George Carlin, the now deceased comedian known for his sarcastic wit, once said, “A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff.” It’s true. Whether we want to admit it or not, many of us have accumulated enough stuff throughout our lifetime to fill a house. Then when we think we have too much stuff, we don’t declutter, but instead buy a bigger house so we have more room for all our stuff!
Having a lot of stuff weighs us down. When we spend money on things we want, but don’t really need, we need to take a step back and evaluate why we are buying each item. If we are really honest with ourselves, are we buying a new dress or couch or phone because we’re lonely? Bored? Stressed? Trying to keep up with everyone else around us? Although this way of thinking forces us to look inward every time we reach for our credit or debit card, it is an excellent exercise that helps curb spending and forces us to focus on what we really need in our lives. If you’re always spending money on material items you don’t really need, how will you afford to travel to places you’ve always wanted to see?
If you feel weighed down by clutter, it’s never too late to begin removing it from your life. It’s easiest to break the project down into small pieces and accept that it will take you more than a day to complete. Think in terms of rooms instead of an entire house or apartment. Start with your bathroom. What can you remove from your medicine cabinet? For information on safely discarding medications, visit https://www.fda.gov. Do you have old shampoo bottles under your sink? Expired makeup or lotions? Toss anything older than six months old. Do you really need 20 bottles of nail polish or five different brands of hair gel?
Next, move to your bedroom closet. While going through items one-by-one, determine if you have worn the item in the last year. If you haven’t, toss it in a bin to take to a thrift store. If you have been holding onto your old concert t-shirts, evaluate if you wear them at least once every two weeks. If not, then either have a quilt made from them or take a photo of each one and create a wall collage. Recycle old hangars. Give away all shoes that are too painful to wear. And from this point on, pledge that for every new item you buy and place in your closet, you give another one away.
When decluttering your kitchen, start with your spices first. Check expiration dates and toss any that are past their prime. Look at all your small gadgets and appliances. Do you need five spatulas or just two? Do you use your immersion blender every week or just once every two years? Toss any dishes that are chipped or cracked and nonstick pots and pans that are scratched. Move to your pantry and refrigerator and toss any expired food items or leftovers in your freezer that have been there since cell phones were invented. Tackle your junk drawer and discard all of those refrigerator magnets you've been saving, old pencils and pens, and receipts.
Once you have decluttered your entire space, sit back and enjoy the feeling that comes with removing items that have been weighing you down. Then vow to take another pass at all your material items again in three months. You’ll be surprised at how much more you’ll toss again.
When we focus on making memories instead of accumulating stuff, we are happier, less stressed, and able to look forward into a future that does not overwhelm us but instead frees us to live in the moment and embrace the happiness that comes with living more minimally.
Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.