Sometimes we look around and wonder how we have accumulated so many things. Sometimes while looking at all the stuff we have accumulated we wonder why we have so many things.
I have certainly been wondering of late about the accumulation of material things, especially when I see commercials for products and hear people say things that make me shake my head. I hear them say ‘it would be a terrible life if I could shop at…’ or ‘I think a have 100+ pairs of shoes’. All that goes through my head is who needs that many shoes? I mean I have more than I need but nowhere close to that many.
Much of the extra stuff I gathered was from splitting with my ex. When we parted ways I took everything that was mine. I took it for spite, not necessarily because I wanted or needed each item. I then put everything into storage for four months. Only to move it all to a small apartment in NYC.
The point is: I have been doing a lot of work at downsizing my belongings. The push to remove excess belongings came from my recent move. The last thing I wanted was to move it all again. It seemed so ridiculous to be moving everything around again and again.
I have definitely learned a lot about the process too.
1. Store for a period of time
The first step to reducing your belongings is to go through everything you own. Go room by room or space by space. It’s important to go slowly and evaluate everything. When evaluating consider the last time you used it, whether it’s your style, and the chances you’ll use it again.
For example clothes: Is it your style? Does it fit? When was the last time you wore it? Is it still in a wearable condition? Answer these questions honestly. But the clothes that were no’s or labeled as months ago into a box to leave your space.
For example material possessions: You need to ask similar questions. Is the item just taking up space? Does it have a sentimental value you just can’t part with? You really need to evaluate everything with the dedication to reducing your stuff.
The next step is the one that makes it easier to part with things. Once everything is in boxes, put the boxes in a space where they are out of the way but not forgotten. I put mine along the wall in my dining room behind the table.
Decide on a timeframe: 1 month, 3 months, 6 months. This is the amount of time you are giving to reconsidering. If you go into a box because you need something, then it doesn’t go back into the box. If you get something else because you simply miss it, then it doesn’t go back into the box.
But if in the end, it is still in the box, then out of your space it goes.
Please note: This might need to be done a couple times throughout the year. Don’t throw out all your sweaters in the summer just because you haven’t worn them in months. You’ll want them again as the weather gets cold. But do throw one that are no longer a part of your winter wardrobe.
2. Remove clutter
It’s important to realize that in this day and age you can reduce paper clutter and hanging files of paperwork. If you don’t have a scanner rent one or borrow one. Scan all those articles you have been saving to read someday. Scan all the papers you have piling up on your desk. Scan copies of pictures.
These days few people have hardcopies of anything. People are reducing the stuff around them.
In the future, set aside a specific time to again scan new papers as they come in and begin to pile up. If you plan to spend a couple hours once a month to accomplish the task you’ll find it will take less time and you’ll be more critical of the paperwork you need to save, or those articles you may or may not read.
Please note: Again here there are certain papers you need official copies. If the papers are that important they should be saved in a fire-retardant box or be in a safety-deposit box.
3. Sell online or yard sale
Once you have decided on things that are no longer needed in your life. It’s time to get rid of them. For paperwork, shred and recycle the paper.
For larger items consider selling them. There are lots of online options to get rid of your things. For larger items: CraigsList, Kijiji (for Canadians), and lots of new apps are coming out. Most of the apps are okay. As much as many of them claim to put you in contact with local people, be aware that anyone can access this. Also be aware that fraud is prevalent, many people will claim interest in your items if you send them all your details – do not send out any personal details. Most sales happen via phone and the buyers will gladly come to you to see the items.
For small items, there are new apps to sale your clothes and shoes. Look for them. There are also many stores that you can sell your stuff by consignment.
Just know that choosing to sale your belongings can be time consuming and not everyone believes the price you choose is what things are worth. Be prepared for less. Be prepared to feel like you have another full time job.
4. Give away
If you try to sell and are unsuccessful or don’t care about regaining some funds or don’t have the time, then give stuff away. Some of your items might be appreciated my friends or family, especially if you’ve heard others remark about the specific possession. If someone has once said they liked something, then perhaps giving to them as a gift would be very much appreciated.
If you just want to get rid of everything, there are many people who would appreciate the donations. Look for drives by your local church or nonprofit organizations. If there are no such options there is always the Salvation Army, Value Village (they do give money for some items), or Goodwill – just to name a few.
Always remember to get a receipt for your donation. You might not get physical money but you can itemize the list of donations on your taxes. Just remember that items should be ‘gently’ used. Give them decent quality goods. They aren’t places to give your complete trash.
No matter what, this ends up being a feel-good way to part with your stuff. Things you no longer use or cherish will be loved by others.
5. Revisit again
So you’ve managed to remove some things from your space. The key will be not to give in to the unrelenting desire to fill the new spaces created.
The next step should be to revisit each room. Go through things again. Are there more items you have since started to notice you don’t use? Is it a new season for items to be reevaluated?
I noticed that as I downsized and time passed I became more critical of every item. I found that once I got going it was hard to stop. I really couldn’t stop. That is not to say I don’t own things. That is not to say I still don’t have a number of possession (probably still too much for one person). That is not to say I still don’t have things I don’t necessarily need.
But I have certainly reduced about half the things I had. When I moved this time, I still took the same size U-Hauls, but I left a lot more of my furniture together.
The final step or perhaps the next challenge is to be critical about items before you purchase new ones (a whole other conversation).