Goku lives a simple life.
Like a wandering pilgrim, Goku’s only possessions are a martial arts uniform and occasionally the nyoi bo staff.
Goku is almost single mindedly focused on his martial arts cultivation.
Chi-Chi handles all of the domestic affairs, including the caring of their house, the monetary concerns, and the raising of children.
This reminded me of my own life and how it is a bit too complicated.
By an average person’s standard my life may seem rather simple: An average guy with an apartment and some stuff. There are also career, family, social relationships, time, personal projects, and trying to achieve many things simultaneously. Perhaps too many.
In regard to physical stuff in particular, at times all of the external content can feel a little heavy, because each one of those items is connected to my emotions. Each material item, when picked up, transports my memory back 5, 10, in some cases even 15 years. They all carry emotional weight. An outsider cannot see or feel this.
I recently read a book called The Power of Less, by Leo Babauta, and it emphasized the importance of simplifying our lives.
I also read a blog post on Man vs. Debt that presented the idea of taking inventory of all the items in your possession, one by one, and the benefit of the process.
So that’s what I did.
Taking Stock and Letting Go
I counted every single item in my home and car: Every spoon, every pencil, every piece of clothing, and every game, miniature and cable.
They were recorded by hand and then entered into a spreadsheet (here). It was an exhausting process.
The end result was 1,706 items.
The number was surprising. How could I own so much?
When I looked at the spreadsheet of all the items from a zoomed out perspective, it seemed to almost amount to the culmination of my external worth. As if this was the entirety of my life.
But I knew this wasn’t true.
What would I be without all of these things? Would I still be me?
Yes. And perhaps even more so.
During the taking of inventory I threw some items away and designated others for donation. I donated three bags of clothes, electronics, and other items to Goodwill.
As time goes on, unwanted books and other items will be sold or donated. Why keep what has already been utilized?
There’s a story from Buddhism that states that once you’ve ridden your hand crafted boat to the other shore of nirvana, it is important to remember not to be attached to the boat. It was a beautiful boat and served you well. It was the vehicle that made your journey across the ocean possible. But now that you’ve made it this far, it’s time to let that vehicle go. Otherwise you cannot move forward.
Some items were easy to let go, while others were difficult. For example, my DBZ t-shirts, which I had worn since high school.
It was hard to look at each item practically, and ask if I really needed it or would use it in the future. Often I discovered that the item had been with me all these years for purely sentimental reasons.
Ultimately it is the attachment to the items that matter. Not the physical items themselves. Without attachments, anything can be let go if it’s no longer needed. Likewise, without attachments, the amount or value of material items isn’t important. Ideally, everything we own can be made of gold, yet we are not attached.
The entire process was liberating, as it allowed me to take stock of life, internally as well as externally. It was empowering to realize what I have available, and to control things, rather than have things control me.
To gain, one must lose. Because there is more empty space, I feel freed up and lighter in spirit.
Imagine how it must feel to be like Goku, as described in the final episode of Dragon Ball GT:
Full of joy and care free.
Gentle, with a good heart.
This is the Goku everyone loves.
I recommend that you try this activity for yourself. Begin with a single section of a room and expand from there.
Tackle life with as much energy as Goku, and you’ll be sure to succeed.