Material Loss: Whatever You Own Owns You

Someone very smart once said, “Whatever you own owns you.”

It’s fairly typical when splitting up to lose some of your favorite possessions.  Just another loss to tack on the list? Perhaps. But, it could also be one of those famous “divorce opportunities” where something that appears negative ends up positive.  What’s so great about giving up things you loved?  It’s a chance to simplify, to pare down, to appreciate life more and stuff less.

Necessity can catalyze creativity like nothing else.  If your walls are suddenly bare try hanging up that old quilt.  If your ex took all the silverware eat with chopsticks, any take-out place will be happy to give you a pair.  If you need a small table stack some large books.  I once copied a Joseph Albers abstract painting on an entire wall using less than $10 worth of paint.  Freecycle is a great way to get furniture, exercise equipment, clothing, kitchen supplies, all kinds of things, for free. Thrift shops usually have discounts for people over 55 one day a week, and Habitat for Humanity has stores all over the country where you can buy furniture for very little.  It’s amazing how a can of spray paint can make something look great in a few minutes.

Of course, there are things you will miss; and, superficial as it may sound, you could find yourself grieving over a particular piece of furniture.  Is it the couch?  Is it seeing your life reduced materially and then feeling bereft?  Is it symbolic?  It doesn’t matter.  Just feel your feelings.  Whatever they are now will change.

Everyone’s comfort level is different, know yours.  Some folks feel secure and grounded with lots of stuff around, while others feel oppressed and tethered.  There’s no one right way. Because you are in a state of flux, you may not know what feels best.  Less may have been more, but now it’s just less. Experiment. Allowing yourself to discover new preferences opens you up to feeling surprised and noticing how you’re changing.

You have been adjusting in many ways: emotionally, financially, socially, physically, and sexually.  Here’s yet another adjustment.  It isn’t easy (see the Rumi poem, The Guest House, under the Quotes To Live By category for some perspective), but it isn’t all bad.  Maybe you get a couch from Freecycle and make a new friend in the process? Your changing life is full of opportunities.

Perhaps this is a chance to experiment with a stark, Zen look?  What about Wabi-Sabi, a style that values worn items?  Maybe you would gain from asking all your friends and relatives if they have anything to give or lend?  Not only will your creativity be stimulated, you’ll see how adaptable you can be.

Of course, it’s not fun to see the trappings of your life be hauled away.  Allow yourself to miss your stuff. As Madonna said, “I’m living in a material world and I am a material girl (or boy).”  We can’t help it.  We’re attached to our things.  I’m sure cave men and women loved their special stick for roasting Woolly Mammoth.  Yes, it’s another loss. Don’t pretend otherwise.  Just know you can handle it.  Having to focus on something tangible can be quite centering.

In my situation, I bought my wasband’s half of the furniture.  Nothing was particularly valuable, but it was all familiar. I thought facing a half-empty house would be overwhelming.  The decision was a mixed blessing.  I got stuck with a houseful of old, mostly uncomfortable furniture, while he shopped for new things, all of which had no history.  There’s really no great solution.  Whatever you choose, or is foisted on you, has pros and cons, just like your new-found freedom.

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

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Nicole Urdang

Nicole S. Urdang, M.S., NCC, DHM is a Holistic Psychotherapist in Buffalo, NY. She holds a New York state license in mental health counseling and a doctorate in homeopathic medicine from the British Institute of Homeopathy.