I’ve lived in three different houses in the past year, and transitioning between houses can be a tedious task. Along with living in a different house comes the daunting task of taking everything you own from point A, and soliciting friends and family members to help bring it to point B.
There’s nothing quite like moving that opened my eyes to just how much junk I had. Things I don’t use, things I don’t need, things I don’t care about. Things that cause clutter, complexity, and ultimately, stress.
I had bank statements and cell phone bills organized by year, for the past 7 years? Why?! You know how many times I referenced those. Zero. I had old gadgets accumulating dust. I found old small toys I had kept from my childhood.
When moving, I discovered I had more stuff I wanted to get rid of than I wanted to move with me.
That’s when I decided – to Hell with stuff!
What’s wrong with stuff?
It’s not the stuff’s fault I chose to part ways with it. It was more of a, “It’s not you, it’s me,” type situation.
There’s nothing “wrong” with having the things I had around. The items themselves are irrelevant. It was what the accumulation of the items together would do to me.
Having more stuff means spending more time with stuff and less time building relationships with people I care about. If one of the biggest factors of a fulfilling life is positive relationships with other people, why was I surrounding myself with stuff I didn’t need?
I realized I had kept the things I did because of the notion my stuff somehow defined me.
Achievements I had accumulated and items with a perceived sentimental value were among the most numerous items I had stored away.
I kept certain items as if getting rid of them would get rid of a piece of me. What I really had was a whole lot of stuff I hadn’t set eyes on in years.
While I thought throwing stuff out would make me lose a part of myself, it made me realize items themselves were not what was important. It was the experience of earning and receiving those items which helped develop me into who I am today.
Removing stuff from my life actually gave me freedom. Freedom from clutter. Freedom from unimportance. Freedom from being defined based on the stuff I have, so I can focus on the things I actually want to define me. Relationships, purpose, and character.
What makes the cut?
Of course I can’t get rid of everything in my life, but I realized I sure could go on with a lot less than I had.
While figuring out how to separate what I need in my life from the stuff that just adds clutter, I decided on a very easy way to determine what I think I need.
I simply let what I actually use dictate what I keep. I broke it down into two easy steps:
- If it’s a seasonal item I haven’t used in the past year, it goes out the door.
- Anything else I haven’t used in the last six months goes out with it.
Let’s be real. If I haven’t used something in six months, there is absolutely no way I need to keep it around.
How to get rid of stuff?
So when I separate the clutter of stuff from the things I’ve actually used the last six months, what do I do with it?
Well, after taking a good look at the stuff I’ve set aside, I let out a sigh of relief that this stuff won’t be a distraction in my life any more. After that, it’s time to finish the purging process. I’m looking to have my stuff go one of three places:
- Going up for sale – If It has value, you might as well try to get some cash for it. Put a posting for it on Craigslist, Ebay, or Amazon Marketplace. Getting rid of it and getting something for it is a win-win. If you’re having a hard time selling it for what you think it is worth, lower the price. It would be better to get something for it than nothing. Be careful, though! Don’t obsess over selling stuff to the point where you decided to hold onto it.
- Going to Goodwill – Give it away. Donate it to a charity if they will take it, or give it away to a friend who will actually use it. This is still a great option when items have value, as you can often ask the charity to give you a receipt for the value of the items. You can then use that receipt to deduct the value of the donated items come tax season.
- Going in the trash – When you can’t even give it away, it’s time to throw it away. If it has no use for you (because you haven’t used it in six months), and no use to others (because you couldn’t even give it away), it’s a good indicator you’re making the right choice to toss it. Goodbye, stuff, you will be missed never.
One other thing to note is sometimes there are files and papers you need to keep around for referencing. Things like tax documents, receipts, and other such information.
Just because you need to keep it around, doesn’t mean you need to keep it around in physical form. If possible, archive such items digitally.
Using a free file storage service such as Google Drive would be perfect for storing important documents, without having them around to clutter the home.
Whatever do I spend my money on?
Many people spend their money on the stuff they have around cluttering their lives. One advantage of choosing to eliminate excess stuff, is seeing the balance in my checking account increase month after month.
Of course, if I had any debt, the first thing I would do would be to eliminate it.
Being free from that, however, I choose to spend my money on experiences.
I have the freedom to do more activities and build memories with friends and loved ones. I can travel multiple times a year. I can live in moments that have an impact on my life. As I make this change to a more minimalist lifestyle, the change within me has become very apparent.
I’m no longer bound by how my stuff defines me. Rather, I’m able to adventure out and become more of who I am.