Possessions, De-Cluttering, and Freedom from Greed

What do your possessions say about you … ?

When men amass possessions,
they invariably
make a god of themselves.

Ownership of things increases pride,
greed, and arrogance, which those
who are wise will discern accordingly.

It is an excellent observation that:

“Many men go to hell
getting an estate:
their children go to hell
spending that estate.”

There is a perverse mentality – clearly held
by multitudes in this world – in which
people are admired
because of what they own.

EVEN the social Introductions
that are made in the 21st century
… reek of Greed:

When introduced to someone, what
are the very FIRST words that are
invariably spoken to you ?

“Hello … What do you do ?”

When I was growing up,
the question was ALWAYS …

“Hello … HOW do you do ?”

WHY Think About What I Own ?

Your casually spoken and written words
reveal your moral character.

So, too, do the items that you own.

Not only do your personal possessions,
reveal the quality of your mind and personality
– they can even alter your character
… for the worse.

There has been no greater cesspool
of moral corruption for the last hundred years,
than that glorification of lewd and vulgar
depravity … Hollywood.

The cinema introduces society
to the next level of degeneracy;
television presents a ‘cleaned up’ version
and brings it into the family home.

And yet, the seating in people’s homes
are arranged around these electronic altars to
violence, vulgarity, promiscuity, and profanity
upon which, children have been sacrificed by parents
… who have obliterated their own conscience
and protective sense of moral outrage.

What you own not only can degrade
your standards of integrity,
but once ‘controversial’ item
sitting on your shelf …

will very quickly seem “not so bad”
and you will actually make excuses
for why it should remain in your home.

Your affections cause you to cherish
the things that you keep.
And where your affections lead,
your Mind and Morals will quickly follow.

Impure objects are attractive to impure people.

Those who are Genuinely humble
will never cherish that which swells their Vanity:
they know when their integrity is being forced:
when some … thing … should not be in their home.

Even apart from the moral aspects,
de-cluttering has a highly practical advantage
as well …

Living without television, stereo, and newspapers
while being of immense benefit
to our mental and moral well-being,
also separates us from that
mass-controlling feature of the modern world:

the perverse onslaught of advertising,
and its utterly bizarre, absolute control
of the modern multitudes.

It is one of the most liberating feelings
in the world to observe people, in general,
speaking, agitating, and rushing frenetically about
in their mad rush to buy the latest technological toy,
sale item, or popular fashion accessory –

and to be, oneself, not the slightest bit interested
in what so evidently controls the thoughts and
desires; commands the attention, and dictates
the actions of the modern multitudes.

Truly, this is Freedom.

Greed – the mindless acquisition of amusements
and vanity toys – is behind the appalling
superficiality of 21st century humanity;

and – for anyone who might seek a life
with more meaning than the constant pursuit
of entertainment and ego –

I can promise that you WILL view the world
– and people – much differently,
once commercial advertising
becomes meaningless to your life.

We moved into our house in November, 2017;
this was the content of the garage
when the previous owners lived here …

This is the content of the garage
now that we live here …

“But surely”, I hear a voice ask – “this is not Practical:
everyone, of necessity, MUST have ‘junk’ –
suitcases, paint tins, tools …”

Yes, very true. BUT that does Not Mean
that these things must be kept in a chaotic mess.

Here is what constitutes our ‘junk’ –
the items that are not particularly wanted,
but which nevertheless, must not be thrown out …

Every item has a clear box;
and every item is in its own box.

HOW TO BEGIN

In considering the question of HOW one begins
to ‘downsize’ one’s belongings,
I suppose the best practical answer would be:

“If you have not used it in the past 18 months,
you probably will never use it again.”

(Now, it will go without saying that this excludes
emergency items such as a torch, batteries,
a Primus Stove, and such like –
these can be stored in a container that is
specifically marked for such things as ‘power outages’,
‘plumbing’, ‘electrical’ &c. )

With the “18 month” guide, I refer to personal
and household items; accumulated acquisitions,
and clothing.

Set aside those items that you have not used
in the past year and a half or so:

pick up each one, and ask yourself – out loud:

“Why did I buy this, exactly?”

Then answer the question – out loud:

Talk to Yourself …
And LISTEN to your own answer !

“I bought it to impress (so-and-so)”,
“I bought it because it was on TV –
because ‘everyone else’ had one”,
“I bought it to feed my Vanity” –
and so on.

Then ask, “What does this do with my time?”
“What does having this do to my mind?”
“Could my time be better used than by
wasting it on this?”

When physically hearing the response –
you may well embarrass, if not shame, yourself.

Once all superfluous junk has been set aside
using that criteria as a starting point,

exercise personal integrity in examining
your own conscience to determine
which possessions most gratify Conceit –

that is,

identifying what things have been bought
in order to “impress”
those who are shallow enough
to actually be impressed by … ‘things’.

A WORD of ADVICE

IF you are determined to ‘downsize’
your own belongings, arrange somewhere
that you can leave the ‘discarded’ items
for a month or so.

