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Breaking Free (Part 3)

September 5, 2009 Leave a comment

It’s been a month now since I posted Part 1 and Part 2 of this blog. In case you didn’t read those entries or can’t remember, here is a recap: Approximately two months ago, I made a decision to get rid of 70% to 90% of my possessions. In part two, I posted photos of the “To Give Away”, “To Keep”, and “To Sort” piles. I also mentioned that I had my cell phone temporarily turned off so that I could fast from my “Everything” plan.

Now that you are caught up, here is the latest.

As indicated previously, I kept my phone off for only one week, but I downgraded my plan to just allow for a limited number of calling minutes and text messages. I no longer have a data plan which means no more Facebook, GPS, email, Dodger games, etc. on my phone. I am still having withdrawals but it is definitely for the better. My kids certainly have benefited from it. During a trip to a theme park when I still had the “Everything” plan, I was checking the status of the Dodger game every 10 minutes! It was difficult for me to make the right decision but it proved even more difficult to act it out. My cell phone service provider does not allow people with fancy phones like mine to downgrade their plans online. They expect us to use the data plans. So, I had to call them. That didn’t work out so well either because they kept having “computer problems”. My call even got mysteriously disconnected once before they were able to downgrade me! In any case, it’s all done now.

Regarding the three piles, the “To Sort” pile is long gone. I now have a “To Keep” pile that is two to three boxes bigger than before, and there are only a handful of items in the “To Give Away” pile that I still need to give away. Most of the boxes went to the Salvation Army, but several bigger items went to even better use. A friend of mine needed a computer so she got my old Mac. Even better than that, though, is that the same week that I sorted most of this stuff out, a homeless couple I know acquired a new home and needed to fill it. Having been homeless for several years, they had almost nothing. Now they have my old TV stand, one of my desks, some of my old DVDs and books, a lot of my kitchenware, and lots of other things! A friend of mine helped me deliver my stuff plus some of her own things that she no longer needed. I must say that there aren’t many joys greater than the one you experience when you show up with a truck full of goodies in the middle of the projects in Watts. We felt a bit like Saint Nicholas or something!

Before writing this blog entry, I dropped all of the remaining “Give Away” boxes at the Goodwill. Before I loaded them into my car, I double checked them. Although I don’t think it to be completely horrible, I am at little dismayed that I pulled some things back out of these boxes so that I can keep them. I have been wrestling with this question: “Me and my possessions, who owns who?”

Be sure to read Part 1 and Part 2 of this Blog too.

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Breaking Free (Part 1)

July 8, 2009 Leave a comment

In a classic Aesop’s Fable entitled “The Miser”, a man buries a piece of gold in the ground and then comes to visit it every few days to gloat over it. Someone figures out what he’s up to, digs up the gold, and takes off with it. When the man eventually comes back to gloat over his gold, he finds it missing and immediately has a panic attack. A passerby sees the man freaking out and inquires about the situation. Upon hearing the details, the passerby says “Take a stone and put it in the earth instead. … For, as far as I can see, even when the gold was there you made no use of it.”

My parents divorced while I was a sophomore in high school and I moved out with my mom thus beginning my life as a nomad. Since that year, the longest time I have spent in a single residence is two-and-a-half years, with an average of one residence per year. I learned quickly to not bother unpacking my boxes. To complicate matters, I have acquired stuff from two of my grandmothers, both of my parents plus a stepmother, and several ex-roommates. Oh yes, and let’s not forget about birthdays, Christmas, tax documents, etc. Needless to say, I have acquired a great deal of useful but unused stuff over the years, most of which is perpetually stored in boxes.

I am always throwing away unusable items, and I have had yard sales, used eBay, and more to get rid of some of the other stuff. But some stuff is just really difficult to sell and too valuable to throw away. So, three or four years ago, after yet another move, I decided to start giving away all of my useful but unused stuff to places like the Goodwill. In that time, I have given away 30 to 40 boxes, or roughly $2000 to $2500 worth, of stuff. It has been painful every single time, yet also unexplainably freeing.

A series of recent events combined with what I have just shared with you have caused an idea to form in my head that I am going to act on. You could say it’s an experiment, but it’s not one that can be easily undone if it goes awry. In the short-term it is very painful and time-consuming. I am giving away, and possibly selling, all of my stuff (used and unused) except for what I can fit into a single bedroom! This means I am getting rid of a 32-inch TV plus stand, an extra bed, 100s of CDs, over 50 books (many of which are classics), DVDs and VHS tapes, and on and on. I will still have to keep some boxes to store financial records and such, but my hope is that doing all this will be like taking chains off of my hands, feet, and chest.

This immense weight that I have been carrying all these years will be lifted and I should be freed.

Freedom of the Individual [*]

June 19, 2009 Leave a comment
This story takes place in a small town somewhere in middle America. The laws of the town had been written years ago and had been based on absolutes. i.e. “This is right and that is wrong.” Over the years, many of the laws and the reasoning behind them slowly faded from relevancy. Among these were laws regarding the prohibition of alcohol and prostitution within city limits. Although alcohol still couldn’t be sold within the city, drinking became a regular occurrence. Many of the gatherings where the drinking took place were held at the town hall. Even the mayor made an appearance from time to time. Prostitution was still frowned upon but a “massage parlor” thrived just outside the boundaries of the city. Occasionally, the town police would enforce the laws because they were, after all, the law, but the enforcement was seemingly random and often annoying. So one day the mayor called a town meeting to discuss the rewriting of these and other laws so that they could be consistently enforced. Read more…