ROUND 3: It’s a little hard to admit. Harder still to fully understand. But during the Marie Kondo purge I discovered that, among other things, I had a strong, visceral, intrinsic, emotional attachment to … an old jumper.
That’s right. An old jumper!
Not just any old jumper. It was my (long deceased) grandfather’s old, brown, long sleeve zip-up sweater that I still wore from time to time. Not often but I did wear it.
Spoiler alert. I did donate the old jumper. And at the time that I let it go I experienced a strong sense of remorse and regret that we were parting ways.
As a recap, last week I reflected on what I called the extrinsic factors relevant to getting rid of stuff. Those factors were very matter-of-fact and practical. The items to be discarded were not wanted and the main problem to be solved in getting rid of them was simply this: how to part with unwanted things in ways that did no harm. This week’s topic is very different.
I could tell you the story of my grandfather’s jumper and like I’d like to. Another time perhaps.
Right now, the really amazing thing that the Marie Kondo experience has taught me (or reminded me) is this: we really do develop strong emotional attachments to things!
This ‘attachment to things’ phenomenon expresses what I’m calling the intrinsic factors relevant to getting rid of stuff. And those intrinsic factors are not to be trifled with. They are potent, powerful and very VERY difficult to overcome.
Maybe this revelation is not so remarkable. After all, everyone knows that things can have sentimental value right?
But let’s break this phenomenon down a little.
When I came to contemplate the idea of parting with my grandfather’s jumper I was confronted with the realty that:
A. I owned a jumper I hardly wore
B. It was really old and not the kind of thing you wore socially
C. I could not part with it
So the upshot of that equation was that I owned a next to useless thing that I could not get rid of. Great!
No matter how hard I tried to rationalize the experience of my emotional connection to a dusty old jumper I was left feeling … well, like someone who believes in ghosts!
The thinking in my mind was like this:
My grandfather’s old jumper is an article of clothing. It is inanimate. It won’t answer my questions and it won’t remember my birthday. It is wholly impersonal and it’s not at all concerned as to whether or not I wear it. It’s an object. A thing. And nothing more. Or is it?
If it is nothing more than a thing, then how can it be that this old jumper, this thing, holds me to it so completely?
How can it be that an old jumper has the power to hold me to it in ways that evokes such strong, honest and deep emotions and memories?
My grandfather was not IN the jumper. After countless washes the jumper did NOT even smell like him. Thankfully.
[Yeah, I loved him but he smelt like a potent combo of peppermint and Vicks! Loveable? ‘Yes’. Essence of strong and overpowering Vicks? Also ‘Yes’. Which I guess equals being loveable but also an acquired taste.]
After days of wondering why it was that I could not bring myself to part with an old jumper, I started to think that the investment of emotion, the strong connection, was not coming from the jumper to me, but the other way around.
The jumper was not holding me. I was holding the jumper.
I began to realise that over time I had bundled up all of my memories, thoughts, feelings and history that I had enjoyed with my grandfather and invested all of this into his musty old jumper. Which I dutifully kept.
So I rummaged around the house and dragged out two other items of ‘Grandpa’ memorabilia: an old photo of him and a set of cuff-links he gave me. And what happened? The flood of memories that visited me from holding these items was as strong as those from my old jumper. Stronger.
Marie Kondo has taught me a valuable lesson.
My experience with Grandpa’s old jumper was replicated across many of the things I own. Old vinyl. Books. Photos. Notebooks. Shoes! And the challenge of having to seriously consider the meaning of every item, each in turn, and decide whether or not that thing would remain with me or be discarded taught me a very valuable lesson:
WE invest meaning in THINGS and not the other way around.
Throughout the Kondo process (and I’m not done ye) I’ve discovered a level of emotional attachment to material objects that really surprised me.
It’s not simply the realisation that I have an emotional connection or attachment to a thing. What surprised me was the strength and complexity of that attachment.
This intrinsic factor of an attachment to things is a very real thing when it comes to de-cluttering, and something I would never have had to confront were not for …
… well obviously, Miss Marie (smarty-pants) Kondo.
Bless her and her much loved possessions!
The Kondo-purge continues. Stay tuned!
Recently featured in TEDxPerth (LINK), Damien teaches children, young people, adults and seniors how to move and live a full life!
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