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Cutting Down on Things – Goodbyes to Books, Movies, Friends

I hit the one month mark at my new job the week before last. The new job already feels settled into. I’ve got a routine down, and the ongoing learning is going well because I’m surrounded by genuinely great people who are happy about their jobs and thus happy to help.

In short, a month in and the sheen hasn’t dulled. If anything, it’s been polished because the job just keeps getting better even from what I’d hoped it would be when I was offered the position. It’s a great job, but an even better place to work.

It feels like the start of the new chapter I thought it would. Every week since I started I’ve looked over my shoulder less and less and the company that let me go- there’s just too much ahead. I know that to make the most of it I need to face forward. It’s true of getting work done on novels, it’s true of relationships and it’s true of life.

So, starting the week before last, I started the work of getting ready to sell my home and move. I’m currently commuting 20 miles each way in LA and the drain on time and energy (and gas) is more than it needs to be. I’ve wanted to write an update for some time now, but my energies have either been drained by the commute or focused elsewhere.

Part of the challenge of the move is how much damned stuff I own. I’ve lived in a two bedroom condo for going on 7 years now. I filled it with furniture and plenty of other stuff. It’s weird because I used to be so aggressively minimalist in regards to these things. It’s been interesting to take the move as an opportunity to lose the fat. A coffee table, two couches, a dining table and chairs, a dresser, and a TV have all been removed.

Where four sets of shelves were stuffed with belongings, I cut it all down to one. I went through old books, movies, and mementos. These were all things that, at one point, meant something that made it worth bringing into my home and putting somewhere safe. At first pass, I asked if it meant anything to me still, and removed half of the stuff. I did a second pass and asked instead: what do I need in order to move forward?

That distinction is essential, and it’s not as dismissive of sentimentality and memory as one may think. In some cases, I need memories to move forward. I need my senior high school yearbook, I need certain movies that I still watch when I’m feeling down, etc. However, I don’t need something just because it used to be useful but doesn’t have that same meaning and import here onward.

Asking that question, I got rid of half of what still remained. It’s a recursive exercise though: because for all the things I’m parting with it’s making the things I’m hanging onto mean so much more. Naturally, this goes well beyond material possessions. This same principles apply to the people in our lives. Sometimes we hang onto people because of inertia, because at one point they meant something to us and we keep them even though they won’t mean that ever again. However, sometimes we learn through that assessment which people we can’t say goodbye to, the people we need to persist with and keep in our lives.

The rub of it is that we don’t get to own the decision of who stays or goes the way we can put a book back on the shelf, but at least knowing and putting in the effort to try to keep them through your kindness, your care and your dedication over the others you’re willing to say goodbye to? That can make all the difference.

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