Recently, I took some time to reflect on the process that Amy and I went through to begin decluttering our home. While we did quite a bit early on, much of the decision making about what we actually want in our lives continues to this day. If there is some secret minimalism achievement that unlocks an effortless, amazing life once we own few enough possessions, we sure haven’t hit it yet. But things have gotten a lot better since we embraced the idea of owning less and it’s absolutely worth the pursuit. That doesn’t mean that it’s not without difficulties, though.
From the start, the challenge was simply a matter of figuring out where to start–once we got going, the donation bags were a-flowing. But then we sort of hit this point where the obvious things were mostly gone. The old t-shirts with holes in them, unused kitchen appliances, and old cans of paint in the garage left over from two owners ago were not hard to declutter.
But what about the other stuff? The things we weren’t sure about–you know, the things we might use once every few years but didn’t really have space for. The old baseball card collection that I’d had since I was seven years old, despite never really watching sports.
Inevitably, you’ll hit this point too–and it will be challenging for you, too. But it’s worth it to keep going–at least until you find a comfortable balance in your home, where stuff just isn’t something you have to spend much time thinking about much anymore. When things do get tough, try considering these ideas that kept me inspired during the process.
Would I Buy This Now?
Much of what we own has some sort of value to it–monetary value, sentimental value, or other. That value carries a certain weight that often makes us feel uncomfortable with the idea of kicking it to the curb. The question, “Would I buy this again if I didn’t have it already?” can be helpful if you’re not sure if you actually need the thing.
If the answer is no, you can always sell the item and recover some of the cost. If the answer is yes, then you’re sort of set because, well, you already have it. Be honest with yourself in asking this and it will help you as you go.
Does This Belong Here?
While it may seem more like an organizational question, at the root of it, this can help you figure out if something actually has a space in your home. The answer might be as simple as relocating the item to a more fitting space, but you might find out that it in fact does not belong anywhere. When you think about the types of things you want, how you want to feel in your home, and what things make you feel that way, there should be a clear answer whether or not something fits the bill.
Who Could This Bring Joy To?
The famous Marie Kondo asks us to hold every one of our possessions and question whether it sparks joy in our hearts. While this may inspire some action, it can fall a bit flat once we’re in the midst of the decluttering chaos. The beauty of minimalism is that it allows us to live with less, while finding satisfaction in what we have as opposed to what we want. This mentality gives us the freedom to be more generous in helping others find their own joy as well.
If you’re not feeling particularly inspired by sparking your own joy, use the opportunity to think of someone in your life that might find joy in what you no longer need. You may not even know who the eventual recipient might be, but imagine the joy that might come to someone receiving your donated item as well.
How Can I Use This Space Differently?
All of the things in our lives occupy some type of space. It might be time space, physical space, or even mental space. We either spend time organizing it, thinking about it, cleaning it, looking at it, or using it. One thing to consider would be: how can I use this space in a different way that is better aligned with what I actually want in my life?
The change might be subtle, but you never know how these different spaces could be used more effectively. Perhaps the space would be better used if replaced by nothing at all–simply a less cluttered table or more organized closet. Whatever it is you want to bring into your life, you can choose to create the appropriate space for it.
This Is Yours, Edit As You See Fit
It’s easy to think that there will be some point we hit where everything magically becomes amazing, some number of items that will unlock the life we want. If that is the case, I certainly haven’t found it yet. But at a certain point, we can find a happy equilibrium. A balance where we no longer have to worry about stuff, whether organizing it or decluttering it.
Once we’ve reached that point, we can really focus on doing the work that will actually bring what we desire into our lives. That’s where the magic happens, once possessions no longer own our minds, our desires, or the hours of our days. This is yours, you get to edit this film and cut the parts that don’t suit your vision.