In today’s consumption-driven society, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with excess. Even if you don’t consider yourself a spendthrift or a compulsive shopper, chances are you have more stuff than you need. You may even have more stuff than you realize! Having moved twice in the past 13 months, I realized with the second move that I was still a prisoner of my stuff. With this move I donated bags of clothes and shoes, got rid of a couch, two end tables, a desk, a cutting table (from a my previous life as a quilter) and multiple little things that I’d brought with me from the first move. And the more I eliminated, the freer I became. My new apartment is now very open, very simplistic and very inviting.
By implementing the following tips, you too can free yourself of stuff.
1) Start Small
All journeys start with a single step. Starting small will give you an immediate sense of accomplishment and encourage the next steps. One of the easiest ways to begin to free yourself of stuff is to start with your keychain. Simplistic, I know, but even though most of us use our keys daily, when asked, most people will admit to having keys or items on their key chains that they don’t use, or worse, don’t even know what they are for! If you can’t immediately identify a key or key card, remove it. You can always place it in a drawer for a few weeks until you either need it or realize you don’t need it! Keep your grocery, gym and other key cards in your wallet or car for when you need them.
2) One Step at a Time
People can feel overwhelmed while looking at a room or area and realizing they need to declutter. Instead, start with ONE thing. Clean out one drawer. Clear one spot on the desk. Reorganize one closet. Tackling clutter one step at a time will lead to lasting results and help solidify the habit.
3) The 3 R’s
No, not Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Reduce the amount of paper you accumulate by canceling subscriptions, opting out of flyers, e-mail lists, etc. Reuse items such as plastic bags for garbage bags, or use clean, worn-out t-shirts as dust clothes. Recycle EVERYTHING. And think beyond plastic bottles and newspapers. Are there things you own that you could do without, that you could donate? Clothes, books, DVDs, extra furniture… the list goes on.
4) Create new habits
Studies show that it generally takes 21 days to create a habit. The best way to change a habit it create a new, effective habit to replace it. You’ve clean off the desk of excess paper and junk mail. Now what? Open the mail as soon as you get it. Throw way the junk mail and flyers and keep the bills in one location (or better yet, pay them immediately). Fold and put away the laundry as soon as it’s finished (this cuts down on a lot of ironing too!). Wash and put away the dishes after dinner. In order to break old habits, you have to replace them with new, beneficial habits.
Once you’ve gotten past the initial stage of One Step at a Time, it’s time to keep the momentum going. Don’t become complacent in your new habits. Continue to find ways to organize your things, your time. If you find yourself falling back into old habits, recognize it and get back on track. Read articles online that inspire you to keep maintaining your freedom from stuff. Seek out like-minded individuals to discuss ideas and help resolve any lingering habits.
6) Start looking at the bigger picture
At this point, some people will stop and be happy with what they’ve accomplished. If that’s you, then that’s ok. Others will begin to realize they have more energy and more time now that there is less stuff to deal with. Some people will want to pursue this journey to freedom from stuff by going further. By looking at the bigger picture, you may realize you don’t really need two televisions (or one at all!), maybe you could do without the large, oversized sofa and the two recliners, maybe one set of dishes for two (or however many family members you have) will suffice instead of the set of twelve matching plates, bowls, dessert plates, etc. Take stock of what you own and ask yourself do you really need this? Or are your possessions holding you prisoner?
7) Downsize to the “right” size
A life free from stuff won’t be the same for everyone. For some, reducing clutter, eliminating the unnecessary and freeing time for other pursuits is living a life free of stuff. For others, it may also include reducing personal belongings to fewer than 100 things, living without a car or creating a location independent lifestyle. The most important thing about a life free of stuff is that it works for YOU.
8) Don’t replace what you’ve gotten rid of!
This is probably one of the biggest hurdles people face. You’ve spent the time and energy to declutter your home, reduce the amount of things you own or realize you don’t really need, organized you files. In order to maintain your freedom from stuff, you need to maintain it. One way to accomplish this is to implement the 30-Day Rule. Before making any purchases, ask yourself is this a want or a need? If it’s a want, wait 30 days and ask yourself again. If you’ve gone without this item for 30 days, do you really still need or want it? Consider borrowing or trading for it if you decide it’s a valid need.
9) Maintain the Freedom
Maintaining the Freedom is key to lasting freedom from stuff. Be proud of the accomplishments you’ve made! You’ve come a long way, Baby! The best part of being free from stuff is it’s easy to maintain once you’ve achieved it. You will have more time to focus on what’s important to you, more time to spend with loved ones, more time to pursue things that enrich your life.
Keep It Simple Silly. Living a life free of stuff isn’t hard, but it does take effort. Focus on one thing at a time. Start small and keep it simple. Your life, home, relationships didn’t get they way they are overnight, so don’t expect to change everything overnight. For some people, the “all or nothing” approach works best, while others find more success in breaking large goals into small, obtainable goals. Whichever method you choice, just remember to KISS it.