From the moment we’re old enough to grasp something we are trained to value our material possessions. While the tattered teddy bear or worn blanket is eventually discarded for something else it has left a place in the heart and the hurt at giving it up is real. It represents a part of our being we can never recover, the moments of comfort we felt nestled against the cloth while we cried for love, food or in simple frustration. We are older now and what lies ahead is unknown.
This desire to hold on to the tangible continues throughout life. We leave for college or adulthood with something from our childhood home. It might be that same worn blanket discovered boxed up in the attic; it might be a book that is linked to memories of sitting next to the fireplace reading. Whatever it is, it is a symbol for what has grounded us for so many years.
For some that need to hang on becomes entangled in the driving urge for money, cars or houses. Without fully realizing what is hidden behind the want they strive to reach old age with material possessions that show everyone else how wealthy they are. They live by the adage, “he who dies with the most toys wins.” They are desperately trying to replace the emotional needs that were never met with what they see as material necessities. It becomes a desperate climb up a ladder that only ends when they reach the time of death and realize they wasted their time and energy.
For others, it might be the desire to collect. Knickknacks, fabric, art or anything else that represents a piece of who they are and who they wish others to see. While it may start out as an expression of self it can easily end up taking over their life. At that point, it becomes a serious issue with hoarding.
Psychologists believe we collect material objects because we’re lonely, feel the need to control our environment, or a combination of both. If you’re lacking connection with the people around you turning to “stuff” seems to fill that void. It actually distances us from others and we’re judged by what we have rather than who we are.
A vast majority of people reach the end of their life with a need to purge all these possessions. When faced with the reality of death they come to realize what they accumulated in inanimate objects is no longer important. What is important are the people with whom they spent their life. It becomes a time to let go. The knickknacks, cars, and money are no longer symbols of a life well-spent; often they become reminders of time wasted. The time that should have been spent making memories with those they leave behind. Life becomes about showing, and receiving love, making amends and laughter.
If there is a lesson in all this for those still living it’s that what you have isn’t that important in the end. It’s about loving, laughing, and crying with those you love. It’s never too late to get your priorities straight.