Last year I performed a magic trick. I made most of my “stuff” disappear. I never considered myself a hoarder, at least not the kind worthy of a feature on late night cable TV, but I held on to things, lots and lots of things, because I was sentimental. I thought getting rid of them meant giving up a memory. I was also convinced I would need all of these things later on. And lots of my stuff was around simply because I had spent so much money on it that I thought I hadn’t realized each item’s value yet. Surely I would need this stuff, use this stuff, wear this stuff, and amortize the cost of this stuff… one day.
My relationship to my stuff changed last year. In September, my husband, two young daughters and I celebrated Sukkot, the festive Jewish holiday commemorating the years the Jews were believed to be wandering in the desert and protected from the elements by God. For the first time, we erected a sukkah (a temporary dwelling) in our tiny backyard and invited friends over for customary meals inside the wood and bamboo structure. Many were familiar with Sukkot but I had to explain to others why I had invited them to eat off of paper plates in a crude tent decorated with my children’s art and fake fruit.
I took to the internet in search of something more than the clunky Wikipedia definition, and found a rabbi’s simple yet beautiful interpretation of this harvest holiday that changed the way I viewed space in my home. She suggested the acts of eating, sleeping, and celebrating in such a simple dwelling should be a reminder to us of how little we need to be happy and how freeing it is to just be with so much less stuff. The metaphor stirred something within me. Read the rest of this entry →