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The One ‘Thing’ I Wish I’d Kept (So Far)

July 31, 2017
The One Thing I Wish I'd Kept (So Far) | Tiny Ambitions

I can honestly say I can’t remember the majority of the ‘stuff’ I’ve minimized from my life since becoming a ‘minimalist’. However, I was recently reminded of one of these things and I can say with certainty that it’s the only thing I wish I’d kept (so far).

Many of you will not know this about me, but I’m a trained yoga teacher. I did my training while finishing my Master’s Degree in 2014 during a particularly bumpy part of my life.

If you’re not part of the yoga community, you likely have never heard of the great yoga and meditation teacher, Michael Stone. And now, you likely never will. He passed away quite suddenly a couple of weeks ago. He was hospitalized, fell into a coma and was taken off life support over just four days.

**We now know that he overdosed from trying to self-medicate his bipolar disorder. If you are having struggles with your mental health, please talk to someone you trust and get help.**

Upon hearing the news, I had a very emotional and physical reaction. A lump grew in my throat, my pulse quickened and I burst into tears.

This is obviously a very powerful reaction to the passing of someone I never actually met in real life. But Michael had an incredible impact on my life that didn’t become clear to me until the very moment I heard his had ended.

Michael Stone

You see, the very first book I read when I started practicing yoga in 2012 (pre-minimalism), was Yoga for a World Out of Balance – one of Michael’s. In the book, he explains how our lives have a part to play in the greater ecological system of our planet.

The book basically showed me that another way of living was possible, beyond mindless consumption. I just didn’t know it at the time.

Before I ever took a yoga class, or before I knew teaching would become a part of life (however, impermanent), I had Michael’s compassionate teachings in my head.

I had that book on my shelf until this year when I chose to let it go. Yoga isn’t as central to my life as it was two years ago (when I needed it most). It was painful to see the book on my shelf every day because it reminded me that I no longer had a yoga community. It also reminded me that I was no longer teaching. On a more positive note, that one book represented wonderful life-changing events that altered who I was as a person, fundamentally.

All of this came rushing back to me the instant I heard Michael had died.

I felt this impulse to run my hand over its well-worn cover and pages. To reread the notes I wrote it in along the way. And above all, to pay tribute to the great mind that changed my life.

But, of course, I couldn’t do any of that because I no longer owned it. It had been donated to a local library months earlier.

I’ve written before about dealing with sentimental items as a minimalist. While I don’t believe that memories are embedded in our things, our things can serve as anchors to spark memories we might have otherwise forgotten. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with keeping possessions that help you remember.

In that moment, I wish I had kept the book. In that moment, it wasn’t just a book about yoga.

It was the path that led me to 200 hours of laughter, tears and growth with eight incredible women.

It was a skill that forever transformed how I relate to my own body as a living, breathing tool of movement.

That’s a lot of meaning to put on a single item, but that’s what it represents to me.

Thank you, Michael, for everything you’ve given me. It’s a debt I’m sure I will never fully understand or be able to repay.

Our possessions can be powerful, as well as deeply meaningful. I’ve realized that to assume otherwise does a disservice to ourselves.

[bctt tweet=”Our ‘things’ have the meaning we give to them. And, sometimes, that’s a good thing. ” username=”tinyambitionsbb”]

Do you keep items of great sentimental value as reminders?

Image Credit: Tiny Ambitions

  • Courtney A. Casto August 8, 2017 at 11:45 pm

    This was a powerful post for me Brittany. Sometimes I look around and am overwhelmed by how much I have and yet, only a few of my possessions hold dear meaning to me. Books are one of those things. They are our companions, our guides, and can take us back to moments in our lives we might otherwise forget, even the moments we might want to forget. My friend gave me a great idea a few years ago. Before you part with something that is special to you, take a picture of it. Then you will have a visual to go along with your memory. It’s not the same but it’s nice to have!

    • Britt August 9, 2017 at 11:16 am

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment Courtney! Indeed, books tend to hold more sentimental value for a lot of people. I wonder if that’s because they literally hold stories? I like your friend’s idea! It wouldn’t be the same, but it still might have the same memory evoking quality to a certain degree. Thanks for reading.

  • Lisa | Simple Life Experiment August 5, 2017 at 4:07 am

    I’m sorry to hear about this, Brittany – it must have been very upsetting when you heard about Michael’s passing. I’m not familiar with his work but he sounds like a very wise man indeed. I haven’t (yet) regretted minimising any sentimental items, but this is a reminder that it’s a reality and I might look back on my decluttering and think I was being too brutal. As much as we think we are detached from the things we own we still do associate feelings and memories with objects, even being conscious that they are not contained within the objects. I guess it’s in our nature. I hope you find many different ways to continue feeling connected to Michael and his philosophy in the future 🙂

    • tinyambitions August 5, 2017 at 8:58 am

      Thanks for your kind words Lisa! I think the most important thing I’ve learned from this is that an attachment to something can show up when you least expect it! I too often wonder if I will look back in 10 or 20 years and think I was too harsh in my minimizing. Time will tell I guess!

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  • Holly August 3, 2017 at 7:48 pm

    Just the other day I thought about donating a hat and scarf I kept as momentos after my dad passed away 11 years ago. They’ve been sitting in a tote container and I never look at them. But I do wear my fathers ring every day & I never take it off. It makes me think of him often & his memory feels closer to me. I will wear this ring until my dying day.

    • tinyambitions August 3, 2017 at 8:29 pm

      I’m so sorry your dad is no longer with us. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful memory.

