Letting Go of Possessions



“What hath night to do with sleep?” John Milton, Paradise Lost


“No wonder Sleeping Beauty looked so good…she took long naps, never got old, and didn’t have to do anything but snore to get her Prince Charming.” Olive Green

Peace Corps is being very quiet since that little nugget on December 19. I, on the other hand, am living, breathing, eating, dreaming Peace Corps. Preparing my belongings for where they will go next is a big job. I have been working slowly at this sorting business for months! But I like to punctuate these occasional industrious sessions with a good bit of knitting and reading. And I like to hike and run trails to keep my mind working calmly and so I will sleep well. Truth be told, sorting often takes a back seat.

Tuesday night, I didn’t sleep at all. Sleep simply wouldn’t come. I was awake the entire night. I felt like I was in an entirely different world than this one in the house here with my beloved cats and, the falling apart doors, and the ugly fifties era linoleum. I felt like I was way out from the earth, flying above it. I was living into this global soul I’ve come to recognize as my own, and in which I find belonging for the first time that I can recall. The experience was similar to some dreams I used to have, in which I travelled over the earth, easily flying from one distant location to another. At some point in the night, I became clearly aware, with a bit of a shock, that I need to step up my process of emptying this house. I have only 4 months in which to get out of Eugene entirely, and only 3.5 months to be out of this house, assuming I’m being assigned somewhere in June. If earlier, then the times are shorter! Shortly after that realization, I got out of bed and began organizing my room. Two nights later, I woke up at 1am, again feeling that urgency of taking care of my belongings in this house.



Anyone who has lost something they thought was theirs forever finally comes to realise that nothing really belongs to them. – Paulo Coehlo

Over the past seven months, I have been slowly going through my possessions and weeding out what I am not keeping. This has been fairly easy up to now. Even burning papers, journals, and memorabilia from times that are so definitely in the past wasn’t as hard as I had expected. Many extraneous things take up residence with us, and we don’t really notice them until we actually look at everything from the perspective of clearing out the house. I’ve been busy selling books online, running ads on Craigslist for miscellaneous higher valued items, and deciding what should go into a sale and what should just go straight to St Vinnie’s. (Being a mother of grown children, I will keep the baby pictures. I’ll keep the children’s artwork.)

I’ve been selling books on Amazon for months now, and successfully, I might add. Yesterday I took all the books I have left in my life, and put them on my coffee table. One by one, I went through them to decide what I was willing to sell and what I wanted to store (read: hoard?). I proceeded to list a whole new group of books that were nearer to my heart. These are books I refused to part with a few months ago. Then I got out my CDs for the first time, and began listing them as well. Within hours of my posting this second/third wave of books, three of my favorites sold, plus one CD I love. Next morning when I checked again, another favorite CD was sold. 

I have already read Omnivore’s Dilemma, some of it multiple times. I have read Zami, and haven’t picked it back up in 12 years! And I have read Stolen Harvest, though it’s been at least a year. I haven’t listened to Stan Getz, or to Graceland, for years! I was surprised at the emotions I felt, first posting them, and then realizing the finality of the sales. It’s as if possessing them validates me as a person who values the things that these books and CDs represent. I have had to come to the realization that selling Stolen Harvest doesn’t in any way reduce my commitment to local economies and against Monsanto. I became aware of Stan Getz in college, in about the same time frame as I first heard Sergio Mendez and Brasil 66. But selling their CDs doesn’t negate the richness they blessed me with.

In fact, I find that each time I sell a beloved item, I am gifted with the experience of reliving some important times. I am beginning to see my life as just a bit richer than I did before. And I’m feeling lighter. I am so grateful that the timing of events has allowed me ample time to go through everything thoughtfully and thoroughly to harvest what is in this process I’m involved in.


3 thoughts on “Letting Go of Possessions

  1. Oh how you bring me back! The excitement, the giddiness, the letting go, the fresh air inside my head…..you convey it perfectly. thank you.
    When you get to the very end, the last few days, when you are ready to say goodbye – open your home and invite people in. Feast here, take what’s offered, cherish it in memory of me….you’d be surprised at the little things that people want – not the big, expensive treasures that you always imagined people admiring, but the small, coffee-stained, hand lettered poem you pasted to your wall in college and kept with you for sentiment’s sake….

  2. This is so beautifully layered and so well expressed. It makes me too think about my relationship with “things” I have held on to, well…”just because.” Or is it something more intangible and emotional from which I would benefit through composting, but have not… “just because?” It’s not an “either-or” but a nuanced weaving, nostalgic yet tattered, without contradiction. Each thread that connects, or frays, or somewhere in-between, is significant and unique. But as you say, these levels of richness and meaning are not diminished by retaining their material symbols. Here’s to feeling lighter! Vintage through the heart!

    This threshold in your life, and what you so aptly call the harvest of this unique process, right now at this point in time, is inspirational, alive! This preparation, this anticipation, this counting-down, is a unique seasonality. Never again will your life flow in the same current, past the same scenery, along the river in which you travel. You are setting sail from a community and loved ones that has represented and given you much in your life, as will your next community. The pilgrimage of farewell is already underway, and a beautiful one. But it is also unique in its destiny as you are saying farewell while unaware, as yet, as to what will be the language of “welcome” over that horizon toward which you have already charted course.

    Thank you for sharing, documenting your journey, and engaging your friends through the living-poetry of your being present. In a word, gratitude.

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