A minimimalist’s paradox: what do you do when your are attached to a “thing”?

Calling myself a “minimalist” is probably a little too much. It’s more like a work in progress, and having two young children means that, if you came to visit my flat right now, you’d struggle to see my very good intentions to minimise whilst you trip over a toy.

But I definitely strive to simplify my life. Now, as the original Minimalists say, when you proclaim yourself a minimalist, everything becomes a paradox: that you own a car, buy stuff, earn money from any activity…but hey! we haven’t said we would be retreating to live on a mountain top in chastity and poverty… just that we want to make our life more meaningful by eliminating things that for us aren’t necessary. I still buy clothes, if my old ones are consumed. I still have a job and need to buy ‘stuff’ to live and thrive. I just try to use objects with intention, putting a little more thought into buying and keeping them.

But the paradox for me is that, although I’m trying hard to get rid of the majority of the stuff I own, unless it serves a purpose or add value to my life in another way, I found out a couple of days ago that I could actually cry  for the loss of an object.

I seriously thought I was beyond that stage. But hey…I lost my engagement ring, by being stupid. By taking it off to put hand cream at the traffic light in the car. How silly. I forgot to put it back and, guess what, it fell on the road when I came out of the car.

Fact is, I couldn’t remember how I lost it, for good 12 hours I couldn’t figure out where I put it, until I was in bed, in the evening, and I realised what I had done. Now picture me, like a crazy woman, at 7am in my PJs with a coat on top, driving back to the parking spot from the day before, and looking for the ring, while my son, who is two, picked up dry leaves and said “ring!”

I came back home empty-handed, crying like a baby. That ring was the most precious thing I owned, and meant a lot to me, especially since my partner lives far away. An object, but I felt totally heartbroken. How can you explain that? I was frustrated by my own feelings, but couldn’t help it. Now, the universe is a mystery, and sometimes I feel humbled by how things align themselves…

In the afternoon, I went to see a friend, who by chance lives near the parking spot where I lost my ring. I was chatting to her about it, when she said “oh, my neighbour texted me, she would like to pop in”. This lady, whom I never met before, showed us her beautiful new ring, a present for her birthday. My sad face prompted her to ask me what was wrong, so I told her about my lost ring. She looked at me and asked me what the ring looked like. When I described it she said: “I think we have your ring!”

Then she ran to knock at another neighbour’s door, and brought back the neighbour and MY RING. I was speechless and overwhelmed with happiness, I hug them both, and then they told me this friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend had found it the day before and asked the people she knew on the road if it was theirs by any chance.

A little ring, which could have ended up in a gutter, eaten by a dog, picked up by someone who would take it straight to the pawn brokers… was found and kept and returned back to me.

True, objects don’t have a soul. But this time I learned two good lessons. There are people out there that are honest and strive to do the right thing; I will be forever grateful to these two ladies and they gave me a little more faith in humanity. Second lesson, sometimes objects do mean something. Of course, I wouldn’t have died if the ring hadn’t come back, I would have moved on. But we are humans, and do get attached to special things now and then. Getting rid of absolutely everything would mean for the majority of us losing our roots and feeling miserable.

So long as objects don’t become more important than people, and so long as our attachment to them is kept under control, we don’t have to demonise them. Some objects, which have been carefully selected and serve a purpose, or have a special meaning, can have a rightful place in our lives.

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