ONE DAY, as a friend was sorting through her things, she pointed to a pot and said, “That doesn’t belong to me anymore.” It wasn’t that someone else was about to take possession of it. She simply no longer felt ownership. She didn’t feel connected to it. It didn’t fit her life.

Most of us would have said of an unwanted item, “I don’t want/need that anymore.” Because our relationship to our stuff is different. Maybe it’s better not to feel so attached to objects. Or, maybe it’s better to own only those things with which we feel some kind of bond. This goes back to the popular William Morris quote:

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

At the time we got them nearly everything we acquired felt beautiful or useful or both. But somewhere along the line many of the beautiful and useful things become just… stuff. A mental shift occurred. Those formerly delightful and utilitarian objects now just share space with us. They have their own lives, we have ours. They don’t belong to us anymore, because we don’t even think about them. Until it’s time to move. Or until the hoarder intervention people show up.

I have a game/test I offer those struggling with downsizing. It’s mostly a joke if you’re not having trouble paring down your possessions, and mostly serious if downsizing is the major barrier on your road to living on the road. Here it is:

• A helper looks in a drawer, a cupboard, a closet, a box, a storage unit or whatever while you stand aside, not looking.

• The helper asks, “What is in here?”

• You get to keep only the things you correctly identify. 

This game is based on my belief we have a lot of things we’ve forgotten about because they’re not really part of our life anymore. They are the same objects but we are not the same person. We have moved on. Or we’re trying to.