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Reuse, refuse: spells for letting go of things

By Amelia Young

2 min read

"As a sculptor and environmentalist, I have SO many feelings about Stuff. Being "responsible with materials" can feel like everything I put in the garbage hurts something else directly, like a bird or piece of soil. I feel the pain of that being as the cheddar cheese wrapper bursts into flames in my mind, after it leaves the garbage can, as the waste from my street enters an unseen industrial incinerator to become fuel.

We live in systems with each other, the materials of our lives, the Earth, and billions of other creatures. I try to remind myself that one person cannot be individually blamed for the harms of our systems.

Separating the decision about WHETHER to let an object go from HOW to pass it on feels vital. I'm not a Reuse Center. I don't have the money, space or time to fill in for institutions that should exist but don't, or to constantly fear the next life stage of a material that's actually harmful in every stage of its existence (plastic).

Here are some spells I wrote to help me let go of physical objects, to ease the guilt of getting rid of things imperfectly, and to connect to larger networks of life, materials, and resistance. Maybe they'll be useful for you, too.


Sit outdoors or by a window, somewhere you can feel the air. Make yourself comfortable.

Imagine positive things on the breeze. Maybe things you smell, like pizza, maple leaves, or the ocean. Maybe things you can't smell, like molecules of oxygen, water vapor, and pine forests they have passed through.

Take a slow, deep breath through your nose. Imagine these essences entering you, joining and comingling with your particles.

Hold them for a long pause.

Slowly exhale through your mouth. *Thank You*

You are keeping the good things the breeze brought and sending it off to travel further.


Pick an object you really like. Hold it in your hand.

Make 5 observations about how it feels. Is it cool?

Gritty? Soft? Heavy?

Place it on a cleared surface. Choose 2 - 3 other

objects you like and place them next to it.

Repeat 3 times: "I keep what I love, and let go of

what I don't. The space to hold them is mine to



On a piece of paper, write a list of specific places where you will get rid of different types of things. This might include: garbage (can in the kitchen), recycling (bin in the stairwell), fabric recycling (collection down the block), and thrift store (Boomerangs).

Flip the paper over and write: "I take care of this world." You can draw a picture too, maybe a flower or tree.

Put the list in a handy place where you can use it.


I was inspired to write this article by the work of Corina Dross and Jocelyn (Jo) Mosser, artistic collaborators who run a blog and small business called AbacusCorvus. If you're prepared to be profoundly moved by a wall calendar, please check them out.

- Amelia


* Originally published in-print in Boston Compass Newspaper #140 November 2021


Check out all the art and columns of November's Boston Compass at


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