I just spent another day cleaning out stuff in my office. As time goes by, it’s gotten only slightly easier to get rid of these material items that collect around my existence. Some of this stuff I’d like to think defines not myself, but the ambitions and goals that I have (or once had).
Take for example a wood tambourine that I’ve been carrying around since my first year of university. I was in a rock band when I got it, and I had aspirations to be a music recording engineer. As time passes, ambitions like these fade, or disappear in a shock of circumstance. I’ve not been in a band in a really long time, and although it’s handy for the occasional backing percussion track, I haven’t recorded music in over a year, and I can’t remember the last song I wrote.
Getting rid of the tambourine is not just me cleaning up space in the office, it’s me saying “yeah, I’m closing those doors.” Which is crazy! I mean, if I really needed another tambourine, they’re fairly inexpensive and easy to find. But this tambourine is now imbued with a weird psychic weight that makes it not just a piece of wood with bits of metal, but a symbol of what I’d still like to get out of my life.
Getting rid of this tambourine means I’m freeing up focus on the things which I’ve decided are a higher priority in my life now. Just like removing old books from a shelf gives space for new books, letting go of the detritus of old dreams allows space for new interests to grow (or, as a cynic might put it, create space for the detritus of a new dream).
I don’t know when I’ll have hit the point of ‘just right’ getting rid of all this stuff. I read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, but the steam let out after donating several bags of clothes to Goodwill. The central tenet is to get rid of things that don’t bring you joy. This sounds fine, and does work up to a point: “does this t-shirt I got for free at an office barbecue make me happy? Nope.” But what about the stuff that gives me joy because it stokes the coals of old dreams that someday I might be in a position where I need that tambourine again?
Anyways, one tambourine down, a shelf of musical odds and ends to go.