Possessions, Possess Us

“Complete possession is proved only by giving.  All you are unable to give away, possesses you.” –Andre Gide

My last Post was about Mother’s day.  I appreciate all the responses I have received about your own experiences and your requests for some of the other writing I have done.  I was asked to be in a book called This I Believe: On Motherhood which you can find on Amazon.com and I included a chapter called Visitor at the Table.  This is a great group of writers that speak as daughters, mothers, grandmothers on every issue relating to mothers.  A great gift for Mother’s Day.

As I looked through the hundred or more writings I did while living with my mother, another theme rose up:  Stuff.  Not the inner stuff of families but the outer stuff.  The selling of houses and the dividing and selling of things.  What to do with a lifetime of accumulating when a parent dies?  What to do with Grandmothers clock, the tea sets, the clothes never thrown away since the 1960’s, balls of rubber bands, Tupperware for every occasion and even ones I could not think about.  The attic.  The basement filled with stuff.

I am sure one of two things motivate most of us when it comes to what we choose to accumulate.  First we think, ( the operative word is THINK) we need it.  Or we FEEL we need it.  Thinking we need something is our practical self telling us that we should have it because it will make life better, and we believe what the infomercial is telling us.  QVC is great at getting us to buy something that only minutes before we did not really want or know exists, and too many people at 3am will forego paying their phone bill that month to get a knock-off handbag.   But the most powerful reason we buy is how we feel about something.  It will make us look younger, feel better, get approval or give us status.  We all do it.

And then there is the  throw away – hoarding – attachment problems.  “We will need it someday or it was owned by someone we love”, drives us to be pack rats.  And sentimentality does have it’s place but most of us keep things and never use them, see them or even remember we have them, simply because we cannot give it away.  And that being said I am not a proponent for throwing anything away.  The conversation of Giving Things To People Who Need Them is one for another writing.  As is Recycling and our responsibility to do that.

And as I am now packing once again to leave Asheville to wander my way across the United States (with a chauffeur), I am faced with one more clearing of my life.  Although I sold most of what I owned last year to become the Gypsy writing this blog, I can still ask the same questions of what I have left, and in doing so there is still more to give away, sell and leave behind.  I want my load in life to be light.

 So, here is a little on how to start thinking differently about our attachment to things.  Very creative, practical and innovative.  These groups pose some wonderful questions that all of us should ask ourselves. The most important question being “Why am I not doing this and when will I start?”.  If you hem and haw ask yourself what you are afraid of, why you drag your feet or what causes you to move away from the idea?  And then once you have read the ideas go get a pencil and paper and write down the “10 Things I cannot live without“…everything else can be given away.  That’s my motto.

And I am asking those of you who would like to have your list of 10 things published, with or without your name, to send it to me with a sentence on each item as to why you chose that thing as essential to your life.  Send it to mayachristobel@gmail.com, please.

Blessings, Maya


7 Ways to Have More by Owning Less

–by Maria Popova,  Aug 11, 2011

Stuff. We all accumulate it and eventually form all kinds of emotional attachments to it. (Arguably, because the marketing machine of the 20th century has conditioned us to do so.) But digital platforms and cloud-based tools are making it increasingly easy to have all the things we want without actually owning them. Because, as Wired founder and notable futurist Kevin Kelly once put it, “access is better than ownership.” Here are seven services that help shrink your carbon footprint, lighten your economic load and generally liberate you from the shackles of stuff through the power of sharing.


The age of keeping up with the Jonses is over. The time of linking up with them has begun. NeighborGoods is a new platform that allows you to do just that, allowing you to borrow and lend from and to your neighbors rather than buying new stuff. (Remind us please, what happened to that fancy blender you bought and used only twice?) From lawnmowers to bikes to DVD’s, the LA-based startup dubs itself “the Craigslist for borrowing,” allowing you to both save and earn money.

Transparent user ratings, transaction histories and privacy controls make the sharing process simple and safe, while automated calendars and reminders ensure the safe return of loaned items.

Give NeighborGoods a shot by creating a sharing group for your apartment building, campus, office, or reading group — both your wallet and your social life will thank you.

UPDATE: Per the co-founder’s kind comment below, we should clarify that NeighborGoods also allows you to import your Twitter and Facebook friends from the get-go, so you have an instant group to share with.


Similarly to Neighborgoods, SnapGoods allows you to rent, borrow and lend within your community. SnapGoods takes things step further by expanding the notion of “community” not only to your local group — neighborhood, office or apartment building — but to your social graph across the web’s trusted corners. The site features full Facebook and Meetup integration, extending your social circle to the cloud.

You can browse the goods people in your area are lending or take a look at what they need and lend a hand (or a sewing machine, as may be the case) if you’ve got the goods.


Growing one’s own produce is every hipster-urbanite’s pipe dream. But the trouble with it is that you have to actually have a place to grow it. And while a pot of cherry tomatoes on in your fire escape is better than nothing, it’s hardly anything. Enter Landshare, a simple yet brilliant platform for connecting aspiring growers with landowners who have the space but don’t use it.

Though currently only available in the U.K., we do hope to see Landshare itself, or at least the concept behind it, spread worldwide soon.


swaptree is a simple yet brilliant platform for swapping your media possessions — from books to DVD’s to vinyl — once they’ve run its course in your life as you hunt for the next great thing. Since we first covered swaptree nearly three years ago, the site has facilitated some 1.6 million swaps, saving its users an estimated $10.3 million while reducing their collective carbon footprint by 9.3 million tons.

Inspired by the founders’ moms, whose lunch dates with girlfriends turned into book-swap clubs, swaptree makes sure that the only thing between you and the latest season of 24 is the price of postage.


Most of us are familiar with the concept of regifting. (No disrespect, but the disconnect between good friends and good taste is sometimes astounding.) Luckily, GiftFlow allows you to swap gifts you don’t want for ones other people don’t want but you do. The platform is based on a system of karmic reputation, where your profile shows all you’ve given and taken, building an implicit system of trust through transparency.

So go ahead, grandma. Hit us with your latest sweet but misguided gift. Chances are, there’s someone out there who’d kill for that kitschy music box.


We’re big proponents of bikesharing but, to this point, the concept has failed to transcend local implementations. While some cities like Paris, Amsterdam and Denver are fortunate enough to have thriving bikesharing programs, we’re yet to see a single service available across different locations. Until then, we’d have to settle for the next best sharing-based transportation solution: Zipcar, a 24/7, on-demand carsharing service that gives its members flexible access to thousands of cars across the U.S., U.K. and Canada. Zipcar has been around for quite some time years and most people are already familiar with it, so we won’t overelaborate, but suffice it to say the service is the most promising solution to reducing both traffic congestion and pollution in cities without reducing the actual number of drivers.


Lend me some sugar, I am your neighbor. More than an Outkast lyric line, this is the inspiration behind share some sugar — a celebration of neighborliness through the sharing of goods and resources. Much like SnapGoods and NeighborGoods, the service lets you borrow, rent and share stuff within your neighborhood or group of friends

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For more on the culture of shared resources, do watch Rachel Botsman’s excellent TEDxSyndney talk. Her forthcoming book, What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption, hits bookstores in two weeks and is an absolute must-read.

UPDATE: Botsman’s book, What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption, is now out and landed promptly on our best books in business, life and mind shortlist for 2010.

This article is reprinted with permission of Maria Popova. She is a cultural curator and curious mind at large, who also writes for Wired UK, The Atlantic and Design Observer, and is the founder and editor in chief of Brain Pickings.