So here we are sipping our teas, coming off some odd sort of holiday high.
We feel inspired, and then overwhelmed and then inspired again. We brainstorm ways to make simple, sustainable, yet radical changes in our lives. How can we start to break these habits that we’ve spent our whole lives constructing?
My mom, is your typical I’ll-hold-on-to-this-just-in-case-r. Cabinets are filled to the brim with “stuff.” If you ever need anything, she’s your gal.
This morning, she shared a story of her struggle with Battleship. The game, tucked away in the family game cabinet, is outdated and rarely touched. It’s been sitting there, along with the others for years now. But she is holding onto it—just in case she has a grandson one day. Because certainly, he will love to play Battleship.
Mind you, she is a loving mother to my brother and me, but neither of us have anything close to a serious relationship. Even if we were to bring a child into this world who just so happens to be a Battleship enthusiast, according to the box it’s a game suitable for children ages seven and up. Online it costs somewhere around $10.
Is it really worth it to hang onto a game (or anything that matter) for a hypothetical situation that may present itself? The answer to that is looking like a hard no.
I myself am a bit different. I am a messy traveler by nature and have loaded up a backpack full of my favorite things and shipped out, sometimes alone, for roughly 10 trips over the last six years. Sometimes I’d be gone just for a few weeks, other times it would be as long as seven months. The point is, I know I can live simply because I’ve done it, and I know it feels damn good.
But then I get home and my painfully disorganized ways become amplified simply because there are more things to be disorganized with. Now, I can’t just leave my few things in a pile underneath my hostel bed, I can leave things everywhere—in my car, at friends and family’s houses, at work, in my parents’ car.
I misplace things, I lose them, I find them. and round and round we go, with the simple reality remaining that most the time I don’t even know what I have because I just can’t seem to remember where I put it.
So what do I and many of us do? We go and buy more stuff. Then I find the stuff again and wow—look at that! I now have two of something that I never needed in the first place.
Yet there is another approach to this same problem, an approach that prioritizes simplicity and a belief that we have enough. It is truly simple, but it simultaneously poses a radical challenge for us.
My mother and I have decided to embrace this challenge. We are going to start by down-sizing to 100 personal items, going through everything in our closets and putting each item in a category of either keep, donate, or sell.
Here is the break down of our initial down sizing plan:
1.) 50 clothing items—including shoes.
2.) 25 undergarments—socks, panties, tights, swim suites, and bras.
3.) 5 lounging items—including pajamas, nightgowns, or sleep shirts.
4.) 10 jewelry items.
5.) 10 free choice items—gloves, wallets, purses, hats, umbrellas, etc.
In addition, we must get to at least 100 items to attempt to sell personally, at a garage sale, or consignment stores, and we must also donate 100 items to friends in need or non-profits.
If there are remaining seasonal, sentimental, or serious “maybe” items, we are allowing ourselves each one wardrobe-sized box to pack up, store and not touch for 100 days. Every 100 days, we will be free to reevaluate our choices and make changes accordingly. After the initial construction of our 100 items that we are happy and content with, we will not be buying anything new for the whole year. This excludes consumable items such as shampoo, make-up, and food, but we are free to use what we have, make items, borrow or trade, and thrift when absolutely necessary.
Is it going to be easy? No, certainly not. I really, really like REI and a new dress when I get invited to a party, and my mom has a love affair with Amazon. We will need to develop some new coping skills, and we will likely have days that we will try to convince ourselves that we are undoubtedly or unnecessarily depriving ourselves.
The question is not just will we able to stick with this plan, however. The deeper question is whether or not we will be able to objectively observe our behaviors and the changes that this will unquestionably bring to our every day lives, making a note of how this new approach is serving us (or not).
Today we are feeling excited, motivated and embracing the challenge of change. Some days will be difficult, but that’s why we have each other.
Author: Emily Bru
Editor: Callie Rushton