For almost a year, I've been addicted to reading articles, blogs, and books about minimalist living. I'm obsessed. The thought of living with only the bare essentials and nothing else is so appealing that I think about it almost every single day. I'm constantly looking at the items I own and thinking, "Why do I have this?" "Do I really need this?" All of these things that I have are heavy. Almost too heavy. Not literally, but mentally. The stuff clouds my mind, distracts me from living, and fills me with a lot of stress and anxiety. All of it makes me rather unhappy.
I haven't always felt this way.
I used to be like everyone else. Scouring stores' clearance sections for a good deal, spending hours on fashion blogs, and filling my weekends with shopping excursions, cleaning, and organizing. My life evolved around stuff. Acquiring it was my hobby. I even got into couponing for a brief period. I'm not so sure that actually saved me any money. If anything, it cost me moments I could have spent with friends, family, and on myself. I was spending copious amounts of time clipping coupons and driving all over town to different stores to stock up on products that weren't good for me. A lot of the items I obtained never even got used. I was just addicted to getting stuff for free or nearly free despite what it was. But wasn't I just doing what we all have been conditioned to do? Consume? Marketing continually tells us that what we currently have isn't good enough and that we should always opt for the next best thing.
My life was out of control and I didn't even know what the cause was -- I just kept buying more stuff.
It wasn't until one trip to Ikea that realized I had too much. I had spent all week searching through every hard to pronounce piece of organizational furniture on Ikea's website. I just had to find the perfect ones. A wardrobe for my excess clothing, a bin for my 100 pairs shoes, drawer organizers, shelving, etc. I had it all on the list. We were almost to the check outs when I looked at my smart phone's calculator. That number signified the very root problem that was causing my unhappiness. I was willing spend hundreds of dollars on more stuff to organize the massive piles of stuff in my home that never really got used. Not to mention, all of the time I was willing to devote to worshiping all of it. My husband immediately asked what was wrong as tears started swelling up in my eyes. "This all has to go back," I sobbed. Of course he had no idea what was going on and was really concerned. He bought me one their delicious cinnamon rolls and we headed home -- empty handed. I explained to him what was going on with me and why I, all of sudden, I had this feeling of hopelessness and loss of control. He too, felt that my tendencies to spend money on so much stuff was consuming me. Things needed to change.
For the next several months, our weekends weren't spent shopping, or organizing. They were spent decluttering and downsizing and boy did it feel amazing. That weight was slowly getting lighter and I finally felt that I understood where the balance of stuff and living truly lied.
This wasn't going to all happen in a day for me. In fact, it's still happening. The Minimalists had a unique way of downsizing their stuff by boxing up everything they owned in their home and only removing the items they needed for the next 21 days. What ever was still boxed up at the end, was done away with. They called it a "Packing Party." The concept sounds fantastic, but for me, it's just not realistic, and I'm sure a lot of you can sympathize.
Below, are the 5 guidelines I've been using to declutter my home. I've eliminated a little over half of my belongings in the course of the last year and it was fairly easy. If you are interested in beginning the process of downsizing your possessions, I hope this can help you get started.
Stop Impulse Shopping
Used to, when I wanted something, I thought I needed it right then. I needed that instant gratification. There were several times I'd leave my house on the hunt for one specific item and burn a quarter tank of gas for that one thing I thought I couldn't live without. Now, for whatever I think I might need, I always wait a week before I make the purchase. That gives me time to really evaluate my need and to see if I can get by with what I already have in my home. This mindset has pretty much eliminated most of my non essential shopping. If for some reason I do end up purchasing something, I have a 1 in 1 out policy which means for every new item that enters my home, I must give up something in its place.
I had 4 sets of measuring cups. Who needs 4 sets?! I noticed my duplicate problem in the kitchen the most. I don't know how many times I'd stand in my kitchen wondering why and how just my husband and I could have so many dirty dishes all of time. It just didn't make sense. But when I started looking at how many of each item I had, it quickly became a whole lot clearer as to why I was washing a mountain of dishes every other day. We had too many of each thing! Because we had enough plates, glasses, and cutlery to properly dine 20 guests we got into the habit of grabbing clean dish after clean dish throughout the day instead of maintaining a few. Instead of rinsing off a plate after breakfast, we'd just throw it into the sink and grab a new plate for lunch. Once we pared down all of our kitchen items to just what we really needed, I found that we spent a lot less time cleaning and more time cuddling on the couch. This situation can apply to almost any room.
When I clean my living room, I always hate when I get to the DVD rack. It is always covered in dust. I have to pull them all off and clean underneath and behind every single one. Out of everything in the living room, this area takes the longest to clean. Ever since Netflix and Amazon Prime entered our lives, we've stopped watching the majority of our DVDs entirely considering we can stream them for no additional cost. That meant our DVD stash was nothing more than a dust factory. We decided that it would be best cut back most of our collection along with our CDs, which we uploaded onto our cloud storage, and our huge collection of books that we didn't read anyway. We have now decided to utilize our cloud storage for any new movies, music, or books that we may want. This works great since this cloud will follow us wherever we go as long as we have wifi.
Part with Unitaskers
We've all seen the awful infomercials that try to sell us the wonder gadget to solve every one of our life's inconveniences. They quickly pile up and clutter our homes until that one day in the whole year we actually decide to use it for its intended purpose. In reality these gadgets are pointless. We already have the necessary tools to get the job done with out spending 19.99 plus shipping and handling for that breakfast sandwich maker. Save yourself the money and time wasted dealing with these cheaply made gadgets and make do with what you have.
If it Doesn't Make You Happy, Let it Go
It's easy to just say "Go through every nook and cranny and get rid of what you don't need." But how do you decipher what you need and what should be sold or donated? I've recently read "the life-changing magic of tidying up" by Marie Kondo and she said something that stuck with me that I use every time I try and decide whether or not I need to part with something. She challenges us to ask ourselves if those hard-to-part-with items "spark joy." Things shouldn't be just things. They should have some important role or meaning in our lives.
Decluttering doesn't have to be something that we dread. With a few baby steps it can be very liberating and pretty easy. Shedding the weight that our stuff causes leaves more focus and energy for living - which to me is pretty important. Give these a try and let me know if they work well for you. What other easy ways to you use to declutter your life?