For the last two months, I’ve been doing almost nothing else but getting rid of stuff.
Besides the customary disposal of an atrocious number of bags, books, CDs, clothes, mementoes, photographs, records, shoes, etc., the purge has involved “unfriending” “friends”, untagging photos, removing applications, deleting emails, unsubscribing from networks, decluttering desktops, uninstalling software, streamlining phonebooks, discarding text messages, canceling appointments, terminating commitments and closing accounts—among many others.
The fact that two months have elapsed since the process started (with the end nowhere near in sight) is an appalling indicator of how much material and mental baggage I’ve been lugging around—and this from someone who prides herself on traveling light as a way of life.
The point of the entire exercise has been, precisely, to live life to the point: to pare it down to the essentials, to reduce it to the bare minimum, to eliminate, in short, the hundreds of paltry and petty concerns that divert time, energy, attention and focus.
This has proven surprisingly difficult. Nature hates a vacuum, so preserving space can be enormously taxing. This is why the word “cultivation” strikes me as being particularly appropriate—the distractions that threaten the sanctity of our material and mental spaces proliferate and persist like weeds. It takes tireless diligence and unflagging vigilance to discern what is necessary and to discard the rest.
The crux of the challenge, of course, is in learning to live unmoored. Baggage has weight (often excessive) but it dispels the lightness which is frequently unbearable. We need the anchor of commitments, connections, promises and possessions to tether ourselves, to feel at home, to generate the gravity that holds us in place.
This is the tension we constantly face: the antagonism between our need for space and the freedom it provides and our need for things and the security they afford. And unlike spring-cleaning, toeing this line is a process that will never end.