While I’ve never considered myself to be a hoarder, I used to have so much stuff. Drawers stuffed with clothes I never wore. A closet packed with even more clothes. Clothes in storage bins under my bed for whatever season we weren’t in at the moment. Storage bins overflowing with hats, scarves, mittens, and all kinds of winter gear. Books I’d long since finished and would never read again, folders stuffed with papers and paid bills and bank statements, random household items I thought I might possibly maybe need someday.
When I started simplifying my life, it was more about limiting the money I spent and the things I would purchase in the future. But as I got more and more interested in minimalism, I realized that I’d be better off purging my home of all the unnecessary things I’d accumulated now and then setting healthy filters for what could come back in.
Though I didn’t formally keep track, I would guess that I’ve purged about half of my possessions in the past two years. For the first time in my life, my house looks tidy, everything has a place, and I don’t have to spend hours organizing my stuff because there just isn’t a whole lot to organize. My mental load is lighter because my home feels so bright and open and not so consumed by stuff.
It’s my home, not a storage unit for my stuff.
By eliminating the stuff that constantly need attention and cleaning and organizing, I opened my schedule up to the things that make me feel most alive. By eliminating the stuff that made me feel like I was drowning, I opened myself up to fully enjoy my home.
“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
This is quote has become my mantra whenever I do a purge of my possessions or when I find myself contemplating a purchase. Do I / Will I use this item daily or weekly? Does it meet a true need? Is this item unique, special, and beautiful, and therefore worth the space it takes up?
In this installment of the Simplify series, we’re talking about how to simplify our general possessions. This is less of a step-by-step process and more of a guide to help you think about what should stay and what should go, whether you’re doing a small sweep of a single drawer or a massive purge of your whole house.
Questions to Ask Yourself
In each post, I’ll be sharing a few questions to help you dive into the “why” behind your current habits and think about where those habits came from. I think this step is so important to making real, lasting change.
1. How were you raised to view possessions? What did you see your parents demonstrating? Were they closer to minimalists or closer to hoarders? Did you see them repairing or replacing items? How did your parents define (explicitly or implicitly) the word need?
2. In light of your life experiences, how do you view possessions now? How do you define the word need?
3. What are your biggest temptation areas with possessions? Do you have a minimal kitchen collection but hoard clothes? Do you have a ton of old keepsakes in your basement? What’s under these habits?
4. What are two kinds of possessions that are most meaningful and useful to you? Those things that you can just never bring yourself to throw away. (If you’re a baker, it might be baking supplies. If you’re a runner, it might be a few drawers full of workout gear. If you’re a sentimental type, it might be family photographs.)
Practices to Help You Simplify Your Stuff
1. Define what your “useful” and “beautiful” categories are. Similar to question four above, choose 1–3 categories of possessions that you deem to me most beautiful and useful to you. Just because items have a purpose in the world doesn’t mean that they are useful to you. And just because someone else might deem an item beautiful doesn’t mean you have to agree. The one area I rarely minimize in is photographs. Everything else is tossable—from clothing that doesn’t fit to mementos of fun times (like concert stubs) to kitchen gadgets I never use.
2. Flip your mindset from “What can I get rid of?” to “What do I want to keep?” This was a game-changer for me. This allows us to work from a place of keeping what’s most valuable and useful to us, instead of just cleaning out bits of clutter that will somehow reappear a year later.
3. Set a goal. This could be a certain number of items you want to have left after a purge, a certain number of items you want to get rid of, or the way you want your home or a specific room to look and feel when you’re done. If you want to get rid of enough stuff from your linen closet to have fifty percent of that space free, do it. If you want a family room that feels open and airy and showcases a few favorite family photos, get rid of everything that’s standing in the way of that feeling.
4. Resist the urge to reorganize. Don’t just move things from one room to another. Don’t just rearrange your closet. Simplifying is not the same as reorganizing. Once you’ve gotten your possessions for a given room or space down to your ideal, then you’re free to organize what’s left.
5. Take your time when minimizing, but don’t overthink it. You don’t have to purge your whole house in one weekend. Take it slowly, room by room. It took me two years and one move to get down to my ideal amount of stuff, and there is still room for improvement. However, as you consider each object, I’d encourage you to not spend too long thinking about all the “What if I need this someday” possibilities. If it’s not something that you use regularly or that brings you joy instantly, toss it. This will save you so much time and mental energy.
6. Set filters for what will come into your house. If you go through all the work of purging but don’t set limits on what you’ll buy and bring into your home in the future, you’ll be stuck in an endless and frustrating cycle of accumulating, snapping, and purging. Break the cycle by setting limits that are aligned to your “useful” and “beautiful” categories.
Until I committed to the above practices, I was convinced that I needed or would need everything I owned someday, but truthfully, I can’t think of a single item I’ve tossed and then regretted doing so because I missed it or needed it. I had no idea how free I would feel by minimizing my possessions until I tried it for myself.
Give it a shot. Trust your judgement. Try one or two or all of these practices. Just commit to stretching yourself and see what happens.#Simplify Your Stuff: A Guide to Reducing Your Possessions & Uncluttering Your Home #simpleliving Click To Tweet
What would you add to this list of practices to help simplify possessions? What are some practices or mindsets that have worked well for you?