“You buy furniture. You tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life. Buy the sofa, then for a couple years you’re satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you’ve got your sofa issue handled. Then the right set of dishes. Then the perfect bed. The drapes. The rug. Then you’re trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you.”
This comment made by Tyler Durden, one of the main characters in the Chuck Palahniuk’s book “Fight Club” is a watershed moment in the novel. If you reduce your personal possessions, then you reduce the need for attachment to said items. North America’s consumption mentality has grown at an alarming rate. Arguably this stems from our parents generation. Growing up, our parents saw there parents work hard chasing the American Dream, which for the first generation seemed as though it was within reach, to the general masses. And it was, if only for a few short years, post World War II. The funny thing about desire is that it is an appetite which is never fully satiated. While desire can be used in a positive light, when tempered with wisdom, unfortunately such thinking hasn’t permeated North American psyche. Well intentioned people routinely put themselves under more financial burden buying things they cannot afford and do not need, in a foolish attempt to fill this desire. The ironic thing is, such desire will only filled by feeding the spirit and once it is, the need for material good vanishes. So how do you get to a point where you feel fulfilled and no longer require shiny new purchases to bring this temporary happiness? You need to start by changing mindset through completely shifting your everyday intentions. Below is a step by step strategy you can use to reduce your personal possessions and hopefully, in turn, begin to lead a less complicated life, filled instead with contentment rather than personal possessions.
Reduce Your Personal Possessions – Step #1: Clean House
Consider “Ground Zero” in your strategy to reduce your personal possessions as the initial clean sweep. What I mean by this, is to get at least 1-2 dozen medium sized boxes (depending on the size of your apartment or house). Once you have these boxes, set about filling them with non-essential items. By non-essential, I mean you do not need them to exist. End stop. There can be no room for alternative interpretation on this subject. Why? Because once there is, you have created justification for keeping that hideous lamp you’ve been carting around for the last six years out of sentiment for your the memory of your first apartment. Sentiment is the biggest detractor for change. I’m not saying you need to be heartless and throw out everything you own. I’m saying be merciless in your decision making when it comes to sorting through stuff you don’t need. So how do you do it?
Reduce Your Personal Possessions – Step #2: The One Month Rule
The most effective tool I have found to reduce your personal possessions is apply the “one month rule” to everything that goes into these boxes. Consider everything you put into these boxes “under quarantine”. This is a good way to think of them. When anything is quarantined, it is considered having an issue that must be addressed which keeps it from being used or allowed to enter the general population. In putting this stuff in such a way of thinking, it facilitates the departure of these material easier. The next part of the one month rule that takes effect is the countdown. This is the literal part of the “one month” rule. Mark it on a calendar, set a reminder in your smartphone. One way or another, after thirty days it is time for the contents of the boxes to disappear from your life for good. Personally, I have found the “one month rule”to be a good gauge for when you will be emotionally ready to get rid of the “stuff”. Some people may consider one month a bit too soon to rid themselves of these items permanently. No it won’t be. This is why:
Reduce Your Personal Possessions – Step #3: The Key is in the Inconvenience
Now that you have filled your 1-2 dozen boxes, set them right in the middle of your living room. And leave them there, for the next month. This may seem extreme and you probably think I’m joking. I’m not. If you want to truly understand how much you really can make life easier when you reduce your personal possessions, do this exercise to the letter. Why I say you need to wait the whole month is for a couple of reasons. First, some folks tend to get a bit exuberant when it comes to cleaning house, only to have regret at having let go of some of the items a few days later. The month allows a cooling off period, in which you can remove a few items that you may have been on the fence about. Still, the boxes should stay exactly where they are. Trust me when I say, after four weeks of having four stacks of boxes, stacked 6 boxes high sitting in your living room, you will find your notion of “need” has been clearly redefined, with the grey area removed.
Reduce Your Personal Possessions – Step #4: Sell it, Donate it, Chuck it
So the month of waiting is up. Congratulations! (If you threw out the boxes before 30 days, I understand. I bet you’ve never been more certain of something in your life, right? This is why the boxes must sit right in the center of the living room…as a constant, annoying reminder) What do you do with it now? Well, I’m going to rewind a bit and suggest that when you do start putting this stuff in the boxes, you do so in the fashion listed above. Have boxes marked as “Sell”, “Donate” and “Chuck”. This is important to do, for if it is not clear what to do with the items, indecision will allow them back into your, closet/pantry/drawer or wherever it was taking up space. The thing to remember is that you were already certain of one thing, this stuff was no longer required. Once the items have been sorted, it makes your actions at the end of thirty days very simple. If you want to add another option like “give away to friends and family”, that’s fine. Just have a plan in place to make certain this happens, like inviting everyone over on the thirtieth day to pick through the items. The remainder gets donated or thrown out.
Reduce Your Personal Possessions – Step #5: Any Money is Good Money
Once you realize a return on these items, it’s important to have a plan for that as well. Let me be honest with you, in my experience any of the things that you manage to sell will go for only a fraction of what you originally paid for them. You have to be okay with this. The fact is, you’ve already resolved to sell these items anyway. Digging in your heels because you believe something is worth more than somebody is willing to pay is a recipe for disaster. What you think something is worth is irrelevant. In essence, it no longer has value in your life, as you are willing to part with it free up space. Once you mind your wrap your mind around this idea, selling an item for 1% of what you paid becomes an easier pill to swallow. Designer clothes that you may have paid a king’s ransom for may not even be accepted by a secondhand store, if they are out of season or out of style. Electronics also drop in value quite quickly. Still, if you have a yard sale, pawn or sell other items on eBay, you will probably end up with a little money. This is not a license to replace the stuff you just got rid of with other stuff you don’t need. Consider doing one of two things: pay off debt, or invest it if you have no debt that you’re paying interest on.
Reduce Your Personal Possessions – Step #6: Stretch Out
Feel that? The extra space, the lighter feeling you have. That’s knowing what a reduction in burden feels like. You now own less items that served no purpose than before. They are no longer tying you down. You’re on your way to a simplified life because you chose to reduce your personal possessions. Just like how I discuss that you need to clear your mind everything during meditation , you sometimes need to have a physical removal all the necessary things in your everyday life.
Reduce Your Personal Possessions – Step #7: Repeat Steps 1-6
After you have taken steps to reduce your personal possessions once, I guarantee you will know that you can do it again. Mostly because you will have held back in a few areas, hesitating because of sentiment. I believe having cherished memories is a great thing. Allow them to be just that. If you hang on to the physical item as well as the memory, then just maybe you are spending a little too much time having an attachment to the past. This hinders your engagement with the present. I promise you that a life with less attachment to the material opens up all sorts of opportunity to find fulfillment through a life with deeper meaning. This will include more time spent with friends and taking part in activities you wouldn’t have done previously, as well as having contentment knowing how little you actually do need to find happiness everyday.
These steps are my own personal path that I chose to share with you and it has worked for me more than once. If you choose to reduce your personal possessions, I hope the steps offered provide a path to successful purging of the unneeded and that you add any steps that may work for you along the way.