Sunday, January 10, 2016

Living With 50% Less Stuff

The other day, as I was wrestling with the clothes in my closet, trying to jam the laundry I had just washed, back into the mess of clothes I never wear, I accidentally knocked over a white hat box from the top shelf that used to belong to my grandma.  Instead of a hat, the box holds a jeweled crown that my grandma used to wear to her Amaranth dinners and fancy Masonic dances.  As I opened the box, I couldn't help but celebrate the fact that I'm related to a woman that legitimately wore tiaras and crowns well into her 80's.  As I continued tasking, I couldn't stop thinking about her.  As elegant and amazing a woman as she was, I remembered her home, and how she lived during the last few decades of her life.  My grandma battled a severe case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder until she passed away at the age of 97.  In her later years, the disease manifested itself through compulsive hoarding.  I remember visiting her home as a 12 year old and realizing just how devastating OCD can be.  I'll spare you the details, but imagine an episode of "Hoarders, Buried Alive."

I spent the rest of this weekend reflecting on my grandma.  It must have been torture to have felt compelled to endlessly shop- to be forced to maintain so much excess.  It's interesting that I had been focusing so much on my grandma that had already passed, because I got a call last night that my other grandma, died, just one month shy of her 101st birthday.  Among the kaleidoscope of feelings that I'm experiencing right now, the one thought that keeps tapping my shoulder is the fact that "stuff" really is just stuff.  All of it.  And you can't take it with you when you leave this earth. 

Suddenly I felt suffocated by how much of my precious mortality has been wasted while shopping for, and taking care of material things that are so insignificant in value.

Listen- I'm not saying that I'm selling all my assets and buying a traveling tiny home.  I like beautiful things just as much as the next person, and I truly adore the act of shopping.  But enough is enough!  I just can't dedicate any more of my time to things that don't carry meaning, or serve a purpose.  Considering the fact that clutter doesn't have the ability to love me back, and it tends to exacerbate feelings of anxiety and depression, it's time say bye-bye.

I started my personal downsizing project about a year ago by first attacking my ridiculous closet.  I mean...seriously, what one person needs this many articles of clothing?  Would you believe that I took this picture after undergoing a handful of previous purges?  I probably had three times as much.  I realize that to some of you, this may not seem like a lot.  And so I ask you- have you worn each and every article of clothing in your closet at least once this year?  If not, let those unloved pieces go.  Donate them.  Let someone else treasure them.

I found that the most important thing to do during this process is to try on every piece of clothing.  Literally- set aside an afternoon when you can stand in front of your mirror and actually wear the clothing.  Critique every aspect.  Do you enjoy the way it feels?  Does it make you happy?  Does it fit?  Are you hoping it will someday fit?  Make this a general rule- If you don't feel comfortable walking out the door wearing it today, just as it is, then let it go. 

Be brutally honest with yourself.  How many articles do I need for work?  How many for home?  Casual, Dressy, Summer, Winter.  Again- be honest with yourself. 

Another way to gauge your needs is to count how many pieces you have in your closet.  Even if you have exactly 365 shirts, do you actually wear a different shirt every day of the year?  Of course not!  We all have those items of clothing that we wear repeatedly.  Why not get rid of the stuff you never wear so you can easily find your favorites?

Once you have stripped your closet of the items you no longer need or use, force yourself to go through it again.  

The last and most important step is to engage in a spending freeze.  This significant step will allow you time and space to figure out who you are, what your style is, and whether or not you even need to buy new stuff.  It's up to you how long you want your spending freeze to last.  I actually only made it about a month before I was dying to smell the heavenly scent of new clothes again.  When you do start shopping again, just remember to take a second and ask yourself the same questions you asked yourself when you were trying on the clothes from your closet.  Do I love it?  Does it make me happy?  Do I like the way the fabric feels?  Does it fit right now, as is?

Once you get home with your new purchases, get in the habit of practicing the "One in- One out Rule"  For every new item you put in your closet, find something you no longer wear and donate it.

When I'm donating clothing, I'm always filled with the giddy realization that I'll never have to launder that item again.  When I purge unnecessary items from my home, I'm joyful in knowing that "stuff" is no longer taking up physical or mental space in my life.  It is just a natural side effect that the more you get rid of, the less you want to buy.  You will save money and gain more time to focus on the things that money can't buy. 

By Janet Schlosser at

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