Oct 11, 2008

5 ways to De-Clutter and Simplify Your Life

Stuff, junk, clutter, mess. Call it what you will but it's all the same. It is those things you've had lying around the house for ages and ages. Things you really should get rid of but haven't done anything about, sitting there idly like a cat in the sun. It's about the stuff you think to yourself "... but I might need it later".

Well, here's a bit of truth for you.

You won't need it later. You won't need it next week or next month, or even next year! In fact, you just won't need it at all! Ever. Full stop.

The Idea of Having

stuff like that
Photo: debaird

So what is it that stops you from getting rid of it all. It's the Idea of Having. All those things that you've carried around with you for years you somehow have an attachment to are just baggage. You think that because it was something that defined who you were at one stage of your life you feel the need to keep it to remind yourself of this long forgotten time. But the problem is, every other aspect of your life has moved on and you're no longer defined by the things you had. You're now defined by who you are and the use of these ancient items is nil. In which case, get rid!

I should know about this since I have been a master at slavishly shifting my stuff around - house after house has seen boxes come and go without so much as an unpacking. I think there might be some dinosaur bones at the bottom of one box, I've had it that long. Consequently I have completely forgotten what's even in there. How sad.

also, I still have things that I had at university! I left university 14 years ago for goodness sake. Occasionally I look at it and smile to myself, remembering some of those happy times but times that are now from a bygone era of young adulthood far removed from the person I am now.

My Achilles Heal

For ages (and ages and ages), through a number of moves, including one half way around the world, I have always just packed up my stuff and shifted it to the next place. I think my tendency to hoard things stems from my Mother since she's always got a houseful of stuff though I can hardly blame her for my failings now. Hoarding is certainly something that was inbuilt into me at an early age and a problem I'm only just tackling now - yes, I'm imagining I'm lying down talking to a softly spoken person sitting on the couch next to me.

But finally I can feel the recovery process is starting and my Achilles heal is getting better and not holding me back. One step was to just stop buying more things and the beginnings of a budget meant that I was already on the right track, spending less and refraining from adding to the problem. (Not that I'd spent much on 'stuff' recently anyhow but it all helps.)

And finally, over the past year or so, I have been tidying, de-cluttering and organising all of the things I shall be annexing from my life. Usually I have done this ad-hoc and so far it's been working. There are plenty of other ways to do it too, but here are five to help you on your way.

5 Ways to De-Clutter and Simplify Your Life

There are a number of different ways you can get rid of your stuff. Over the past year, I have done four of these and am about to start on the fifth.

1) Give It

Giving it to a friend is a great way to get rid of stuff but also give to someone who'll use it. I've had a number of conversations recently whereby a friend of mine said "I wish I had ..." and I told them they can have mine. Sometimes I see it as a long term loan though I suspect in some cases I'll never see it back. That's okay with me though, better someone is using it than not at all.

2) Donate It

There have been a number of occasions in the past year when I have filled up a plastic bag or two and put them out for collection by one of the charities. Over the years I have also donated my fair share of goods to the Salvation Army, sometimes to re-sell things I'd originally bought from them!

This gives you two great feelings. The first of helping others and the second of removing your bond to some of your material possessions. Win-win for all concerned.

3) Pass It

FreeCycle is something I haven't yet tried but am planning on sending a few emails to the Wellington FreeCycle group this week. I have a number of fiction books that I'm sure are quite popular and therefore, I wouldn't get much for them anywhere else, so giving them away seems like a good idea to me.

Also, wouldn't it make you feel good that some random stranger will get some happiness from that book you really enjoyed too.

4) Sell It

Selling your stuff via a garage sale, taking to a second hand shop or selling on-line is something which can actually give you a slight return for your sunk cost. Yes, I know it can be hard to get only a few dollars for something you paid so much more for but if it's something you never use yet can net you an increase in your balance then why not.

I took some books to the second-hand bookstore last week and the (small) amount of dollars I received, I put straight into my Emergency Fund. It's money I've never seen before so instead of spending it on something else I don't need, I pretended it didn't exist. Now I'm also helping my future self if something goes horribly badly wrong, something you probably can't do with an old book or DVD.

5) Dump It

Obviously, this should be your last port of call since it's better to keep things out of landfill. Re-use via any of the above means should be considered first, especially if the thing is still functioning for it's intended purpose.

If not, dump it and be free in the knowledge that you have a tidier and neater house.

Reasons to be Cheerful

As in my use of my Credit Card, de-cluttering actually makes my life simpler. I have less things to worry about. I always seem to have something going through my brain, whether it's my latest idea, a website or two which needs doing or some volunteer work I have on. To help concentrate on some of these things a bit better, the less I have to worry about money, possessions and other such things, the better it is for me.

Why don't you try it and let us know in the comments below how it's going.

I suspect that you'll then have more reasons to be cheerful and less reasons to be worried. After all, it's just stuff and you ain't going to need it anyway.

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1 comment:

Determinist said...

We did this when we moved to New Zealand. There was so much stuff that we decided wasn't worth keeping that we got rid of - exactly in the ways you described (mostly selling and giving to friends and family).

The feeling is really good, since you know you have way too much stuff. Owning a house is one way to allow this kind of thing to go on forever. :)

Every once in a while, I go on a rampage and sell lots of stuff on trademe - it feels good!