Since you renounced material goods, what have you missed the most?

Answered Jan 16, 2019

Thanks for the A2A.

The problem with this question is that, it approaches minimalism as deprivation, rather than freedom. It’s a very common problem.

I wouldn’t say that I have exactly “renounced” anything in any spiritual sense, or sudden epiphany. And it hasn’t been one of those scenarios of very rapidly going from high materialism (huge volumes of stuff), down to one suitcase.

I’ve been inclined towards minimalism since I was a teenager. Long before it was trendy.

At different points, the volume of possessions has increased or decreased. But never too extreme. There is an ongoing process, rather than one big event. And I have recently made progress in downsizing, even though I had already been down to a volume that could comfortably fit into a medium-sized car. Generally, the plan is to never again have any greater volume of possessions than right now, and likely somewhat less. Sure, I may buy a few things (e.g. clothing suitable for job interviews), but it will be very little.

The idea of “missing” possessions isn’t really the issue. If you were carrying around a backpack full of rocks all the time, it would be a burden. After you dump out the rocks, you won’t miss them at all.

If you are concerned about the risk of emotionally missing a possession, then set it aside. Perhaps in a box in the closet, or something like that. You will still own it, so no danger of regret. Then, see how long it stays in the box. I’ve had things sit in a box for many months, unused. I’ve set a rule that (aside from things like office supplies and computer backups) if I haven’t used something in a full year, I don’t really need that thing.

Sometimes, the idea of missing something is more in the anticipation. The fear of tossing a “just in case” item, and then having a situation where it would be useful. The fear of emotionally missing something. The anxiety of letting go of something familiar, and moving to the unfamiliar state of not having that thing around anymore. Sentimentality, and associating a non-useful item with events or time periods of the past.

But, after I have overcome that, and the thing is gone, then, well, it’s gone. A done deal. Missing it won’t bring it back. And the optimistic approach is to appreciate the increase in my freedom, (even a small increase). I’ve had moments when this was wonderfully liberating. When the attachment and fear disintegrated, leaving freedom.

I recall one moment of feeling rather odd, although not necessarily regretful. I had large stack of university study guides, lab manuals, etc. I’ve heard of people lugging boxes of that type of material around for years and years. There was the practical idea of possibly referring back to the information (I’ve probably forgotten a large portion of what I’ve learned). But there was also a sense of familiarity, and sentimentality for a transformative period of life. So, after scanning it all to PDF files, and dumping the paper, I felt a strange emptiness. But that didn’t last long, and I gained freedom. Especially since I’ve moved to different rooms numerous times in the past several years, and generally moved around over my whole life.

That’s another big point. Moving (even just a couple of blocks down the street) puts me in touch with the downside of material possessions. The hassle and expense (especially moving longer distances). Getting rid of something comes with the satisfaction that every future move will be easier/cheaper.

There are people who cannot even move across town, because of being attached to a huge pile of stuff. While I could toss a few excess or easily replaceable items (e.g. $30 printer/scanner, etc), and move to a new city, with only the amount of luggage that I could physically carry at once.

I’ve been attached to books, until I realised that, I didn’t refer to them for long periods, and can always access newer editions from the library. Also, while I prefer regular physical books, I can get many of the same ones in electronic format, so a heavy, bulky shelf-full becomes weightless and compressed to the volume of a tablet computer. Physical ones tossed without regret.

I’ve been attached to a few sentimental items of zero practical use. But let those go, too. In some cases, relating to letting go of past experiences or people (e.g. a relationship).

For practical items, it may sound wasteful, but I try to view everything as disposable, or like a consumable. It isn’t actually that wasteful, since the volume and costs are so low.

Of every possession that I let go of, what do I miss?

Nothing.

The one regret I’ve had in this area is about the times when I remained attached to material burdens, resulting in unnecessary hassle and dollar costs. The regret is about not having let go more, and sooner.

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