21st Century Dad
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Life – Some Disassembly Required

January 14th, 2009 . by 21st Century Dad

As a small child, I loved taking things apart and putting them back together. It’s about time I did it with my life. Invariably, when I reassembled a toy, a few parts always remained, not having a clue where they came from. This time, I am stripping out as many unecessary items as possible, just like you’d do to a car you intend to use for racing.

The Sand Mandala

My thoughts return to the first time I learned what a Sand Mandala is. An intricate pattern of colored sand is laid down by Tibetan Buddhist monks over several weeks. Upon its completion, the Sand Mandala is ritualistically and methodically destroyed.

You don’t know what you need until you don’t have anything. I still have too much stuff. eBay and craigslist have been helpful here. Here I am, in the midst of dismantling the life I have built for the past 35 years.

This is just as much a spiritual journey as it is one of financial rehabilitation. Some of this consumerist detritus can be converted into cash. Video games, photography equipment, electronics, and supplies for projects conceived but never even started only weigh us down. One tenet of Buddhism is that our attachment to material things is the source of our suffering. Only when we release that need, do we find enlightenment.

Of course, when I first learned that about Buddhism, I thought, “no way I’m giving up my Commodore 64!”

Fighting the Clutter and Winning

Sentimentality conspires against us. It makes us hold on to things and squeezes us out of a harmonious relationship with our home. It is our experiences, thoughts, ideas, and feelings that make us who we are. Do we really need to validate those things by holding on to physical objects that only takes up space?

Ironically, I feed someone else’s urge to purchase things as I offload items through eBay and craigslist. I’m selling instant and temporary gratification to alleviate the ill effects of my own journey. The extra cash is nice. It’s the last gasp of usefulness I will get from these items. Their potential energy has been pent up, buried within clutter and disarray. This last release keeps the lights on at home another month. It buys a bus pass. It buys groceries.

You don’t know what you need until you don’t have it. The packrat defends his ways by recounting the few times he needed an item that was recently discarded. The only thing I ever needed by holding on to things was more storage space.

This isn’t loss or destruction. It’s liberation.

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One Response to “Life – Some Disassembly Required”

  1. comment number 1 by: Chelle

    I am what you could call a minimalist pack rat. We live in a tiny house so for starters space is an issue and I’m sure as you know with kids if you leave anything within 3 feet off the floor they’re going to get into it 🙂 So most of the rooms in my house are very uncluttered. No coffee table, no knick knacks, etc. My garage however is another story all together! Boxes and boxes of stuff to go through!

    Something I’ve found great results with is freecycle.org. Sure, you won’t make any cash that way- but sometimes it goes to people who really need it and it not only makes you feel good but helps get rid of those things fast!

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