Minimalism: Letting Go of Sentimental Things

Today, I lost my wedding ring. With the dramatic plunges in temperature in SoCal lately (My God, it’s 60 degrees?!), my scrawny little fingers naturally got scrawnier as my body tried to conserve heat against this frigid winter. All joking aside, I DID note the day before that my ring was slipping through my fingers too easily for comfort, as of late. So when I was running errands today, in between going to Mother’s Market down the street and picking up the mail, my finger started to get a bit chilly. I looked down and it was no wonder why, because all of a sudden, all my fingers were bare. My first thought was, “Oops!” My second thought was, “Well, it was bound to happen anyway.” I was glad that I didn’t choose to spend my life’s savings on that band of gold, or worse, take out a loan for it, and neither was it new. There weren’t any gut twists with the realization that I had a naked finger all of a sudden. No heart-wrenching pulls at the heart strings. I’m not a robot I swear. It had emotional value, sure, but it’s nothing to get emotional about. I immediately thought of this other flimsy fake gold ring that I owned which I had bought in high school for $5, and figured, well, that’ll do.

Herein lies the power of minimalism.

When I tell people that I try to live a minimalist lifestyle, I usually get the response, “You mean, like living with nothing?”, or some other variation of this sort. I even had a friend joke, “Well good, because you have nice stuff, so you can just give all of that to me.” Sorry friend, but I still want to keep my stuff. The point of minimalism is not to own nothing. Rather, the point is to not let things own you.

The ability to own things control a lot of people’s state of being. How many people covet the newest gadget, so much so, that it is all they think about? They start to experience anxiety, waiting for something new, hoping to beat everyone else to buying it right after its release. How many people spend their money buying frivolous niceties, at the expense of working even more hours and giving up more of their precious time to the hamster wheel that so well represents our day to day life? How many people have an excess of stuff, so much so that they spend a lot of time putting them away, or looking for them in forgotten places? How many people buy MORE stuff in order to organize the stuff they already own? How many people get angry, sad, frustrated, upset, heartbroken, when things break or are lost?  It sounds like the simplest idea, to not let things own you, but you wouldn’t believe how difficult it is to accomplish, especially when it comes to things with sentimental value.

We all have sentiment. It is part of what makes us human. Unfortunately, at a young age, we have been taught to tie that sentiment with things. I don’t know about you, but both my mom and Mike’s mom are very sentimental about things. I call my mom a hoarder all the time (jokingly off course, otherwise it wouldn’t be as funny). My parents pay a monthly fee for a fairly large storage unit to hold stuff that they never access. Hidden among the “just-in-case” items, are memories tied to random stuff. Embarrassing kid projects from our elementary school years, boxes and boxes of photograph books, even old furniture that my mom so loves, but no longer needs ever since they sized down from a four-bedroom two-story home to a tiny apartment. She has piles of artwork that I made when I was in high school, the not so good kind. They have all our plastic trophies from our AYSO soccer days. You know, the ones for participating? Barbie dolls, happy meal toys, children’s books, legos, you name it, and they will still have it. Recently, I told my dad I wanted to get into soccer again, and he offered to pull out my high school soccer cleats, after 11 years of dust and disuse. I appreciate the gesture, but, was it worth paying a monthly storage fee to be able to offer the shoes to me? I denied it anyways, and asked him to de-clutter it instead. To this day, it’s still there. My mom kept her wedding dress, her wedding china, her wedding favors, her wedding shoes, and more. When I got married, my parents paid for my dress. I found my Vera Wang dress for sale at a 60% discount of $500 at David’s Bridal. Still a ridiculous price to pay for a dress, in my opinion. After I got married, I offered to sell it for my parents, so that they could recoup their money. The style was still considered pretty recent, and I knew with the Vera Wang label, it would sell quickly. Since I got it for so cheap, I figure it would sell pretty close to what I bought it for. My mom was heartbroken and said she couldn’t part with it, this dress that wasn’t even hers. Since they paid for it, I said that off course, they could do what they wished with it. So now it sits in a box, somewhere, in an effort to preserve it like her own dress. She says I will appreciate her saving it one day, and maybe I will. Who knows, maybe I am too young to understand its sentimental value. But then again, maybe not.

The funny thing is that their sentimental value is only equal to the sentiment with which we attach to it. For example, a lot of people extremely value their wedding ring. But some upgraded their preciouses a couple of times over the course of their lifetime. So they must have had a lot of sentiment towards the first ring, but when they decided it was “time to upgrade”, they stopped feeling the same sentimentality towards the first one. And again and again with each upgrade. Similar to a high school kid loving his first car, and then disposing of it once he feels like he has a stable job and has “earned” a brand new ride. If we can change the sentimental value of an object that easily, then why is it so hard for us to lose certain things?

I know plenty of people who would bemoan the loss of their wedding ring. The soaking of their valued photographs. The breaking of their expensive gadgets and toys. Some people enter a state of agony.  We think we can’t replace these things, but in actuality, we can. Want to know what we can’t replace?




Extinct species.

Real memories.

Our memories are stored in our brains, and metaphorically, in our hearts, not in our things. I will never forget the night we got married, until time takes away my ability to remember anything at all. Likewise, if I lose a wedding ring, it doesn’t mean I love my husband less. These are important things to know. Because until we can remove the sentimentality from our things, our things will still be able to control us, in one way or another. Minimalism is funny in that respect. You surround yourself with only things that you love, yet with an understanding that you will be okay parting with everything you own. If my house burned down today, I would be fine with losing everything in it. I know this may sound super insensitive in the light of recent California brushfires, but honestly, this is true. So many people will make a long list of what they need to grab in case of a fire. Family heirlooms, photographs, certificates, trophies, and whatever else. Usually, people gravitate towards things with sentimental value. But they’re still just things. As long as my husband and family and friends are safe, then I can let go of all the things. I know I have it in me to rebuild my life again from scratch. And I think THAT is a very empowering thing.

When I lost my wedding ring, I informed my husband via text, then proceeded with my errands. After I was finished with my errands, I came home and calmly walked upstairs to check our room. Not to be found there, I walked back to Mother’s Market, and then to the mail area. Still I could not find it. So I went home. I emptied my purse, and there was my ring, at the bottom of my Sseko bucket bag. And I thought to myself, “Good thing I didn’t cry about it.” When my husband got home from work, I told him I found my ring and he said, “Yeah, I was going to text you to say don’t worry about it. You can always get another one.” Life, as it should be.