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on meaning and possessions: caroline rogers, 2018

“Possessions are defined as “item(s) of property, something belonging to one” (Simpson & Weiner, 1989). It is hard to argue that anyone is without possessions – even Gandhi had some.”

I wrote this essay on the meaning of possessions as a module paper for my MSc. The module was called ‘the search for something higher’. For me, the reading, lectures and discussions in that module on topics like meaning in life, flow, passion and spirituality, reinforced that my work as a professional organiser is connected with those topics – but how? This essay was an exploration of that.

Since writing it, I have always asked my clients what’s important and meaningful in their lives – and we’ve used that to help them make those sometimes difficult decisions about what to keep, and what to let go.

There was a massive incentive to do the best job I could in this paper. Those who obtained high marks would have their work uploaded to a positive psychology e-book due to be published in 2021/22. I’m proud to say that an edited version of my meaning and possessions paper will be included.

It examines existing literature on possessions and their meaning, asking how that informs meaning in life. It also asks if the meaning of possessions helps us identify what makes life meaningful and vice versa. Obviously, Russell Belk’s paper on possessions and the extended self was a great resource, as were the thousands of researchers who’d cited his paper since 1988.

Ghandi's possessions

In the process of writing this I lost a ring that has great meaning to me. I’d had it for years, had lost it twice before – once on a sandy beach, once in a washing machine that I gave away. How I’d rejoiced in finding it again.

This time I had to accept we had finally parted ways. I noted my grief and sometimes still look with some sadness at the empty finger where it used to be.

Talking about what that ring had meant to me was pleasurable and useful in accepting it had gone. I also noticed that now at least I don’t have to worry about losing it. I send love to the person who finds it and hope my contagion of it brings them joy.

Massive thanks to a wonderful client, KS, who made some beautiful drawings to illustrate this paper.

“You are born to this work, you do it skilfully and with sensitivity, warmth and levity. I am grateful for your time yesterday, it has been a catalyst for my moving forward in my creativity and in my career.”

– d, s london


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