I'm heading to Istanbul in less than a month, and I knew I wanted to travel REALLY lightly. This journey to a simpler life has changed me in so many ways already. Read how here! I used to struggle to make a dent in attempting to tame the clutter in my bedroom/art studio. These were the steps I took that helped me dramatically change my outlook on getting rid of stuff. If you want to see a noticeable difference in your living space, take these steps to fast track to real changes!
1. Be RUTHLESS in your judgement
This is probably the most important factor to getting rid of your stuff quickly and efficiently. If you spend too much time mulling over one object, it will take you way too long to go through everything. Eventually you will get tired and frustrated, and give up before you reach your goal. I’ve noticed that the longer I hold something, the more memories my brain brings up relating to it. The longer you dwell, the harder the decision will be. Just do it. Like a Band-Aid. I like to have piles/boxes/bags set up and labeled nicely in front of me. Once an object makes it into a pile, there is no turning back! Remember, your initial reaction is probably the right one.
Ask yourself: Do I actually need or use this thing? Does it bring any value to my life? 9 times out of 10 the answer is no.
2. Determine your type of ATTACHMENT to objects
There are several reasons why a person can find it difficult to let something go. Often times it’s because of the memories attached to it, rather than the object itself. That would be called an emotional attachment. Other times we simply enjoy looking at something because it brings us visual/aesthetic pleasure. Lastly, we may find pleasure in the simple fact of owning that object. This happens often times with expensive items like cars, shoes, or watches. Ever have a pair of shoes so fancy and expensive that you never want to wear them? Yeah, those need to go. The first step to get over these illogical attachments is to take a picture. Looking at that image later can give you the same feelings as actually owning it. If there is a memory attached to it, write it down. Write down your memories, how it makes you feel, who gave it to you, etc. Get it out so you can move on.
3. BE REAL about what is readily available around you
This is especially relevant to people (like me) who are about to move or travel. It is very common to over-pack, and it’s often with stuff that is readily available at your destination. I for example, am not planning to bring any bulky sweaters, more than one pair of jeans, or a couple pairs of shoes. I know that at my destination I can buy all these items easily, and for cheaper than an overweight bag at the airport check-in. For people who are not traveling but still looking to downsize, this can be a reminder not to turn into a hoarder. No, you don’t need 20 half-empty shampoo bottles. Don’t hold onto shoes or clothes you don’t wear. If you find that you are in need after your minimalist-cleansing, you can always go buy it. You will find that you need a lot less than you actually think.
4. DEFINE your wardrobe
This is mentioned in almost every article about productivity and minimalist living, however it is so essential I have to address it. Over the past six or so years I have been shopping exclusively at thrift stores. Because of this I have been able to accumulate lots of clothing. I love to mix and match and put together endless funky looks. As fun as this is, my mornings suffered from chronic indecisiveness. There was just too many combinations to choose from! I paired down my wardrobe to the things I wore the most. Everyone has those garments that they only wear when they are in “the right mood”, or have stuff stashed away for when they lose weight or from a previous weight…the list goes on. The way I define it: I chose only clothing that I love to wear all the time, and love every time I wear. They must be easy to take care of, flattering, comfortable, and great for mixing and matching. For me that meant getting rid of a lot of fun print (which I love) and focusing more on neutrals.
5. Get rid of the MAYBE SOMEDAY mindset
Artists suffer from this mindset especially (guilty!) This is the thought that runs through your brain when you decide to put something back on the shelf instead of in the donation box. “Well, I might need it someday!” I’ll give you an example- during one of my nature filled trips I found these amazing sun bleached roots of a great tree. They were absolutely beautiful! I had lots of plans for them: casting pieces in metal for jewelry, wrapping them, painting them, etc. One year later, they were still sitting on my shelf un-touched. Don’t let those items drag you down. Get rid of them to make room for new inspiration and new memories. If you haven’t used or needed it yet, chances are you won’t in the foreseeable future. And if you do, you can find a way to replace it! (see #3)
So once you’ve determined what you need to get rid of, where does it all go? Here are some practical methods I used to unload my crap, fast.
People will buy almost anything! Take good pictures, write a description that looks like you passed High School English, be real about the quality, and give a deadline. I’ve found that people are more likely to buy if they can text you and get a fast response. Good communication is key.
2. Facebook Buy/Sell/Trade groups
Look up buy/sell/trade in your area on Facebook. Chances are there is one near you. This takes (some) of the creepiness of online selling away, since there are presumably only people from your hometown in the group. I was able to schedule quite a few front door pick-ups. I sold a ton of my scrap fabric to a lady a couple weeks ago, and we ended up trading info about our businesses. Sometimes meeting random people can lead to an unexpected connection!
3. Donate, donate, donate!
I donated stuff. A LOT of stuff. Just pack it up in bags or boxes and try to keep it in categories. Only donate stuff that you think is usable. While you do this, think about the new life your object will have, serving someone in need. Rejoice in the good vibes!!
4. Recycle a whole bunch
I cannot stress this enough. While getting rid of my stuff it hit me how much waste I as one single person have created. Frankly, it was shocking and it upset me. I don’t even use that many beauty products or single-use items, and yet there was just so much to toss! I recycled every scrap I could. For old bath/beauty products- wash them out and recycle. Take apart packaging. Shred and recycle old bills and school papers. When I sew I make lots of un-usable scraps- these I pack up to be used as stuffing. Look up what your local recycling center accepts. I used to have one large bin (kitchen sized) for trash and a small bin (office sized) for recycling. Now, the roles are switched and I recycled 80% of the waste I produce.
I hope all these tips will prove useful in your journey to a simpler, less materialistic life! Comment below on your favorite tip, and share your own!
I observe & write about society & culture.