In the season of gift giving, when an hour of TV is 35 minutes of ads. When every company seems to be having a sale on that one thing that you just have to have, it could be controversial for me to talk about owning fewer things. The Black Friday sales not that far in the past and the mad rush to buy Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, or Festivus presents, right in our faces, I want to talk about living a simpler life. An uncluttered life, and possibly a smaller, but fuller life.
Uncluttering to live a fuller life means making conscious choices about the things we own and the way we use our time. It can be liberating to let go of material possessions that no longer bring us joy, and it’s often surprising how much more time we have when we’re not constantly cleaning or maintaining clutter. Getting rid of the clutter can also help bring a sense of peace and, I believe, is good for the soul.
While it’s been a trend for the last few years, downsizing has only recently been adopted as a practice to live by and has become a more mainstream idea. Just like how it’s sometimes hard to break bad habits, downsizing is not an easy thing to do either. However, cultivating the good habit of downsizing will help with living a better life.
You might have seen the documentary “Minimalism” by Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus on Netflix or on YouTube, and if you haven’t, I highly recommend it. The focus, and my take away was that our current society has a focus on… stuff. We have a lot of stuff. In the U.S. there is 1.9 billion square feet of self-storage space which averages out to 5.9 square feet per person. These are items that we own, and aren’t using. This doesn’t take into account the garages and backyard sheds that might be crammed with the ghosts of purchases past.
There are simple steps you can take to downsize your life and live more. One of the first things you can do is identify what it is that’s holding you back or identifying what the weight of your ‘things’ is having on you. As mentioned above, watch the Minimalism documentary on Netflix.
On YouTube, there are a number of great resources like Joshua Becker, Matt D’Avella, and Ronald L. Banks. Each has a different style and process. If you’re interested in a well-defined method of uncluttering (and what my wife and I used), check out the KonMari Method by Marie Kondo. Just remember, at some point, you’ll need to take action.
We decided earlier this year that we had spent enough of our lives being buried in our things. We were not hoarders, though we definitely felt that we owned too many things. One of the moments when I realized that I’d fallen into the trap of “more” is when I caught myself trying to decide between one of the six chef knives I owned. Six. I’m not a professional chef, so why would I need more than one good chef’s knife? I don’t.
There are simple ways to unclutter and pare down your belongings, and there are difficult ways. I’m not sure where we fall on that spectrum as it was not an easy process. We hired an estate sale company to catalog our more valuable possessions, and a liquidator to deal with the rest. In a matter of two months, we sold 80% of our belongings.
For us, minimalism, or perhaps essentialism, is an ongoing process. I no longer have a box (or three) of clothes in the garage that I forget about.I don’t need them. In the process, we discovered that we owned things that we’d never used, and couldn’t remember purchasing. It was a waste of money when we purchased it, and a waste of space while we owned it. I sold my mishmash of cooking utensils and gadgets, and now have a very efficient and simple kitchen set up. Yes, I only own one chef’s knife. I let go of all the rest, and I don’t miss them.
While we’ve been talking about uncluttering, the concept for us was toward downsizing. Getting rid of the clutter was just the first step for us to go from a 1600 sq. ft. home, to a 352 sq. ft. boat. Once the kids moved out, we realized that we didn’t need all that space to fill with more and more things.
Life has become much simpler. Much more free. We spend more time in conversation, more time playing with our dogs. More time enjoying life. Gone is the chaos of three ‘junk drawers’ that never seem to have that one thing you’re looking for, even though you’re sure you just saw it there last week. Gone is the weight of possessions that don’t have meaning, and don’t get used. What we’re left with is space to be, space to live. Everything we now own, has a purpose and a meaning. While we still have a junk drawer (where else to keep your stray twist-ties and that extra ketchup packet), we seem to know what’s in there, and why. We live in a much smaller space, but our lives are richer and fuller. We got rid of the clutter and made more space for the soul.
DeTray’s Custom Housing Service Manager