Letting it all go: How a small bag changed my life

Posted: August 27, 2015 in Me
Tags: ,


What a nice bag……

The things you used to own, now they own you – Fight club

At a dinner a couple months ago, a friend of mine told me of clothing drive for a family that had lost their house in a fire. I shook my head at the thought of losing my possessions and felt a deep empathy for the family. What they could be going through at the time, having to piece their entire lives back together. When I got home later that night, I walked around my studio with a box putting things in there that I felt I could part with. I then opened the closet and saw an almost endless row of shirts, all different colors and jeans and pants of all different designs. I started to grab a shirt and remove it from it’s hanger, but I’d then hang it back up. I’d justify reasons for keeping a shirt or jeans saying, “I’m going to wear this soon..” or “This has sentimental value…” I’d sigh and glance at my small messenger and ask myself, “How did I get so attached to my things?”

All my life I have been consumed with two things: Stuff and space. How many things I can accumulate and how much space I can have to store the stuff. Maybe this comes from growing up poor. Not saying that we were on the churches door step with a sign that said, “Please help,” but my family definitely did not have the most up to date things all the time. I would see class mates with fancy clothes, the newest video games, the most popular sneakers and I would just want. I would stare at them and want what they have. I didn’t bother asking my mother if she could buy me the newest air Jordan’s or the jeans with with the cool pockets. She didn’t have it. My Mom was too busy worried about the basic things like keeping the lights on, buying food, and making sure we were taken care of. All the other things were superfluous and flash. Besides, I knew what she say anyway, “When you grow up and start making money, you can buy whatever you want.” And I did. That’s where the problem started.

Whenever you give a kid who grew up with not a lot, something, he or she is bound to go crazy. It doesn’t matter if you are an athlete making crazy millions of dollars or college graduate that has landed a good job, when you are finally making money, you can do whatever you want and get whatever you want. You finally have access to the things you were denied. Growing up, my friends and I would always says, “We ain’t never had shit.” And when I started making money, I was going to make up for lost time.

To be able to afford the things you finally want is a feeling that I cannot describe. All throughout life I felt as if I was on the outside looking, wanting to dress like the fancy people, wanting to be them, wanting to raise myself out of my situation. So I started shopping and buying whatever I wanted. Shirts, shoes, jeans, electronics, movies, music, and everything else. I was happy, look at the stuff I got! I came up! I remember being 16, 17 darn near lusting after the Super Gun, a video game system that plays actual arcade  boards. I wanted it, but it was sooo expensive. So when I finally bought it years later, I was so excited. I would never forget how I felt. It was like I achieved something.

What started as an enjoyment of my success started to become a problem. When I opened my closet I had at least 30 Oxford or twill collar shirts, T-Shirts spilling out of my drawers, and at least 15 pairs of pants and jeans. Come on now, who needs 15 pairs of pants? That didn’t count the new clothes still in the bags around my place. The crazy thing is, I wore about 25% of my clothes. I knew something had to change.

Recently, I started modeling for an independent bag and apparel company named Christensen Bags. As payment for one of the photo shoots, I was given a beautiful small leather messenger bag. When I first got the bag I thought, how am I going to fit all my stuff in here? The messenger bag I was carrying at the time held my laptop, an adapter, a notebook, a folder of papers, screwdriver and a note pad. How was I to manage?

The morning that I first used the new bag, I only carried my laptop and two notebooks, stuff that I needed for that day. At first I thought I would need all the other stuff. “Well what if I came a across a situation that I needed by notepad? My AC adapter? My screwdriver?” But I didn’t, and it felt good to only carry around stuff that I needed. I liked that the bag was minimalist; it only afforded me space to carry what I needed at that time.  I then started thinking about the bag as metaphor for change in my life.

My ex girlfriend would always tell me, “Remove things from your life that don’t serve you.” I thought about her telling me that as I carried around the bag and I knew I wanted to “de-clutter” my life (I used a different term, but we will keep PG). So I went to my closet, started going through all my clothes, picked out each piece and ask myself, “Would I wear this again?” If I would, I kept it on the rack. If I didn’t, it would go into the pile. Now I wish I could tell you it was easy and that I cleared out my closet, but I didn’t. LOL. But I started.

What I realized is that all this stuff that I accumulated didn’t make me happy or validate me. I didn’t need to have things to make me feel as if I made it. The kind of validation that I was looking for had to come from inside, and when I found it, I felt good, very good. I finally shredded the insecurities I had about growing up poor and have moved on. Now if I buy a piece of clothing, electronics, or shoes, it is to replace something. I have a rule now: One in, one out. And sometimes it’s one in, two out. I am not buying things just to buy them. Besides, I have a new collecting hobby: My savings account. I want to see how much money I can save.

The day of the clothing drive, I dropped off nearly a quarter of my clothes. Another family needed them more than I did. I watched the clothes get put in bins for the family to be shipped away, and I didn’t have any attachment. I just smiled.



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