If, in that time, your resolve is fixed, and you
truly do not need things to secure happiness,
then you may donate the items to charity,
if you so wish.

Items that are destructive to mind or morals
– such as a television, books, CD’s, DVD’s –
are not given to corrupt someone else, but instead,
taken to the town dump.

If, on the other hand, the whole exercise was, for you,
a passing fancy … then no ‘harm’ has been done,
and you may freely return to the satisfaction
of your material objects.

DISCERNMENT

Everything that I own has either practical
or sentimental value: there is nothing in our home
that is a ‘fashion statement’ or ‘popular’ product.

I have always believed in quality, dependability,
– craftsmanship: one good item,
rather than three cheap ones.

Taking that little while longer to save one’s pennies
allows one to focus upon whether that item
is really an important and worthwhile purchase.

It removes that desire to ‘collect’ … IF
a self-disciplined mind-set
is behind every future purchase.

By limiting the things that you own
to the narrow and meaningful standard
of definite practical need (clothing),
and sentimental or edifying items (things) only,

you will have effectively removed
the superficial dross of impulse and greed
from your life.

WHAT I Own, and WHY I Keep It …

We have two small Toyota motor cars
– both bought Used; one for my wife’s
medical profession in which mileage
is refunded her;
the other, is our ‘shopping’ car.

Our furniture is antique Scottish or Irish oak,
bought for both its practical use, inherent beauty,
and our deep appreciation of hand-crafted oak.

No attic. No basement. No junk.

It is, very much, A State of Mind
that changes your perception of life:
and reveals the emptiness of the superficial toys
at which multitudes grasp, crave, and strive to own.

It is, quite literally, Freedom from Greed:
something which, I hope, these words might
serve in some way, to help you discover.

Every personal possession that I own
is pictured in this photograph …

A small, watertight, ‘Rubbermaid’ box
contains passport and personal papers;
a second, Kodachrome transparencies from
early work as a photojournalist.

A tea pot and cups; and Neko the Japanese cat
share the space with my briar pipes, pipe tobacco,
Tyndale’s 1536 New Testament in Middle English;
a file box containing my academic dissertation
and the typed copies of work appearing
in this Internet site, all in plastic sheet protectors.

Daily-use clothing hangs ready, while pressed-and-folded
join replacement new items in the clothing box beneath
– absolutely everything is in this picture for you to see.

A few personal, daily use items accompany me
when I go anywhere, along with whatever book
I happen to be reading at the time …

The bracelet is personal: containing one bead
for every year of my life with a brass bead
inserted in the appropriate place
to mark the death of an animal who shared
home and friendship with me;

a phial of pine and lemon essential oil
removes headaches;
a small phial of rose oil is simply calming
at any time;
a wallet, reading glasses, and (a personal idiosyncrasy)
teacup, as I refuse to spend the exorbitant amount
charged for the occasional mocha coffee,
only to slurp it through a slit in the plastic lid
of a paper cup.

Everything is conducive to peace
and considered thought.

SHOPPING

Every personal item I own is included in
the two previous photographs.

All can fit in one large duffle-bag
and be carried with me anywhere,
at a few minutes’ notice.

If looking at something in a shop display,
the philosophy, for me, is a simple one:

Any individual item that cannot be wrapped
and placed in that bag within five minutes,
is something I do not need to own.

A Word about BOOKS …

Reading is my entertainment.

Although having given away my library,
I must mention that, over the years,
the contents of my old books
have been committed (by sheer repetition:
re-reading treasured volumes a dozen times and more)

to my appalling memory … and, in key quotations,
carefully typed, cross-referenced,
and placed in two notebooks
(which have served when called upon
to deliver a lecture at short notice).

A very well-stocked antiquarian bookshop
provides an admirable and constant source
of quality reading material:

once a book of interest has been read
and re-read, it is returned to the shop,
which, effectively, buys it back
at a small loss to me; credits my ‘account’,
and I can browse for another title of interest.

STRENGTH of RESOLVE

It is impossible to describe the liberty
from constantly ‘wanting’ things
– the freedom from greed – that comes

with a genuine desire and concerted effort
to be rid of extraneous possessions – MOST
of which, have no redeeming merit whatsoever,
and serve only to gratify vanity and waste time.

It is NOT the OBJECT sitting in the attic
of which you are seeking to be rid —
BUT THE desire to “Own things” and buy
some new item that takes your passing fancy.

That desire to own little and be content
with what you have … must be genuine.

If so, you WILL be embarrassed to recall
things that you once wasted money upon.

You WILL … once advertising has No impact
upon you whatsoever … find yourself (quietly)
listening to acquaintances talk, and watching
friends waste their money on Vanity Toys …
and you WILL feel sorry for them.

I can also assure you that – with the passage
of a very brief amount of time – one begins
to look back with disbelief
at the things that were once regarded as
“important” or “indispensable”.

If you are considering “thinning out”
your own personal possessions,
I sincerely hope that the suggestions
presented here may be of some help to you.

P Livingstone
philiplivingstone.org

Author: Mr Livingstone

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