Do you own your stuff or does it own you? I didn’t make up that saying and I don’t know who did, but it’s a good one that I try to consider on a regular basis. The fact is, I wish that I didn’t need to consider it so often because my minimalism was complete, but that may never happen. In the meantime, here are some of my thoughts on the subject of minimalism and purging:
You know what I dislike? Snobby minimalists with an “I-have-less-than-thou” attitude. Minimalism should not seek to be an elite, exclusive class; I think one way it can tend to be that way is that it truly is easier for the more financially stable to just buy another whatzit if they find they purged down too far and got rid of something they actually needed.
Own It: Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Possessions
My perspective on minimalism is this: own what you can use, own what you enjoy. But for heaven’s sake get rid of the things you can’t use (because they’re buried in stuff,etc) or don’t enjoy (because you don’t know they’re there or don’t have time to maintain them, and so on.) Do I own 120 items or less? Heck no. My wardrobe even, sad to say, recently spilled over from the closet that once contained it into a couple of dresser drawers. It’s ok. What’s not ok is when you don’t have room in your life for people because all that space is used up on things. If you’re looking to lighten your load, here are some questions to ponder and discuss:
What purpose do I want my house to serve?
Perhaps you do view your home as a place to park your stuff; to each his own. I want my house to be a sanctuary, a place of shelter, comfort, nourishment, to my own family and beyond. If my stuff is preventing that purpose from being served, it’s too much. If my family is frustrated because things fall when they navigate the hallway; if my kids can’t do their homework because the environment is too hectic and stimulating; if no one can accomplish their goals in life because we’re all too busy herding stuff around the house, what a sad home. It might be time to cut back.
Does owning all this stuff reflect the values I claim to have?
My faith includes ideas such as “this world is not my home” and “my treasure is in heaven.” I don’t believe in dictating exactly what this means for any individual, but for me, it means not placing undue priority on the things that I own. If I put obtaining and owning things above people or God, than that’s wrong. I also think that when you look into the industries that provide a lot of the cheap goods that we fill our homes with, you often, inconveniently, find exploitation. I don’t believe in that, either. I’m sure other faiths and philosophies have similar ideas–are you living up to what you say you believe?
Can I manage the things I own in such a way that they will actually be useful/accessible, and if so, why am I not doing that now?
I still have my notes from college; they’re bulky, and they’re down town in a storage unit. Are they doing me any good? Not really. I’ve been meaning to have them scanned, but would I really even use a digital copy? Probably not. Clearly, it is not actually enough of a priority to me that I want to make time for it. If you’ve had the materials for a project for years and haven’t made time for it, does it really matter to you? The good news is that if the answer is yes, there’s an easy step to take–make time for it NOW. Not later. Later doesn’t exist. Now exists.
How much is enough?
How many shirts do you need? How many pants? There’s no one right answer, but personally, I feel like “50 of each” is likely to be the wrong answer. How many pens do you need? I have most of my big clutter under control at this point, so I’m turning my attention to smaller things, like the three cans of pens and pencils on my desk. I don’t need them all. They look messy. I used to have a house where I parked them in three strategic spots, but now I live at my parent’s and I just don’t need them anymore. Some people think it’s not worth it to get rid of small things like that, but little things can make a big difference!
How would you answer these questions? What would you add? I’d love to hear your downsizing story–or why you aren’t downsizing!