A friend of mine is moving and is having a yard sale. She's been doing an inventory of all her belongings and deciding what she'd like to sell, what she'd like to give away and what she'd like to take with her. She's been running nonstop, going to the dump and the thrift store to drop items off, putting other things aside for the sale and packing up the rest. She said it's a great relief to get rid of things that have been cluttering up her house and her life. "You know that line from the Joni Mitchell song, 'You don't know what you got till it's gone'"? she asked me. "I think it happens before that. You don't know what you've got till you're ready to let it go."
For her, it's a personal thing. Letting go of her possessions is like letting go of a part of her history, her environment, her personality. It's a way of re-defining who she is in the world. It occurred to me that doing an inventory of possessions in this way would be a valuable exercise even if you have no plans to move or to do a yard sale.
For those of you in sales, this would seem to be a no-brainer. But then selling personal possessions is not the same thing as selling products and services in the business world. Some valuable items demand sacrifice, in the form of payment, particularly if they're personal possessions. When you sell your possessions, you want to find a good home for them; you want people to really care about them. They're more likely to care about these items if they've paid for them.
On the other hand, some personal possessions are too valuable to sell. In the marketplace, they might be worth less than the things you end up selling, but they have a special significance for you, something you can't put a price tag on. These are things you want to reserve for family and friends, those people who understand what they mean to you and will try to use them in a meaningful way. In this case, the sacrifice, the payment, is a commitment to use your things mindfully and creatively.
It can be difficult to decide what to keep, but if you – like my friend – are moving from a large home to a smaller place, you need to think hard about what you can bring with you. Often, it goes beyond utilitarian considerations, becoming instead a question of whether the meaning something holds for you justifies the space and care needed to keep it. When you sell something, or give it away, you're saying that these things no longer define who you are. When you keep something, you're saying this is who you are, or who you aspire to be.
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