Tuesday, December 6, 2011

When our things own us

This past Saturday, there was a moving sale in our neighborhood -- a rare December garage sale.  It happened to be right on our route back home from a doctor's visit, so of course, I stopped to peek around.

As I was browsing the knick-knacks, I heard the owner repeating to other people, "This lamp originally cost $300, but I'm selling it for $75.  I'm letting it go that low, but it originally cost $300."

The lamp in question was definitely unusual; it looked a bit like a hanging windsock -- although to be honest, my first reaction was that it looked like a uterus.  The lamp shade (if you call that part a "shade") was made of gold silk.  Definitely an acquired taste.

Now, I'm fond of things that are quirky and acquired tastes.  I could imagine people who might want a golden uterus lamp.  But what struck me about the garage sale was how much that initial price of the lamp seemed to have the owner fixated.  She no longer wanted the lamp, but the price meant she couldn't sell it for a yard sale price, either.  That cost was holding her hostage, as it were.

It's easy for me to point a finger at others on this kind of thing, but hard to see it in myself.  How often do I not get rid of something because it cost a lot to buy?  How often do I buy something I don't need just because it seems to be a "good deal"?  This is something I think about a lot.

One of the phrases that helped me rethink my role with my possessions a while ago was in a de-cluttering book that asked, "does that object love you back?"  Some things I own make me smile -- our christmas/halloween/easter tree, for example.  Some things I own make me groan -- the lantern someone gave me as a gift that I never seem to use but have to keep dusting.  I've tried harder to value my possessions by my own reaction to them, not by what they cost or where they came from.  But still, it's a constant struggle to figure out how to own my possessions without letting them own me.

Just FYI, I donated the lantern to Goodwill, and I passed up the golden uterus lamp, even though it was a real bargain.

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