Wouldn’t it be great if you only had to afford stuff you really loved and regularly used?
<– And no matter what kind of stuff or how much stuff you have, some people simply won’t like you and that is okay. Really. Your bigger concern is you liking you.
can ever make a bad man
at peace with himself.”
Our support group discussed the idea of minimalism as a possible pathway to financial well-being. All of my professional organizer and Feng Shui expert friends extol the benefits of clearing clutter. One friend even blogged about A Love Affair With Stuff and how you can start to reform your ways.
When I was putting together the agenda for this meeting my first thoughts were about the obstacles to minimalism. For me, nostalgia is a huge obstacle; how can I throw/give away/donate my Mother’s china set even though I neither love nor use it? Taking a picture doesn’t do it for me; some things have emotional fingerprints that I don’t care to dust.
Another obstacle is the fact that the accumulation of things represents the fact that I don’t have the time to deal with it now and – if I’m being honest – most likely never will. Once in a great while I’ll get the desire to purge the house and then I’m off and running. But I cannot summon up this urge simply by putting it on my calendar; it must have something to do with the planets being aligned or my therapist telling me that I’m being selfish keeping things that other people could use.
And then there’s the collections. Have you seen my seashell collection? Most conjure up happy memories of days at the beach and trips to wonderful places (like Sanibel Island, Blue Monkey Bay in St. Thomas or the Isle of Man). Memories are a salve to our weary hearts. Did you know that seashells were one of the first forms of currency?
“After a visit to the beach, it’s hard to believe that we live in a material world.” ~ Pam Shaw
There are many reasons why we hang onto things, especially if we or our parents grew up during the Great Depression. Stockpiling was one of the many survival tools employed. Golly the fabric my Mother saved…but you never knew when you or someone else might need it and then you didn’t have to buy it. It makes sense, it does. Many of us stockpile items for fear we won’t be able find the same items later, for a better price, or at the same quality (and the stores definitely market to that fear.)
Obstacles aside, the group surprised me and came up with many good reasons to choose the noble path of minimalism. Here are some thoughts to ponder on the subject:
- De-cluttering and downsizing is a gift to your children. Spending time together going through objects, photographs, cards etc. could yield many happy memories that you don’t have to clean or store in your basement and that your kids won’t have to deal with later.
- If you have beautiful things, don’t suffocate their beauty with a bunch of clutter.
- Real estate in some parts of the world comes at a hefty price. Don’t waste space storing stuff you don’t love or use. (And don’t pay for a storage locker.)
- Forgive yourself for not using an item (like the darned gym equipment that’s haunting you from the corner of your “guest bedroom”) and just release it. Check out FlyLady (Fly for “Finally Loving Yourself”) for some advice.
- Don’t buy it in the first place. If you must buy, follow these four rules:
(1) You must love it
(2) You must determine when you’ll use/wear/read it
(I honestly thought I’d wear more sequined shrug sweaters)
(3) Decide where it will live and
(4) Decide how and when you will let it go.
Here are a couple gems provided by the ever-wise and sharp-witted Mari McNeil on stuff:
“Stuff is psychic weight,”
“Stuff keeps us from our mission, our lives.”
I’ll give you a minute to let those settle in.
Some of you, like me, have tried de-cluttering only to re-accumulate (what is that?) and have tried creating organized systems only to have your system fail (as one regular in the group says, “There were no papers in the ‘Important Papers’ folder”).
The pressure to de-clutter can haunt you; your presumed inability to complete the task can discourage you and thwart your efforts. Reinforcement (coaching, help) may be needed. One participant gleefully exclaimed, “I’m a maximalist!” (and we love her all the same).
Perfectionism can create chaos, too, because, really, things will never be perfect. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good, just do what you can.
Some other quick tips:
- Find what works for you. I read the book, Organizing From the Inside Out which helped me because it made me think through how my life functions and then devise an organizational strategy to suit that life. Other members enjoyed books like, Everything That Remains and The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
- Get books from the library instead of buying them so that our tax dollars are being utilized and your home doesn’t accumulate more stuff.
I watched an episode of HGTV’s Small Space, Big Style that featured a couple with ten bookshelves packed to the brim. The husband said something like, “People talk about getting rid of books like it’s a virtuous thing.” It’s good to know what you love. An empty house can feel peaceful and orderly but it can also feel cold and lacking personality.
- Meet your neighbors: Borrow instead of buy.
Be a neighbor, lend stuff.
- Purge by category (books, photos, winter clothes, bedding etc.) or by area (i.e. one drawer, one shelf).
- Have a swap party, it’ll be like shopping in your living room and not spending any money. This helps satisfy our desire for something new/different. The local chapter of one of the organizations I belong to, NYS Women Inc., holds it’s annual “trash ‘n’ treasure auction” when members bring all of their re-gifted (perhaps never loved) items for them to find a new home and fund our scholarship program in the process.
- One Mom shared that she bought all the same black socks for her entire family, the diabetic kind that are super stretchy. They fit everyone and no one had to spend time finding the match.
The group declared the biggest benefit to being a minimalist is having
time to live your life, having peace, and enjoying freedom.
Be well my friends,
P.S. Our topic in June is “Staycations, Sunsets and Other Joys.” Join us Saturday, June 4th 10am and/or Monday, June 13th 6:30pm, upstairs at Dog Ears Bookstore & Cafe.