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The concept of attachment is a very interesting one. In Western society the definition of attachment seems to get mixed up with the definitions for desire, greed and wants. Attachment is not about longing or the accumulation of possessions.
By purchasing a thing one does not commit to attachment. Attachment is when we identify with our possessions in such a way that we grieve at the mere thought of losing them. One common meditation practice is to do a visualization which involves giving away or losing all your possessions. Imagine everything you own. Every item of clothing, all your shoes, books, DVDs, CDs, electronics - TV, computer, laptop, radio, GPS device, phone, mobile - dishes, decorations, appliances, furniture. As you picture each one imagine giving it away. Doesn't matter who to, just as long as it will no longer in any way be in your life. You could post it to a friend overseas or in another country, give it to a stranger on the street or hand it over to a homeless person.
You don't have to do this with absolutely everything you have but try it with a variety of different things because the level of attachment we have can vary greatly depending on our emotional connection to something. For example, giving away your microwave might give you a sense of apprehension but probably won't upset you as much as giving away something really personal like a journal you wrote or the only photograph you have of a beloved relative no longer with us in body. You may also find that the attachment you feel has something to do with your ego because you feel your identity is determined by the specific clothes you wear or the art you choose to hang on your walls.
The idea behind this visualization - behind any meditation practice - is to create a greater sense of awareness. By paying attention to how we feel about the loss of our possessions we can tune into our emotional responses and be guided by what they are telling us. This means we can take a more practical or objective look at our lives and the things we own.
As a result of doing these practices I have developed an agreement with myself. I don't like to work in rules because our brains tend to treat a rule as unchangeable where an agreement has the flexibility to fit in with the fact that our situations, ideas and opinions are constantly changing.
My agreement is to assess the things I own on a six month basis. I ask myself a few key questions:
1. When did I last use/wear/enjoy this item? Was it in the last six months? Was it longer than that?
2. Why have I not touched it? Is it seasonal? Specific to a project I'm not in the thick of at the moment?
3. Is it something I can feasibly see myself needing/wanting in the next six months? For example, am I likely to find a new painting project to do despite having not painted a lot since completing my Tarot cards?
The reason it's an agreement rather than a rule is because some things will take up my interest again even if they're not central to my life at the moment. Other things need to go.
There might a shirt that's been hanging in my wardrobe for eight months - it's perfectly nice, fits me and I quite like it but the occasion to wear it hasn't come up. When did I wear it last? Why has it been so long? Do I really think I'll wear it again? Would it not be better to send a perfectly good shirt to a charity shop where it can be appreciated by someone and help a good cause?
Why not try it for yourself? Give it a go and see what happens. Maybe you'll do it on a 12 month basis, or an 8 month basis. Find a measurement that works for you.
By purging regularly we can help improve the energy in our lives. Old, unused, unappreciated stuff creates clutter which can effect our ability to sleep, our energy when it comes to caring for the space we live in and our attitude towards change.
A regular purge can clear up space that can be used for a new project, a different look to a room or an opportunity to try something you haven't before. Plus you'll have a rewarding feeling by giving your unwanted items to someone who will appreciate and enjoy them.