Recently, I wrote about my attempts to downsize and declutter.
I decided if I were going to get serious about it, then I had to be ruthless. The hardest part by far was going through my books. If there was one quote that aptly sums my life, it’s from Thomas Jefferson: I cannot live without books.
However, I stuck the course and was pretty pleased with the results: four full-sized garbage bags full of books, clothing and other assorted things.
Still, as the weeks went by, I noticed that it was really, really hard to resist the lure of getting more stuff to replace the things that I had gotten rid of.
Despite the fascination with microhomes and the often-repeated line that “Small is beautiful,” those of us living in the First World are taught from the cradle that more is more.
In the U.S. alone, our cars, homes and even our bodies are bigger than they were, even a few decades ago.
I noticed when I was going through my collection of vintage handbags that the ones from the 1960s were a lot smaller than the ones now. In fact, it’s a complaint of mine that as a 5’2″ woman I am often unable to find handbags that don’t look like I am hauling a suitcase. While some of it might have to do with the fact that the average American woman is larger now than in previous years, it’s hard to deny that there is another reason for their largeness and that is the expectation that we are supposed to fill them with stuff.
And thanks to big box and discount stores, it’s easier than ever to get stuff. Never mind that the vast majority of it often ends up in landfills.
More stuff is supposed to mean that we have made it. In a recent article about multimillionaire Zappos CEO Tony Hseih and his decision to live in a Airsteam trailer, many expressed disbelief and outright hostility at his decision to forgo mansions and penthouses. The mere idea that someone who could afford more and was choosing less seemed way too far-fetched for some.
Therefore, I am not being sarcastic when I say it is an on-going battle to downsize. And while not everyone may decide to downsize here are three simple things to ask ourselves before we acquire another item, be it another tube of lip balm or a new car.
1. Do I need this?
2. Do I already have something like this?
3. Where will this be six months from now?
Out of all the questions, the first one is the most challenging. Sometimes, we think we need things when actually, we want them. And while I am all for occasional indulgences from time to time, wants can sometimes lead to a lot of junk.
In my case, I had the habit of acquiring books I thought I “should” read or that that somehow having them would enrich my life. However, once I was honest with myself and admitted that I only got them in the first place out of that feeling of should and that reading Middlemarch or any other classic wasn’t going to drastically change my life, I was able to let go of it and pass it on to someone who hopefully did have a genuine interest in reading it.
It was a surprisingly similar process when I let go of other things.
For now, I am happy with the changes I have made, and while I still love checking out ebay, thrift stores and even big box stores from time to time, I keep those questions in mind.
Rather than just saying less is more or small is beautiful, I now experience it first hand. It turns out that there is some truth to the saying that cluttered closets lead to clutter minds. Best of all, we realize that stuff is just stuff no matter how attractive, expensive or even useful it is. I can focus on the most important things in life which are not things that comes in boxes or bags.
Author: Kimberly Lo
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: John Henderson/Flickr