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How I beat the curse of My Things

By Wanda Fish - posted Friday, 6 December 2002


It took me 35 years to serve my sentence to the greatest enslaver of my life, My Things. My servitude began at 21 when I was given a household of expensive wedding gifts and heavy furniture (I believe the marketing term is “solid”). Those gifts gave birth to My Things, and I happily slaved for the monster with more work and more money. My Things were growing bigger, and I was the proud slave.

In the beginning, the more Things I accumulated, the prouder I was. It didn’t matter how much work, worry and money I spent on keeping My Things. First there was the cleaning. Silverware needed to be polished. Hardwood furniture needed to be oiled. Jewelry needed to be valued, insured and then locked away. The hand embroidered linen needed to be hand-washed, the leather couches needed to be dressed, and the Chinese wool carpets needed to be spot cleaned every month or so. Of course, I had to insure all My Things, just in case someone else wanted to take on the burden.

I worked hard to keep My Things secure and in “good condition” for three decades. Household rules were created to protect My Things. Certain Things were rarely used; lots of Things were locked away in the “good rooms” where husbands, children and pets were banned. I paid half a house to keep My Things in good condition through eight moves. It somehow didn’t seem to matter that several people, including myself, would be in worse condition after the move. It was OK to wear people out, but not My Things.

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All of that madness I might have handled. But when My Things began to dictate where I could move and when I could afford to move, I began to see how My Things were taking over. Would I ever give my husband the patience, love and tolerance I gave My Things? As much as I dearly love my husband, I doubt that I would agree to wash and massage him regularly so that he won’t “crack”. I doubt that I would let him dictate the size of the house I can live in, or where the dog or I can sit.

Yet I continued to give this power to My Things, despite a string of messages to let go. Some people are pretty tuned into understanding when they are being given a “message”. My tuning dial was stuck for years, and even the most horrific experience of being pinned down by My Things in a small flat did not awaken me. My Things had me hooked.

The nightmare began when I left my ex-husband and four-bedroom house, and fled to a dollhouse with a kitchenette, small living room and even smaller bedroom, taking a sea container full of My Things with me. The moving man tried to tell me that it wouldn’t fit, but I insisted that all My Things had to be moved into the tiny flat. As he squeezed the last box into the last unoccupied cubic foot of space, My Things were piled six feet high throughout the flat. Thankfully there was enough free space for me to partially open the front door.

That night I ate a delivered pizza, after crawling over My Things to retrieve my purse. I sat on the floor in the precious square foot of space that My Things had graciously left me. As I slept curled up on the floor, I didn’t mind. I had kept My Things.

Over the next six months I lost twenty pounds, as I carefully unpacked, lifted and moved My Things around every night trying to create a few more inches of floor space. After that, I moved into a bigger and more expensive flat at double the rent, just so that I could accommodate My Things. Over the next six years, I moved My Things seven more times, costing me more than $20,000 in moving, packing and storage costs.

Then in 1997, my soul mate and I decided to exit the rat race of Sydney, and live in a motor home to travel and work our way around Australia. As we prepared to leave Sydney, I failed in my first attempt to let go of My Things. Well-meaning family and friends convinced me that I had such beautiful and precious Things, and that I must not abdicate my duty of ownership. Reluctantly, I placed all My Things into long-term storage. For the equivalent cost of feeding a large Indian family for their entire lives, I purchased the ability to lock up all My Things so that they could not be used, read or enjoyed by anyone for four years. The total bill of keeping My Things had now skyrocketed to nearly $30,000.

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These costs, of course, do not include the many thousands of dollars I spent on insurance against theft, fire, natural disaster, willful damage…the usual fears peddled by the insurance companies. By now I had paid the original value of My Things several times over, feeding the fear that I might lose My Things.

My Things were last moved when my sister was dying of pancreatic cancer. As I unpacked My Things, I thought of my dear sister who also loved Her Things. I thought of how all Her Things couldn’t help her now, and how meaningless Her Things had become in the face of death. I remembered ten beautiful days I had spent in Egypt with my sister, only two years before she became sick. I realized it had cost me as much to move My Things from Sydney to Adelaide as it did for that magical experience in Egypt. I wondered how many wonderful memories had been sacrificed so that I could keep My Things. I resolved then to choose living life rather than hoarding My Things.

Now my soul mate and I are preparing to travel again, to experience the beauty of life and the gift of the present. This time I am letting go of My Things, with even the computer that I am using to write this story being sold next week. When Michael and I leave here in two months, we will retain only what we can carry and use. Everything else will be sold “for a song” or given away.

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About the Author

Wanda Fish is a freelance writer who lives in New South Wales.

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