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This is a guest post by Melanie Scroggins. Earlier this year when we released our free course on downsizing, we heard feedback from so many people about the struggle to get rid of stuff. Melanie is the owner and creator of her brainchild Mine Space. Mine Space is dedicated to educating, empowering, and encouraging you to live more intentionally by taking a physical and emotional inventory of your spaces. Melanie is also the host of Mine Space Over Coffee, a podcast where she and her guests discuss all the things that make us human. She currently lives in Melvin the RV full-time with her husband Jeremy.
Two years ago, I was sitting on the floor of my mom’s guest bedroom with papers, pictures, and boxes of stuff from three generations stacked all around us.
“One day you may want to look back on these,” my mom said to me.
“Mom, I don’t think I’d even remember they existed.”
I honestly think my mom believed my sister and I would want to look back at some point in the future and see something in the abstract art of our four-year-old minds or the baby doll dress her grandmother made her. In that moment, she was projecting a sentiment onto me when what she really meant was that she wanted the ability to look back and think I remember. No matter her reasoning for keeping the stuff in those boxes, she needed to know I didn’t want the same things.
The article “No One Wants Your Stuff, Mom” was the first piece I read that laid out the basics of downsizing in a way that resonated with me. It provides simple guidelines to get rid of stuff as well as a subtle plea to all parents and grandparents of the world that the up and coming generation doesn’t want their stuff. Not because we don’t see value in what those things meant at one time, but because it doesn’t make sense for us to keep them for ourselves.
It’s normal to feel uneasy when it comes to downsizing. Most of us have had all we could ever need and more given to us our entire lives and we don’t want to seem wasteful or ungrateful.
But there comes a time when we have to face our stuff. Here are some reasons to get rid of stuff now.
1. There isn’t a need.
Need – Require something because it is essential or very important.
Want – Have a desire to possess or do.
We are fortunate to live in a time of plenty. Plenty of food, plenty of clean water, and God knows plenty of stuff. Toys, books, cars, houses, shoes, and clothes… the list is endless, but that doesn’t always stop us from swiping our cards.
No matter the reason for purchasing or accumulating more, it’s important to understand whether or not there is a need for that item before it is allowed into our homes.
Exercise: Before you buy a new item, ask yourself: Do I need it or do I simply want it? Why?
Take away: Giving ourselves a little more time to think about a buying decision allows us to feel confident in our purchase or not. If we’re uneasy or the purchase doesn’t make sense, a few extra minutes to think about it helps us make a more informed decision.
2. Storing stuff is a pricey pastime.
Buying new and buying more adds up over time. Eventually, a lot of Americans need more space to store their stuff. According to the Self-Storage Association, 1 out of every 10 American households has a storage unit. That’s enough real estate for every American to literally fit inside if standing up.
Sure, the storage unit only costs about $100 a month, but before the unit was necessary most of the items in there had a price tag as well. It’s not uncommon for individuals to forget about their units altogether, so it begs the question: Why the heck do we even have them?
Exercise: If you have a storage unit, plan a trip to go visit. Take a good look at what’s inside. If you have the time and the proper vehicle, get rid of at least three items while you’re there (more if you can).
Take away: Visiting our storage units gives us insight into what we have that we aren’t using. It also allows us the chance to see what we have and don’t need, providing us the opportunity to get rid of certain things for good and possibly saving upwards of $100/month.
3. We have a tendency to misplace value when it comes to our stuff.
We’d all like to think that what we own served a purpose in our lives at one point even if the object now sits idly in the garage. Oddly, these reasons are not always based on physical need.
When how we perceive value in an object outshines our necessity for that object, oftentimes we’ll keep the item just because. This is the precursor for why we hold onto things “just in case.”
However, there are items we don’t use every day that serve a higher purpose in our lives. We don’t use tools every day but they come in handy when anything needs to be fixed.
Here, I’m talking more about the items we have that are lying around with no defined purpose: knick-knacks, an overflow of blankets, throw pillows, craft supplies, extra coffee cups, and other kitchen items… things that often go unnoticed in our homes because they’re stuffed away in cabinets and drawers.
Exercise: Grab a pen and paper and go into a room in your house you always avoid. Stand in the doorway and look around (If there aren’t enough items in the room, open a drawer or cabinet). Choose at least one item to focus on. Write down why you are holding onto that item. Do you need it or does it hold some sentimental value for you?
Take away: It helps you discern what is truly valuable to you and what is excess. Standing in the doorway provides physical and emotional distance from the object giving you a more practical approach to the item in question.
4. Stuff stresses us out.
When we are surrounded by stuff, our brains have a hard time focusing. Over time, this lack of focus and diverted attention wears on us.
When our brains can’t locate Point A it takes much longer to find Point B delaying our productivity and tiring our minds.
Think of loose files on a desktop. Where is the direction? The same can be said of stuff that eventually becomes clutter in our homes. When we don’t have a system of what comes in and what goes out, we leave ourselves open to anything. If we don’t understand how this affects us on a daily basis, the problem gets worse over time until we literally feel as if we are drowning.
Exercise: The one-in-one-out rule. If you find it hard to get rid of a lot of stuff at one time, simply start by controlling what comes in. When you bring home a new item, make a deal with yourself to find another item in your home you can get rid of. Bring one thing in, take one thing out.
Take away: 1. This exercise shows that you have the power, not the stuff you own and 2. It’s an easy way to manage your stuff so clutter can’t find its way to more places in your home.
When we get rid of stuff, it can be difficult. Not only because it takes time and energy but because we feel connected to what we own.
However, the better we understand why we hold onto what we have, the easier it will be to define our relationships to the things we own and understand the benefits of getting rid of the excess.
Learn more about Melanie at:
Mine Space on iTunes: www.mine-space.org/itunes
If you’re looking to take your downsizing journey to the next level, check out Heath & Alyssa’s downsizing course. And guess what, it’s free!