What Oprah Knows About Letting Go of Symbolic Possessions
As I went through the process of de-cluttering and reconstructing my house with the goal of keeping only what fits my life now—a process I started in March 2012—I found letting go of things easier said than done. (Who knows: Maybe one day I'll open a museum and want that picture of me with MC Hammer, right?) Still, I released whole roomfuls of furniture, plus boxes of memorabilia, to friends and family. And had enough left over for two auctions. (The second one is coming this fall.) Really the only thing I had to hold on to was my onyx tub.
It came to a head one day when the contractor, architect, designers and construction workers—13 people in all—crowded into my bathroom to discuss how to work around the tub. I had approved a redesign of the bathroom in all white, which meant the green onyx tub obviously no longer fit. I didn't care. I wanted to keep it.
But as I stood there facing down the design crew, all the lessons I'd ever learned about getting past our attachment to things came coursing through my mind. Why was I putting up a fight to save the tub? I could get a new one. I wouldn't be bathless.
So, impulsively (and partly out of sheer frustration), I said to the team with their clipboards and rulers, "Okay, take it out. That's it. I'm done. I'm letting it go." They cheered. I fled, trying not to cry. I couldn't understand why I was so emotional over a tub.
Two months later, I ran into Peter Walsh and mentioned how upset I'd been. Peter said, "You know the deal: If you want to know why the tub felt so important, you have to ask yourself what it represented." Good question, Peter. Here's my answer: It represented wealth. And "I've truly made it." It made me feel special. Lots of people have nice houses, but not many have a hand-carved-out-of-one-piece-of-onyx tub.
And letting it go meant...I wasn't special anymore? Sounds cray-cray. But super freeing to figure out what was behind my attachment.
For sure, the tub had become my symbol of success. For some people it might be shoes and handbags, cars, square footage, where you or your children attended school. For me it was a tub. (Did I mention it was hand-carved from a single piece of onyx?)
Releasing that tub opened me to all the changes that have come since. I literally raised the roof, gutted the kitchen and brought in more light. Which, come to think of it, is a poignant metaphor for my new life.
To hear more of Oprah's reflections on her auction, download the O iPad app from the iTunes Store.
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