it together.

      I loved the idea of jealous possession too. Such an interesting concept. Hope you’re well. M

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      1. Sometimes someone else can be a great motivator. I’ve a friend who I draw great strength from in my pursuit of a minimalist life. I hope come July it feels like things have moved forwards. I’m feeling quite balanced at the moment and managing the tightrope that is minimalism, family and work 🙂 I decluttered my wedding this weekend which was oddly liberating!

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