Of the Unbearable Lightness of Giving up

Of the Unbearable Lightness of Giving up

There is a bookshelf in the common dining area of the shared apartment. It’s slanting and unsophisticated, full of items. Half-burnt candles, dirty flowerpots, a bottle of deodorant someone has used. It is like a black hole of used things and it keeps drawing things towards itself without anyone noticing, or pretending not to notice. It’s overwhelmingly garbled existence bothers me beyond limits but I close my eyes from it. I tell myself that its chaos is not mine to control.

When one has to abandon some of life’s luxuries, one will eventually notice all the useless things one has collected before. Whether it was the book collecting dust on the bookshelf because it has not been read for years or the unflattering shirt that one does not discard because they imagine they will wear it someday. As an exchange student one notices just how little one needs to live a properly decent life. At the same time one is also reminded of the things that are very important. Things that it is hard to be without. Even more important is to notice that most often these things do not physically exist.

I admit having always cared for material things. I feel satisfied when I have things and items around me. I feel satisfied being able to buy and to have. In this neighboring country I can’t really do that. In the kitchen, the holiest place for me, the dishes and the utensils are shared and sometimes cooking requires the skill of application. At first it made me anxious and frustrated. Now it makes me laugh. Just the other night I whipped cream by pouring it in a small plastic container and then shaking the cream into whipped cream within the container. The comical sight drew attention from my flat mates and we laughed while I shook the container my face steaming red.

During one night when I sat in my room writing an essay I started wondering about all the useless things I had waiting back home and which of them I could give up. I remember reading a tip somewhere that it would be sensible to get rid of everything we have not used for two months. I do not swear in the name of this tip but it could be worth trying. Instead of immediately getting rid of things they could be collected to a box that could be then stored. If one was to put the most useless thing by far into the box every month the pace would not be too fast at least. When the second box would be full the first one should be checked again to see if anything could be actually given up.

After pondering the things above I decided to start a list of the things one actually needs in life. On the side I decided to start a list of the things one does not necessarily need but which bring great advantage. I can tell that the list became shorter than the list of the things I know await me back home piled up in the storage room. I used to be happy about items without questioning the source to this happiness. Now it feels good to think about giving up useless things. It feels just as if I had given myself permission: you do not have to own everything to be happy. Happiness is so much more than a bookshelf full of books or a wardrobe full of options.  I do not need all of my books. I do not need the unflattering shirts. They take time and they take space. In the end they take more than they give.

This piece of writing sounds like an ecological preach but do not read it as that. Go ahead and try. Leave those things you do not absolutely need in the store next time you go shopping. Leave them if they are something you only want to have. We want to have things we do not actually need so often. Sometimes we want to have something so bad that we are ready to give up on things we actually might need. Eventually life might resemble a slanting bookshelf full of things in the dining room corner.

No one notices when I throw the dusty jar of cosmetics I picked up from the shelf into the bin. I have threatened to throw everything away from the shelf so many times. I will start one item at a time. We do not need everything. No one does.

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