The Art of Letting Go
I gave a follow-up talk to my 2016 TED Talk, "Is Your Stuff Stopping You?" last weekend in Mentone, Alabama. My host, Anne McCleod gets credit for the title, which was perfect: "Is Your Stuff Stopping You? The Art of Letting Go."
It gave me the opportunity to reflect on what Stan and I call "The Great Purge," when we sold almost everything we owned to make moving to Scotland possible. It's been seven years to reflect on whether or not I have any regrets; if I had, in fact, done the right thing. But it was also a chance to reflect on whether or not the same principles can be used to judge following the pandemic, which changed everything.
The talk is much longer than what I'll write here. Like a traditional TED Talk, it was about 20 minutes with slides to accompany it, but I will give you a quick recap.
The overall premise was realizing that as we age, we reach a point where we, for the most part, have what we need. We reach a point where evaluating our lives is more about what we want, and if the expectations of society have been meeting those wants: prestige, money, stuff. In my first talk, I mentioned how sad I thought it was for an "experience-based person to be stuck in a stuff-based lifestyle." I still believe that. But I've also come to realize what the boundaries of my minimalism are. The pandemic taught us that the idea of using the world as our extended living space might not always be possible. So, how much is enough? Are we really listening to ourselves? I've been asking myself this question a lot lately and frankly, I'm not sure I've got the answer yet. But I am working to figure out my parameters.
The bottom line is, I have no regrets selling all we did and walking away from the life we did, with two minor caveats. I found that I missed my books. While it felt great to give them away, Seth Godin calls books "souvenirs of experiences" (science has proven that the brain experiences reading nearly the same way as having experienced something in reality). I missed the experiences those books stood for. But I also missed them on a practical level. As an academic now, I find myself returning to books again and again—many of the books I gave away, I've had to re-purchase or track down through other means. The irony being, the books were the one thing we really couldn't keep. So...
The other item(s) was art supplies. My art is my voice, so I have to have my art supplies, lest I am silenced.
Those are my two things. What would yours would be? Do you have two things in your life that no matter what, you have to keep?
After my talk, I asked the attendees to pull their chairs into a circle so that we could discuss what was important to them now in this new reality we all live in. It was a great discussion, and was just the beginning!
If you'd like to invite me to share my full talk with your event or organization, please reach out! I'm hoping "The Art of Letting Go" can grow some legs like my TED Talk did. (Over a million views, wowsa!) Certainily, I seem to be hitting a nerve that a lot of us are thinking about right now!