Feng Shui & Getting Rid of Stuff

“How to Practice” by Ann Patchett. The New Yorker, March 1, 2021. Illustration by Karlotta Freier

There’s a huge amount of ambivalence that goes with getting rid of stuff. I want to get rid of stuff, and then again I don’t. The idea is attractive, but the reality is painful. But dying of COVID is even more painful, and the pandemic has caused a lot of us to look more closely at our own mortality. You can’t take it with you—as they say. The writer and bookstore owner Ann Patchett has written a wonderful reflection on getting rid of stuff.

When my own mother passed away, she owned almost nothing. She lived in a veterans’ home and in 2014 I had gone back to Alabama to help her move out of independent living. Doing that proved to be a fine lesson in non-attachment. She didn’t want to take anything to the veterans’ home except her easy chair, her television, and some clothes. The library furnished her with reading material—actually listening material—she signed up for audios from the Library for the Blind program (a program which my father had also used and which the Huntsville Library has now sadly discontinued).

Ann Patchett’s essay, “How to Practice,” makes a valuable feng shui point early on—she felt lighter as she let go of things. I think my mom just floated up to heaven.

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