I Want To Have More Less

When I first read the headline “Getting Rid of 1000 Things,” I was in high school. Variations on the challenge popped up on Pinterest boards, my Tumblr feed, and blog posts discussing everything from ecological living and meditation, to money management and single life in your twenties. “Wow, they’d have to be a hoarder to have that much junk,” I thought. I couldn’t imagine having 100 things to get rid of in a year; 1000 was inconceivable.

The challenge would make an appearance once every few months, and I continued to have the same response. After all, I didn’t want to be taking advice from someone who just let 1000 things sit around their life, taking up space. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school, when I started to invest in a personal yoga practice, that I would even consider reading the challenge. The more I read about maturation, self-acceptance, and the practice of escaping the body in yoga, the more I realized just how much humans hold onto. Then it clicked.

The challenge was born for simple reasons: we hold onto our internal lives and external lives so tightly because we can’t always tell them apart. They create each other. What is around you becomes what is within you. I had been asking myself all the wrong questions about declutter.

The first question we ask ourselves is: What do we need to get rid of? The question we should be asking is: What do we need to keep?

The answer is a lot less than you have.

So on January 1st, 2016, I hopped on the wagon with decorators, yogis, bloggers, minimalists, economists, ecologists, and the thousands of others challenging themselves to declutter their countertops, closets, space under beds, attics, desk drawers, hearts, and minds. I wanted to let go of as much as possible to make room for what was to come. I was going to get rid of 1000 things in 365 days.

And I was terrified.

I didn’t know where to begin, how to determine what to get rid of, where to take the things I got rid of, if I would miss them, or what my life would look like without the 1000 things. I still didn’t believe that I had enough to live my life, let alone start cutting back on it. The world is constantly talking about the next big thing. With our society, life is a race to see who can get the best of the best before anyone else. You have to keep up with the Joneses. You and your things are supposed to be impressive.

And once I let go of that, I was able to let go of a lot more. In fact, I’ve shed 312 useless items from my life. I plan on shedding 1000 this year, and I will keep going because with so much less, I’ve been able to do so much more. My dorm and my life has less of stress, spending, time spent cleaning, burden on the environment, and best of all, less comparison to the possessions of others. Gratitude for the things which I have chosen to purposefully keep or accumulate helped me realize that I have enough.

After you make a habit of shedding what you don’t need, your relationship with material things will change. Instead of holding onto something you might need, you make do with the things you already have. You learn to better utilize possessions and give them new purpose, new life. The things you keep become more important, and the number of things becomes increasingly less and less so.

I started to realize how much we accumulate because we can or think we should. Free stuff or on-sale stuff or new stuff calls out to us, but at the end of the day. All it is, is more stuff.

I began by pulling inspiration and advice from others:

  • Liz Wright’s Ted Talk

  • Any article from the minimalists.com (especially this article detailing how one man lives with exactly 288 things, which is far less than it sounds)

  • Tips for a KonMari (Japanese minimalism) method

  • Lists of things most people have and don’t use: 1, 2, and 3

Looks just like your dorm, doesn’t it? Little things of everyday life build up without us even realizing it. Before we know it, we have more than we can handle, certainly more than our dorm can handle.

I researched the psychology of why we hold onto things, what we hold onto, how to realize what we hold onto needlessly. The findings were simple and straightforward. I could see exactly where I fell into the pattern and the solution:

Problem 1 “Aspirational Clutter”: We hold onto things we want to use, we believe we should have used, or we think will make us/our lives better if we use.

Solution 1: Be realistic. Use it today, right now, or it should probably go. Either let go of the dream the stuff may symbolize or commit to the dream.

 

Problem 2 “Hidden Clutter”: We keep items we haven’t used in so long that we don’t realize they are taking up space in our lives. After six months of not using an item, it is time to go.

Solution 2: Take a full inventory of what you own. The closet, the back of your desk drawers, hidden purse pockets, and the space under your bed are all possible hiding spots for junk. If it’s hiding from you, and you haven’t gone looking for it, you don’t need it.

 

Problem 3 “Sentimental Clutter”: Keeping important mementos, records, and more is perfectly fine, but the truth is that we don’t have to keep reminders of every moment. If we do, they won’t actually help us remember the moments attached to the objects.

Solution 3: Instead of asking what an object meant to you at a time it is attached to, ask yourself “What does this object mean to me now?”

 

Problem 4 “Gift Clutter”: Some people confuse this with sentimental clutter because when someone you love gives you a gift that isn’t your favorite, it’s easy to keep the item out of courtesy. It’s the polite thing to do, right? Maybe not…

Solution 4: Separate your feelings for the giver from your feelings for the gift. A bonus effect of having less in your life is that people find it easier to purchase a useful, personal gift…and if not, there is always a gift card.

 

Problem 5 “Greedy-Guilty Clutter”: Admitting we paid money for something we don’t need or no longer want is no easy task. As college students in particular, too much guilt can come from ridding ourselves of things we haven’t yet squeezed our money's worth out of.

Problem 5: Sell it if you can. Accept if you can’t. Find a person/charity that can use the item so your money isn’t wasted. In my experience, this problem solves itself. After a very, very short time my relationship with money began to evolve. I window-shopped less, thought far more about the quality and necessity of my items, and was more cautious with purchases.

 

Problem 6 “Sale Clutter”: When something is on sale, we assume we can use it and get the worth out of it more easily than a full-priced object. The fact is that the price of an object won’t increase our inclination to use it. Even if one dress was half the price of another, you will wear the dress you feel best in and forget the dollar number.

Solution 6: Realize that sales are designed to trick you into buying more than you need. Better yet, ask yourself “If I were shopping right now, would I buy this again?”

Problem 7 “Unique Clutter”: Sometimes we find that one of a kind item that we have fixed in our mind as a rare but much-needed component of daily life. So we make a purchase, but it’s so different that it doesn’t go with the design of our lives as a whole.

Solution 7: Start to think about the things you own in relation to each other. The pieces of the puzzle have to fit together in some way if they’re ever going to make a complete image.

 

Problem 8 “Clutter for Your Clutter”: When you have too much, you need a way to keep track of it all. Boxes, folders, binders, old shoe boxes, whatever it is, it’s just junk holding more junk in place.

Solution 8: Compact your stuff. Put more items into less space, and as you pare down, pare down your storage techniques as well.

 

What Comes Next?

To be kind to the planet we Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. The same mentality can be applied to being kind to ourselves. Reduce the amount you have. Refuse new clutter. Reorder your priorities.

Too often we fall into the fallacy that we are what we own. It’s time to release this baggage and the physical baggage we haul around with it. Sometimes, the less you own, the less that owns you.

Image Credit: TKC Humanities Portal, Creating This Life, Pinimg, Buzzfeed