Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. — Confucious
Simplicity involves unburdening your life, and living more lightly with fewer distractions that interfere with a high quality life, as defined uniquely by each individual.” — Linda Breen Pierce
I am convinced that “stuff” has a tendency to multiply like guinea pigs–fast and furiously. In fact, we live in a world where the accumulation and collection of stuff is encouraged at almost every turn. Buy this, collect that, you need one of these…so the consumer wooing goes. If one listens to this siren song, the result is a life full of stuff, most of which is unneeded for one’s happiness and is, in fact, downright unnecessary and even wasteful.
Think about it. Just how much does a person really need?
Do you ever feel awash in a sea of paperwork? Do you regularly look at drawers or shelves or closets or entire rooms and feel exhausted just contemplating where to start with the overabundance of stuff? Do you feel worn out from the work of managing your “stuff”? Are you holding onto things out of guilt or obligation (Great Aunt Mary’s awful vase or the dollar store tchotchke a student gave you eight years ago)? Does your detritus (what a great word!) prevent you from living fully and gratefully? Could others benefit from what you do not need?
If you answered yes to one or more questions, then maybe 2013 is the year for you to ditch your detritus. Someone will have to do it eventually. Would you rather simplify now or leave it to your children and other family members to sort through in the midst of grief and loss? Would you rather have someone hurriedly sort your stuff, consigning bits and pieces of your life to various places–including the landfill?
The more simply you can live, the more choices will present themselves, and the more options you will likely have. Can you imagine heading out in your car with your life’s possessions or even taking off with a couple of suitcases? Granted, not every person can minimalize his or her life to this degree, but all of us can take practical steps toward ditching detritus and polishing the contours of our existence.
Here are a few ways to start:
Choose one small space and a short span of time–a drawer and fifteen minutes, a closet and an hour, a room and an afternoon–and determine to make a change. Pull everything out. Spare nothing. Make three piles. One pile is for that which you must absolutely keep, one pile is for items whose fate remains unsure, and the final pile is for items that can leave your life without question. Take the unsure items and box them away for six weeks. If you aren’t forced to open the box, then part with it, preferably unopened to your favorite local charity.
Make a memory, not a mess–What about those precious photos and gifts you keep out of duty, obligation, or love? The easiest way to deal with these items is to photograph them, and keep a digital file of memories. If you are crafty or artsy, consider making something new from them or at least making an artful arrangement for a photograph. Then release these items for others to use and enjoy.
Create some capital–If you are strapped for cash, then by all means find an outlet such as Amazon, half.com, ebay, or Craigslist to sell items of significant cash value. Books, dvds, and vinyl of marginal value (it’s no longer a good deal to sell via Amazon unless you have items of value or significant stock) can be bulk grouped and sold locally via Craigslist or through a used bookstore, game outlet, or entertainment store. Hold a rummage sale.
Give–Consider simply giving items away. Local charities are often happy to take items for resale. If you have books of value, do what my mother did, and pass them along for others to enjoy. Share from your abundance. Remember, we really don’t “own” anything permanently in this world anyway. We come here empty-handed, and we will leave the same way. If you created some capital and don’t need the funds to pay off debt or secure a college fund, then give the proceeds to the charity of your choice. Keep only what you need; share the rest.
Determine to keep your life lean and clean–Once you’ve rid yourself of detritus, determine to live a simple life that is free of unnecessary stuff and clutter.
- Place added value on relationships, community, and experience.
- Make it known that you would prefer any gifts to be in the form of consumables, experiences/time, or gifts to charitable organizations to benefit others. Consider alternatives to the traditional holiday gift-giving glut, such as limiting the number of gifts, choosing to give only fair-trade or consumable items, or exchanging handmade and home-crafted gifts.
- Keep only items that are functional or beautiful to you.
- Maintain a “loose hold” on things. Be always willing to let items come in and out of your life without fuss.
- Designate one period of time each week to stem the tide of clutter and consumption.
- Avoid recreational shopping.
- Hold to a one in/one out rule–especially with clothes. If you bring an item into your closet or life, send another item on its merry way.
- Cultivate the art of giving from your abundance–joyfully and readily–as part of a life of thanks-living.
These are by no means new ideas, but it helps to hear this message over and against the encouragement and pressure our society places on needless, mindless, and excessive consumption. Mindful living and thoughtful use of resources helps to foster a life of thanks-living, and that is a very good thing indeed.
- How do you discard the detritus of your life in a way that is healthy, fruitful, and mindful of the environment?
- What advice can you offer from personal experience?
- What do you hope to accomplish in simplifying your life in 2013?