Due to recent circumstances, I've had to sell or begin selling the majority of my possessions, and mostly likely, by the time I'm through, all I that I will have left are my philosophy books (to many notes to replace; except for my pop culture series ones, those have already been sold), enough clothes to dress comfortably for both winter and summer including professional outfits, and basic hygiene supplies (toothbrush, shaving kit, etc).
If I can afford to carry it around, my rice cooker too. Because that thing is awesome.
I'm fairly torn on the whole thing. While I've been meaning to reduce my belongings, I hadn't initially expected to get this bare bones about it. Some things I'm glad to be getting rid of: I've sold off a ton of books I don't read any more, and I got rid of my DVDs as well. I don't own a TV or DVD player, so it's not a great loss, especially when I can watch them online. Others are harder to get rid of: my little DJ good luck Buddhas, and my Hunter: the Reckoning and Demon: the Fallen books, which took me years to collect and for which I received no where near their value in return. And of course, some items are eliciting both emotions: e.g., the engagement ring that my former partner never accepted.
In order to help deal with the whole thing, I've been trying to think of this as a means to live as an ascetic without necessarily adapting into a whole religious paradigm. Because I love the sense of freedom that I'm gaining with the loss of my things; as someone who hasn't lived in a very stable environment since I was very young, I've tended to move at least twice a year, every year. And as I part with my items, I can recall all the times when I had to pack and move and unpack them. And some of those bastards are just heavy. So, overall, I'm glad to be rid of them, to have relieved myself of the burden they represent, both in terms of limiting my options for travel (can't move all that stuff easily), and for the attachments to people and places that I might not want to remember (e.g., the ring, or a CD from a time when I was more of a whiny, angsty teenager that I can't stand anymore).
I'm fairly familiar with Indian and Chinese concepts of the ascetic, particularly Buddhist ones, but also Hindu and Daoist ones as well. I'm less familiar with Christian asceticism, but I have read Theresa of Avila and some scholarship on early Christian ascetic practices. However, like I said above, I don't necessarily want to wholeheartedly embrace any strictly religious conceptions of asceticism mostly because I don't believe in the majority of religious belief systems as being epistemically, metaphysically, or spiritually true. And for what beliefs I do have at this point in my life, I'm not exactly in a position to just entirely discard everything and live as a monk in nature (my student loans aren't going to pay themselves off, and it would be terribly unethical to saddle my cosigners with that debt).
I was hoping that there is some scholarly work out there that defines a secular asceticism; something that acknowledges the inherent meaningless value of stuff (i.e., the everyday clutter of life that tends to accumulate around us that is neither necessary to live nor essential to defining the human spirit) while not advocating a total removal from the material world and that doesn't require the acceptance of any transcendent metaphysical claims. I don't think that Marxism quite reaches the level I'm talking about here, because of its focus on society and history. Maybe something closer to what Peter Singer advocates for in "Famine, Affluence, and Morality," but without necessarily having to be done for others' benefits (I don't mind if others benefit from my newfound lack of stuff, but that's neither the end or the majority of the means here).
I've already been made aware of some of Max Weber's critiques of asceticism in the modern world, and so maybe what I'm attempting to do is metacritique Weber's position. I don't know. We'll see.
If anyone has any ideas of where to go, whether for places to live or sources to read on secular asceticism, I'd appreciate them.