“Ownership is not limited to material things. It can also apply to points of view. Once we take ownership of an idea — whether it’s about politics or sports — what do we do? We love it perhaps more than we should. We prize it more than it is worth. And most frequently, we have trouble letting go of it because we can’t stand the idea of its loss. What are we left with then? An ideology — rigid and unyielding.” ― Dan Ariely, Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions
Image by: Random Institute
Little babies touch with their hands and their mouths. Adults touch with their hands and their eyes. Our worlds are formed by touch. What we purchase is influenced by touch. Feeling the scales on a crocodile tail or touching fabrics, touching clothing, lifting an object to test its weight or sparkle, our lives are made up of experiences from touch.
In a 21-year study published by Proctor & Gamble, “customers who were able to feel merchandise were willing to pay more than those who did not feel the product”. This phenomenon is called the Endowment Effect. It means that we make an emotional connection with the things we touch. It increases our sense of ownership over inanimate objects.
When we display or use something we have connected to through touch we place ourselves as owner of this object, nothing about the object changes from the time we acquire it to the time we are thinking about letting it go. It often happens that what we feel about the object, changes inside of us but our attachment stays in place, for some people, so much so that letting the object freely go and influence the next “owner” is an impossible task.
Often, we experience sentimental feelings about these objects we have made precious, and it becomes hard, if not impossible, to remove clutter from our homes much less think about letting things go. Downsizing is an example of purposeful release of things. My Aunt and Uncle are downsizing, and they are working together to decide what to hold on to and what to release. They have a very old organ that was passed down to them by my aunts’ family. It has never been played in all the years that I have known her. It is in great condition but it so rare that they are having a hard time putting a legal value to it. This organ seems hard to just give away but because of her sentimental attachment to this relic, she is holding on for as long as she can. What can you think of that you own, that is hard for you to part with?
Should we just not touch things anymore? Of course not. What we might be able to do, if we practice, is to be more purposeful with the things we touch, especially if we are thinking about bringing the object home. After a few times experiencing the sensation of what an object feels like, we can determine how it feels without touching it. The distance created by not touching an object decreases the sense of ownership of the object and it could possibly save you some money in the long run.
Image by: Simone Pellegrini
Look around your home and see how many items are similar in touch experiences. How many soft items do you have, how many furry items do you have, how many wire items do you have, how many plastic items do you have, etc. Understanding your sensation preferences can help you keep an eye on how and where and what you spend your money on. Once you know this information better, you can more easily stop before you spend money on something you may not need.
Think about the last time you attended or hosted a garage sale. We tend to value our belongings higher than we possibly should simply because once we claim ownership of the object, it holds stronger value in our emotional psyche. When you are ready to let go of something you own, first hold the object in your hand and ask yourself these questions:
1- Does this object serve a purpose in my life now?
2- When I hold this object in my hands, what is the attachment I feel now?
3- Do I use this item now or in the past 6 months or display this item now or in the past 6 months?
4- If I were going to shop, would I buy this item now?
See the use of now? The “now” is evolution in real time. Stay focused and become aware of yourself in the now.
“Each of us has three different people living inside us every day—who you were, who you are and who you will become.” - Shannon L. Alder
Often, in my life, I have had to face the harsh reality of letting go. Whether it be letting go of people, jobs, objects, aging children, mindsets, feelings, etc. It is human to feel deeply, to hold tightly, to avoid change of any kind as gently and/or as fiercely as we can.
Image by: Dudy Melo
Here are some ways in which you can let go, with permission, and still not lose ownership of what remains yours, in your heart:
-Write about it. Journal or send, with the object, a short story of your experience while this piece was with you. You can write about it and then burn your writing and send the ashes into the universe so that your love and happiness for that object goes with it.
-Open your mind. Nothing on this planet is ours to keep forever. We were born with nothing, and we will leave with nothing, except, what our souls have learned. What the soul takes with it is all we have in the end. We are always moving forward, even in those times we don’t realize it. Help your heart and mind to understand that everything we “have” is rented, borrowed, impermanent. Take care of “it” when it is your turn then wish it well on its next journey.
-Experience all the feels. Let yourself feel everything you need to feel. Don’t get caught up in it so deeply that you can’t recover. Your life needs you desperately. But give yourself time to feel what you need to experience.
-Look forward to a fresh start. Take a picture of what you are releasing. Another idea is to collect the items you want to let go of. Put the items in a box, seal the box, and put the box in the back of a closet or under the stairs or high up on a shelf. If you haven’t thought about the box, looked at the box or in the box, if you haven’t pulled anything from the box in 6 months or less, take the whole box, without opening it, and bring it to your local donation station.
Reality is a cruel mistress at times. No doubt about it. Practice transition, practice letting go of small things before you get to the bigger things. Remind yourself that you have done this before in other ways throughout your life. And, if you need someone to do this with, Groom Your Room is a great place to start.