  • Viktoria@TheLifestyleFiles July 31, 2017 at 12:31 pm

    I’m sorry to hear about your loss, but thanks for sharing this story. If there is one thing I don’t like about a lot of minimalist guides or challenges is how they try to tell what we should get rid of. I always thought minimalism is a deeply personal journey and it’s incredibly true for sentimental items. I’m with you – nothing wrong with keeping old memorabilia or photos, as long as it’s truly valuable to you. For example, I like to print and keep photos and not just store them on my computer. I like to sit down, go through the physical photos and take a trip down on memory lane from time to time. That may seem like clutter to some people, but it fits with my own minimalism.

    • tinyambitions July 31, 2017 at 1:04 pm

      I agree! No one can tell you what you ‘should’ declutter from your life. Your own interests and passions are far too personal for that. That’s so awesome you’ve chosen to keep printed photos! They are obviously very meaningful to you. Thanks for reading!

  • luxestrategist July 31, 2017 at 11:16 am

    Hey Britt,

    Thanks for sharing this story.

    I don’t agree with getting rid of everything just to get rid of everything. There are ways to value our things that might not be the most practical, but it doesn’t mean that they’re meaningless.

    I actually keep an old shirt that was my mom’s when she was in her 20s. I don’t wear it. It just sits in my closet. I like having the reminder of what she was like when she was young.

    • tinyambitions July 31, 2017 at 11:31 am

      I totally agree! Getting rid of everything for the sake of it completely misses the point of minimalism! It’s about finding what you value. Thanks for reading! I’m off to go read your post on eBay now!!

  • Kate @ Making it Rain July 31, 2017 at 10:16 am

    Thanks for sharing this story! Books are still one of the hardest things for me to let go, because I attach so much sentimental value to them. Having them in my home takes me to other places, other parts of my life and I cherish certain ones so much because they brought me through hard times in my life, etc.

    The hard part, as you pointed out, is that sometimes you don’t even consciously realize how important something might be to you! Thank you again for a lovely and reflective read.

    • tinyambitions July 31, 2017 at 10:38 am

      I think that’s what was so surprising! My emotional attachment to that book definitely snuck up on me. Thanks for reading!!

  • Hanna @ minimal marathoner July 31, 2017 at 9:20 am

    I’m sorry to hear this – how very sad 🙁

    I do have some trouble parting with sentimental items, but not as much trouble as most people do, it seems. I guess some of us just have a stronger association of memory with the physicality of things? I would also venture a guess that some people want to hold on to their past more than others. Anyway, I have a box of miscellaneous things from my time in AmeriCorps. I collected practically everything – even printout schedules from training weeks – and even though I never look at it, I can’t bear to part with it. So I keep it in a box in the basement where it doesn’t interfere with my life or feel like clutter, but I know it’s always there if I want to go through it.

    Whenever I regret getting rid of something, I always remind myself why I got rid of it in the first place. I know you’re missing your book right now, but I’m guessing part of the reason you got rid of it is so that the impact Michael’s words had on you could be shared with others.

    • tinyambitions July 31, 2017 at 9:27 am

      You make an amazing point! So people probably do have a stronger association with memories through physicality (and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that). Good for you for holding onto your AmeriCorps stuff! It’s obviously important to you, so it makes good sense that you would keep it, even if you don’t often look through it. Thanks for reading!

  • AdventureRich July 31, 2017 at 8:55 am

    I have a really hard time with sentimental items… the memories and emotional ties are so strong at times, it is a constant struggle for me to see clearly and know if I should keep something or give it away. I have a few sentimental items that I cherish, but I try to detach from many items by cherishing the memory, but not the “thing” (wayyy easier said than done!).

    • tinyambitions July 31, 2017 at 9:14 am

      It is wayyy easier said than done!! I have found that my sentimental items are not clear to me. My emotional attachment tends to sneak up on me in things I never would have expected (like the book above). Thanks for reading!

  • Lynne July 31, 2017 at 7:26 am

    So far I have surprised myself with how easily I have parted with sentimental items. I gifted my share of my mother’s jewellery to my sister as I don’t wear jewellery and it would have sat in a box on my dressing table, unseen and forgotten. I gifted my grandfather’s gold watch to my cousin’s son (Grandad’s first great-grandson), and felt good about doing so. I don’t love my lost family any less for doing this.

    • tinyambitions July 31, 2017 at 7:30 am

      Good for you! For me, I didn’t even know this book was sentimental until I heard of Michael’s passing. My emotional attachment to it definitely snuck up on me! Thanks for reading.

  • Lawrence July 31, 2017 at 7:25 am

    Thanks for your post. I never met Michael but I did read ( many times) his book, Awake in the World. I, too, was saddened to hear of his passing. Personally, I have always believed that the only things we ever truly ‘possess’ are what’s between our two ears and what’s in our heart. The only thing I question about parting with books is that it can prevent us from re-reading a book. Like stepping into a stream, we are never the same person when we re-read a book. Over the past two years, I parted with 21,000 books. I still have some books that I cherish and I make more use of my KIndle and its apps on various devices to read (and re-read).

    • tinyambitions July 31, 2017 at 7:28 am

      Thanks for your kind words! I’m glad Michael touched your life as well. And I completely agree, our brain and hearts might be the only two things we ever really ‘own’. Thanks for reading!!

    Hey! I'm Britt. I write about living a tiny, simple, intentional life. Because life doesn't need to be lived big.