This is “my” house

Joy Overstreet, color and down-sizing consultant, Portland OROr at least it was a few years ago when I wrote this post for my blog, Getting to Less, to consider some philosophical questions about ownership.

We speak so possessively of our homes and our things. “This is my house.” “This is my couch.” “Fritz is my cat.”  As if the house, couch or cat were really ours to own.

Even if you built the house yourself stick by stick, if you built it well it will live long after you’ve moved on. Someone else will call it “my house.”  It was also built on land that was here millions of years before you were born, and belonged to ???  The couch belonged to someone else before you bought it and you hope will be useful to a new owner after you’re done with it.  And think about it:  is your cat really yours? He may feel attached to you, but he’s certainly his own self.

As I try to loosen my attachment to “my” house and “my” things, it seems helpful to step back from the whole possessive pronoun description of it all.  Many languages describe our relationship to stuff quite differently – “the house of me” – which is more like “the house I’m in relationship with” than something that I have dominion over and is part of me.

Before I came to live in the house of me, which was built in 1972, three other families lived here. After I move out, other families will consider it theirs. And I hope they treat it with the reverence I feel for it.

Thinking of myself as just one in a line of people who live here for awhile, (slightly) eases the pain I feel knowing I must relinquish the house sooner than later.  And I can even rejoice that the “books of me” will soon be the books of new readers.

After all, in the grand scheme of the universe and over an infinite period of time, me, my house and my stuff are barely specks.

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