Two years ago, I decided to give away all my books.
I had over 200, and they were my prized possessions. But I was moving across the country, and I had to fit everything into a ‘99 Camry. So some things had to go.
But honestly, it wasn’t just that I was moving. There was something about living with less that appealed to me. I wanted to be able to pack up my stuff and go. I felt my possessions were weighing me down.
Do you ever get that feeling? Like your possessions are closing in on you?
I suppose it was the birth of minimalism in me.
So, I made a Google Doc listing all my books, posted the link to all my social media profiles, and invited people to claim any books they wanted for free.
I ended up giving away about 100. The ones that people didn’t claim I either sold or kept.
The books had a nostalgic value to me, so I assumed I would miss them.
But two years later, I haven’t missed them once.
And as I’ve pressed into the minimalist lifestyle, I haven’t missed any of the other things I’ve given away, whether it’s clothes or furniture or money.
I think there is a principle at work: You don’t miss what you willingly give away.
When something gets taken from us, when we are pressured to give something away, or when we lose something, we miss that thing. It doesn’t feel good when things leave our possession without our permission.
But when we willingly part with possessions, it feels good. Giving things away is linked to the release of oxytocin in our brains (the same chemical released during sex). So, parting with a possession is associated with extreme pleasure, and therefore the memory of parting with the item is a pleasurable memory.
You don’t miss what you willingly give away.
As I step deeper into minimalism, that principle guides me.
If I can willingly give something away, I do.
If I can’t willingly give something away, I don’t.
If I know I should give something away, but can’t do so willingly yet, I give it time.
And if I know something is going to be given away eventually, those materialistic ties with it start breaking. After not too long, I’m able to willingly give it away.
So, instead of minimizing your possessions because you think it’s what you should do, do it when you want to.
It will give you much more joy, and you won’t miss your things.