Good Will Giving and Freedom from Stuff

6 Apr

Before Hubs and I got married, there was a lot of conversation over the kind of life we wanted. We talked about the way we imagined our futures and spent a lot of time mulling over the kind of life we wanted to share. Something we both agreed on was that we wanted to live without attachments to our things. If we wanted to pick up and move to a big city where we could only afford a 500 sq. foot studio apartment, we wanted to be able to do that and to be happy chasing that dream. When we actually moved into a tiny house the size of my old one bedroom apartment, we started realizing how active you have to be in minimizing your junk to fit into a small space and exactly how liberating the feeling is when you can send something big off to Goodwill. We are two very content minimalists and here are some key things we’ve learned:

Our golden rule for wardrobe management: “If you don’t wear it in two weeks, give it away.” With almost no closet space to speak of, we both shrunk our clothing “needs” uhm, by a lot. I have about five t-shirts, five tank tops, two pairs of jeans, two pairs of shorts, and a handful of cardigans, jackets, and accessories that I wear routinely and that works for me. If I don’t want my wardrobe size to be obvious, I think about what I wore the last time I saw someone or went somewhere and I consciously switch it up. If I absolutely can’t stand my clothes anymore, I have to give away in proportion to what I buy. Also, I try to pick things that I know will stay in style for a long time. A good pencil skirt or a classic cardigan. I actually don’t buy many things with prints on them because they change every season, so if I want to add detail, I accessorize, especially with scarves. And yes, the same absolutely goes for shoes. I only have about three pairs of shoes that I wear often.

Packing away winter clothing is something totally different but also really important to making you feel liberated from clutter. Keep a couple warm things and then put the rest away in a box or somewhere out of the way. No need to have those big coats hogging your closet space.

Although we are avid users of electronics, deciding where they should be is crucial: There are some places where you just don’t want the option of flipping on the television or getting on your computer. Everybody probably has different ideas for what areas should be electronic-free but for us, we drew a hard line at the bedroom. A lot of people swear by watching TV before bedtime but as someone who used to do it, not only do I sleep better without it but it also makes the bedroom kind of sacred in a way. It’s a place for talking ourselves to sleep and playing cards cross-legged on the bed and it’s a refuge when we’re just tired of cable and video games and facebook. Less is definitely more for us in that area of the house so we keep our bedroom pretty simple and comfy and I think it makes it that much more of a restful place. Some of you may insist on eating dinner at the table without TV distractions or you may have a library without a computer. I think we can all agree that in some places, it’s more rewarding not to have distractions.

Grocery shop only for a few days ahead of time: I bet you this will save you money and weight in your trash bag as you throw out unused produce. Even with just the two of us, Hubs and I are bad for buying things we never wind up eating in time. Even though I actually like the look of a full refrigerator (that’s an evolutionary comfort), what I like more is the feeling of not wasting money with each moldy crown of broccoli we prevent.

When it comes to furniture, think of what you would use every day: Because if you don’t use it every day, you don’t need it clogging your life. We all have our little luxuries like the dining room table or the guest bedroom we (almost) never use, and that’s fine when you’re not really serious about superficial furnishings and space. Some people like to have rooms and things they don’t use just for decoration or comfort, but I want you to do a little exercise with me.

Envision your house without all the things you never or very, very rarely use. Does it make you uncomfortable to imagine that blank space? Well then, think about shrinking that space down, like it almost never existed, and then imagine how you would feel without that area to clean or that thing to dust or all that extra room to add dollars to your bills. Do you feel lighter, slightly relieved, or just happier? Maybe it’s time to think about how much you’ve built your life around finding space for your stuff or about the things you’ve told yourself you need.

And that is actually the key to living free from your stuff. Just thinking those thoughts and imagining your space with and without that item and deciding if you really, truly need that or if all your desire will just later become a burden. See yourself as a person who uses things and not a person who needs them. Also see yourself as someone who will not be judged by your stuff because if you are, then the person doing the judging is probably a jerk who shouldn’t matter anyway.

Also, does anyone want some casserole dishes?

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