Monday, January 7, 2013

Set Yourself Free

If you're organized, you've gone through your things many times and decided to let things go. So how's this time going to be any different? Here's a quick run-down of what made it different for me. I'm calling it the minimalist mind-set. 

First of all, I agreed with the minimalist idea that stuff equals stress. The more stuff you have the more putting away, caring for, dusting, repairing, keeping track of and reorganizing you end up doing. Less stuff means less work and for anyone who's life wears them out, that sounds good. 

Minimalists also pointed out a lie we sometimes tell ourselves. "If I had a ____, I would be ____." I once caught myself thinking, "If the kids have awesome gear, I will be a groovy (as in zen and not lame in any way) parent." Right. It's ludicrous but it makes more sense when you realize that's exactly what's implied, if not spelled out in advertisements. This lie will keep you hoarding and chasing items that represent happiness to you, but don't deliver.

Because of the ideas above, I decided that cutting loose might be worth it. I was finally motivated to break the rules. Not just the quest for the materialistic American dream, but these ones too: 
  • If someone who loves you gave you something you don't like or use, you show your love by keeping it anyway. Nope. If they truly love you, they'll want you to do what's best for your soul.
  • If something reminds you of a special time, you need to keep it or you might forget. I had items that reminded me of childhood that I didn't really care to own. I just liked being reminded, so I took photos of them, which are now on my computer. They take up no space and require no care, but my memories can still be jogged.
  • If there's a chance I'll use it someday, I'll be wasting money if I get rid of it and have to buy it again. Here I apply the 20/20 rule, presented by the Minimalists. If it can be replaced for less than twenty dollars in less than twenty minutes (round-trip to a store) I get rid of it. This may seem extravagant to fellow cheap-skates, but I don't think it really is. If I get rid of twenty "just in case" items, odds are I'll only need to re-buy one. So far, I haven't re-bought anything.
  • I don't want to waste. Me either. I try to be green and there's no way my excess was going straight to landfills. So I sorted into three piles: recycling, donating, selling. Obviously some things went in the trash, but I felt good that the things that could make me money would, and the things that could be useful to someone else went to a place where people who needed them would be given them at no cost.
  • I can't admit I wasted money on these things. Yes you can. I have a friend who bought jeans and before the season was over, she realized they were wrong for her and passed them on. I was so impressed that she didn't get tripped up by guilt, trying to make them work when they didn't. Something you wasted money on doesn't become a better investment because it sits around for three years. Forgive yourself and let it go. I've learned a lot about what were good purchases and what weren't through sorting. Hopefully this knowledge is making me a wiser shopper. 
When I cut these ties, I was free to keep only what I use and love. I was free to be ruthless and it felt good. One more reason I could be ruthless is because I knew I would actually have it around for a couple months before getting rid of it (not the recycling or trash, but the rest). One strategy for reducing clutter is boxing up what you think you don't use to see if you're right. Since it's no longer guess-work, you don't have to be anxious. 

Also remember, this isn't the only sweep in your lifetime. I did my initial, main sweep a year ago and since then I've continued to experiment with smaller challenges, like getting rid of 100 items before the end of the year. So if you're too nervous about an item, leave it and move on. Don't let it ruin your momentum. You can get it in the next round. 


  1. Lovely post. What I am seeing, as I utilize the advantages of minimalism, I am making better choices and not spending. I am so picky, it might drive others nuts, but it has lead to me only making 2 clothing mistakes this year. Way better than the literally 100's I used to each year. It means I have wasted less food, paid lower electricity bills and have had time for the things that are important to me. It a good mine set for all.

  2. Yes! All that saving and being more efficient feels SO good. :)

  3. Kendra, I love this! The "If I had this..." lie we tell ourselves -- that one is responsible for so many miseries in my life. For years, i've tried to declutter, but ended up buying even more (in part because it felt okay since I'd gotten rid of so much stuff, right?!). Because I KNEW that THIS game would be the one that my kids would grow up playing and having so much fun that they still talked about it with their own kids.... Nevermind that every game like that that I can remember in my own family was played with...wait for it...a deck of 52 regular playing cards. Stuff like that. This is such a great reminder.

    1. Ha! I understand, Andie. I want my kids to have millions of happy memories too, and I'm especially susceptible to anything I longed for as a kid. I'm also a sucker for believing this: I will have a blissful fall if I'm wearing new _____. Usually boots. ;)