The Magic Flute: To Sell or Not To Sell

November 9, 2009

Flute in case Over coffee a dear friend of mine shared her dilemma:  Should she sell her historic, one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted, 19th century English flute or keep it?  It’s in good condition and worth thousands.  If she sold it, it would allow her to buy another expensive flute of exquisite quality. 

She wants the new flute because it’s easier to play.  “Easier to play” means less resistance to practicing and more fun making music.  Sounds like a plan, especially when she no longer plays her historic flute!  So, what’s the problem? 

The Flute Holds the Power

The antique flute holds my friend in a powerful grip.  If she releases possession of it, she believes she loses her status as a flutist and a connoisseur of flutes.  Its uniqueness gives her a feeling of being knowledgeable and erudite.  Most of us know mothing about flutes, let alone about the qualities of this historic one.  She has had it evaluated by both American and European experts.  They concur:  She has a unique, historic and valuable flute.  Only a small number of experts and flutists around the world can appreciate its uniqueness.

Since no one else in the whole world owns another one like it, she admitted she feels special (I felt she was special from the moment I met her, well before I knew she owned this flute, but that’s beside the point.)  Her feeling of being special, however, is private.  Very few have any idea she possesses such a rarity.  She plays in a consort using another flute from her collection, and her partners, people who could appreciate her rare flute, don’t know she has it.  Her idea of being special by owning the antique flute is her and hers alone. 

When she bought it 25 years ago, it cost $500.  Since her purchase, its value has grownFlute assembled 1 exponentially.  If she were to sell it, her singular status –the owner of this unique, historic flute–would change.  But what does that mean?

Status versus Perception

This is a question worthy of examination.  Many of my clients possess valuable items.  Some of them are one of a kind pieces of art, designer clothes and antique furniture.  This begs the question:  Is a person MORE for owning or LESS for not owning something rare–unique–or special?  Is it status we’re talking about?  More important than status seems the perception of the person who possesses the object. 

In the case of my friend and flute-owner, the perception of being special because she owns this rare, antique flute is hers alone.  Certainly those who can appreciate her flute admire it and may even covet it, but how likely is it that they will change their opinion of her once she sells it?  There is always the chance they will relegate her to the dustbin of has-been, unique, historic flute owners, but I doubt it. 

Can Something Unique & Historic Be Clutter?

Two factors are worth reiterating:  She doesn’t play it.  If she sells it, she can purchase another special flute she will play.  If she doesn’t sell it, she remains stuck—stuck in a perception and blocked from moving forward.  That’s what clutter does.  We think we should keep our stuff because of a memory associated with it or because of its usually high monetary value. 

My friend loves her flute, but like a relationship she has outgrown, she must set it free.  This means getting it to the right person who will cherish it as much as she.  By not playing her flute, it lies neglected in its case, like a stalemated relationship, in which two people don’t share their true feelings with each other.  “Holding on” to it keeps her from buying the new flute—from starting a new relationship that will enable her to grow and blossom.  

Since our coffee together, my friend’s appetite for the new flute has been whetted.  She’s exploring more rigorously the possibility of selling the historic one.  She’s cracking the block that shielded her from moving forward—from making magical music.  After all, isn’t making music what life is all about?

One Response to “The Magic Flute: To Sell or Not To Sell”

  1. Mary Jane Says:

    Bev, These are thought-provoking and — just like the work you do with us clients — gently challenging us to face the clutter head on while dealing with its (sometimes) hidden issues.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and insights!


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