Many tell their personal stories by what they have – you know “stuff”. Over many years, I accumulated a lot of stuff, it furnished my apartment, drove me around, draped on my body, and in some cases, made me look smarter as it sat there on my shelf. You know what I’m talking about – that intellectual type book you purchased and never actually read.
You see, I had entered into a sacred relationship with my stuff without even knowing it! My couch, armoire, kitchen table, bedroom set, and all the things hanging on my walls, squirreled away in boxes, and in my closet became the things that told my story and occupied my time.
But of course I never thought that.
Then one day, a close friend came to visit me in my fancy Chicago apartment with my fancy stuff, where I received the most honest reality check I had been given in a long time. She said, “you have such a nice apartment, everything is so well coordinated. You bought your furniture at Crate and Barrel! You drive a nice a car, travel and have Frye boots. YOU ARE TOTALLY MAKING IT.”
No mention of the work that I was doing in the Midwest or abroad. No comments from her about my good qualities like my ability to crack jokes at inappropriate times, my work ethic or my community involvement. Unknowingly to me, my sacred stuff was telling my story.
Acquiring things often came at a high cost. It took a few years to pay off that big screen TV and a significant portion of my paycheck went to vehicle payments. There were more than a few times when my expenses exceeded my income. I spent way too much money on clothing, a habit I picked up as a six grader when I thought I NEEDED to wear Esprit and Cross Colors like the “cool” kids.
My sacred stuff made me feel better and despite the cost and stress, I worked really hard to have it.
In 2010 I decided to quit my job, sell my vehicle and worldly possessions (now filling a 24’ truck) and move to New York City. It was the biggest leap of faith I’ve ever taken and letting go of my stuff was a scary and stressful experience.
Friends and family lined up to buy my stuff at great discounts and eventually I whittled down my belongings to 10 large boxes. In those boxes was the real sacred stuff – my buckskin dress, photos and yearbooks, Pendeltons from my father, eagle feathers, my baby moccasins.
I arrived in New York by train with 5 boxes. With no job and little worldly possessions, I learned how to clothe myself with my personality; to house myself with my strengths, personal and work experiences; and to feed my soul by truly believing in my own abilities. New York was tough but I learned that I didn’t really need all that stuff after all.
We live in a materialistic world, something very different than our ancestors. Media tells us that we need to consume and we do. Our homes are cluttered and yards have become the burial sites for broken down stuff. We’ve invested our emotions and memories into things and given them meaning and control over our life.
The reality is, most things we acquire we can live without. Not purchasing or letting go of stuff not only opens up space in the home but in the mind. It teaches us to let go of the things that don’t serve us. We compare ourselves to others less and not tied down by material things. It’s freeing and opens you to one of the most precious thing in life…time.
Rick Warren, author of “The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?” an intellectual type book I own and did read, said, “Time is your most precious gift because you only have a set amount of it. You can make more money, but you can’t make more time.” Our wisest investments are our relationships, experiences and community.
Take a moment, look around you, and give yourself that reality check. Perhaps its time to start spring cleaning a little early!
Spilyay Speaks is a bi-weekly column written by Alyssa Macy, a Warm Springs tribal member and communications strategist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.