“We really must understand that the lust for affluence in contemporary society is psychotic. It is psychotic because it has completely lost touch with reality. We crave things we neither need nor enjoy.”
~ Richard Foster
Possessions are easier to gain than to lose.
Remember when you won that t-shirt at the concert that was 2 sizes too big and you kept it anyways? Yes, the one you haven’t worn since 1997 but still have stowed away in the attic. You should have gotten rid of it ages ago, but it was easier to gain it than to lose it.
Why is this so?
Accumulation implies a gain of value while throwing something out implies a loss of value. Nothingness on its own is void of value while a something could have value.
Value in the case of a dime-a-dozen t-shirt can be sentimental – “Oh, this was from the Eagles tour in 94!” It can also be utilitarian, such as in the minimalist’s forbidden phrase – “I could use this.”
By the way, the poisonous phrase “I could use this” has resulted in many people keeping TRASH. Literal trash.
This type of mindless “instinctual analysis” is not fit for bi-pedals. We must think deeper to find the truth!
The truth –> Value is richer, broader, and more complex than the monetary, sentimental, and utilitarian worth of items. For example, large quantities devalue each item in the group. One beach ball that you play with until it pops could be more valuable to you than 100 beach balls. Your life is not a business and thus works very differently.
Those who realize this are turning to minimalism.
I am a firm believer that minimalism improves quality of life… drastically. Consider this example of two possible options for your shirt selection.
15 shirts that you LOVE
20 great shirts, 35 acceptable shirts, and 25 shirts that you would never wear in public.
The first option carries less combined monetary, sentimental, and utilitarian value than option two (on paper at least). But it has value in other areas like feeling more in control of your life, looking in your closet and liking everything you see, and having better quality items that provide you with more utility and happiness in reality.
Ask yourself: What if everything I owned was useful and frequently used?
“It is preoccupation with possession, more than anything else, that prevents men from living freely and nobly.”
~ Bertrand Russell
Whether you’re already on the path to minimalism or interested to learn more, here are some of the most helpful tips I have learned in my journey to own less.
1. Go through in waves and accept it as part of the process.
Initially, I figured I’d dump 85% of my possessions on the first try, but it didn’t work. I could only shave off maybe 10-20% on the first try. But through more possession purging sessions, I have continued to trim down my worldly belongings. I think this is the best way to do it.
As sad as it may be, most of us are emotional about what we own.
By trimming our possessions, we give ourselves a chance to see that we are going to survive (and yes, thrive) without that extra fluff. We’ll eventually see we’re much better off with a lighter load (or at least no worse). And there we have great motivation for the next round!
The primary issue with trying to do it all at once is the high cost of failure. You probably won’t be able to stomach going from 3000 things to 100 things in a couple of days. If you go in expecting that level of success and fail, you’ll come out disappointed and possibly think that minimalism is not for you. Maybe it isn’t, but this is not the way to determine that!
2. Don’t worry about the money.
There is a side benefit to downsizing in that you can load up ebay or craigslist with all of your stuff and actually make some decent money with it (use it to celebrate?!). But this side benefit can easily transform into the “main benefit” in your eyes. Don’t let this happen! You might begin to hold on to things you can’t sell easily and thwart your progress.
I have three pathways for my things as I dispose of them – ebay, donation, and the trashcan. As I have come closer to my goal of “wrapping my mind around everything I own,” making money from it has become less and less important. Though the money is a welcome bonus.
For example, I gave my friend a massive tent that is worth about $100. I don’t want a tent (that big) at this point in my life. Originally, I felt I had to sell it since it was worth good money. Then I pictured how much better I’d feel not owning it and how it could make someone else happy! Win win.
In short, the gains of minimalism are far more valuable than any amount of money. Minimalism means freedom – mental freedom from having far less to manage, physical freedom from having more space, and mobile freedom by being able to travel or move to anywhere in the world on a whim!
3. Sometimes the best option is not to eliminate, but to downsize.
Desiring to own less, I had a tendency to think in all-or-nothing terms. Either keep this item or get rid of it. Well, I found another option is to get a bit smaller, consolidate, and shrink your way to a more manageable life.
I had a filing cabinet that held several important folders. It was big and bulky and unwanted, but I needed its functionality. So I had the brilliant idea of buying this A to Z filing portfolio from Amazon to do the same thing in much less space!
Electronics cables seemed to be multiplying like rabbits in my room, so I threw or gave away most of them and kept one or two of each kind. If I find that I don’t need those, they will go too.
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I didn’t eliminate these things, I just decreased their size.
4. Keep your objective in mind.
This is very important and so so easy to do. Just interview yourself.
Why do I want fewer things? Are they suffocating me? Do I want more freedom to move around to different places with greater ease? Is it a spiritual desire?
It is important to keep your objective in mind because you must be thinking about it as you sort through things. If I’m about to travel the globe, I don’t want to own a massive desk. But if I’m wanting to gain clarity of mind through owning less, then a desk could help me to organize the few things I do own.
There are a lot of reasons to own less, and when you know your specific reasons, it makes the process much easier.