Philosophical insights about saggy undies and the struggle to let go

Why is it so hard to let go of stuff?

I posted a blog entry about decluttering this week. It inspired a friend to clean out a cupboard but then she left a comment about how her husband had trouble getting rid of his clutter - including undies that had lost their elastic and had holes in them.

It was a bit of an overshare, but it made me sit up and think. All week I've been pondering these questions. Why can't he throw out his old undies? Why do we hang on so tightly to the things we own? 

There must be some kind of identity issue going on. Maybe it's related to the language we use. "Oh, it's very you!" is usually said in gushing tones about an outfit that seems to tick all the boxes. "It's not me," is what we say when we don't like something. Been on to Pinterest lately? Have a look at how many people's boards are entitled "My style" or "This is me" or similar. 

We allow things to shape our identity as people. We give our personhood to our items and possessions. They define us. They tell us where we belong. They tell us what kind of people we are. 

And when it comes time to get rid of those undies with no elastic, or the excess linen in the cupboard or the sewing supplies we haven't used in three years, we can't do it because we're so invested in what we own that if we deleted them from our lives we'd be deleting ourselves - or at least the perception of ourselves.

What would it mean to live a life where you and I are not defined by our possessions? Have you ever realised that in the New Testament there is very little ever written about what Jesus owned? The only reference I can think of is to his clothes which were gambled away at his death. He knew something we too easily forget when he said, "Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?"

This week I'm going to think about what it means to leave my things behind as I think of myself. What could it mean for you?