The contents of the closet shot out at me like an exploding “Jack in the Box”. The removal of one item caused this incredible avalanche and it represented every nook of my house, garage and life. How would I ever gain control?
I was living The American Dream of more, more, and more. But it wasn’t my dream. A point, which solidified when I calculated the time, spent earning and maintaining that dream. Time is the only commodity we can never replace, it equals life, and I was wasting mine on things.
I stared down at the pile of useless and unwanted things scattered on the floor and wondered why I ever purchased them. That led me to the perfect way to downsize my possessions. I would shop my things.
Here is how it works. When we shop, we get into a specific frame of mind, “The Customer IS Always Right” mind. So, why not use that mind-set at home and ask the same questions you would ask yourself in a store? View your things as what they are—Objects you can choose to take or leave. You make that decision based on your current needs, judging each item by a set of standards you’ve created to fit you and your lifestyle.
Another vital tool I use is how I refer to my possessions. I do not give them power with ownership names like mine or ours, followed by an exact description, because this creates a personal attachment. I refer to possessions as items, objects and articles. For example: this item is outdated and that object is used up and this article of clothing no longer fits my lifestyle. By referring to possessions I this manner, the emotional attachment is taken out of the equation.
Now that we have the basics, let’s begin. Prepare to shop by getting dressed in comfortable clothes, prepare your favorite beverage and play music you love. Start in an area of your home that isn’t emotionally charged, a bathroom or kitchen might be best. If you happen across an emotional item, skip it until you have gained some experience and confidence with this new mindset.
Every successful shopping trip begins with a list, this time it will begin blank. A camera will also be needed when we take control of our emotionally charged objects. Read and answer the questions below as an objective shopper. Your answers will decide what is to be done with the item. Make you list accordingly.
Examples: Extra set of green plastic ware—Pass on to day care center
Red vase—Pass on to Gale, she loves it
Clipped crystal bowl—Trash this item
Small crockpot—Return to Sue
Continue this process as long as you can stay objective and repeat it until you have a sizable list. The list gives the decisions you’ve made validity and builds feelings of control over your things, time and space.
Questions to Shop By!
Do I like the color, pattern or texture?
Does this fit my current lifestyle or the lifestyle I wish to create?
Am I proud of this item?
Is there a friend, relative or charity this would be better suited for?
How many do I own?
What purpose does it serve now?
What condition is it in—are parts missing or is it broken?
How often do I use this object?
Could I borrow or rent one, in the rare case it is needed?
Do I really need this object?
If I moved tomorrow, would I take it?
And most importantly, would I purchase it today?
The sorting process is next. You will need boxes with lids for stacking for stacking and transportation. You will also need packing tape, a marker and trash bags for items to be discarded.
Label your boxes according to your list. Remember, most charitable organizations have donation guidelines to follow. Schools, senior and day care centers, veteran’s homes, parks and recreation departments, libraries and drama departments are often forgotten places in need of donations. Spread your good fortune around and relish the pleasure in giving to others.
Once things are sorted, eliminate them quickly. Drop off or give back the items not available for pick up and continue this process until you are box free. This is a vital step, the faster those boxes are gone, and the better off you are!
Lastly, go through your emotionally charged items. The same questions apply as we shop these things. The only difference is the memory or emotion we have attached to this inanimate object. A photo with a small caption can capture those feelings without the burden of the actual object.
Example: A vase from your great aunt. It sits there staring at you—daring you to touch it—charged with feelings of obligation, guilt and anger at yourself for not getting rid of it.
Take a picture of the vase and put it in a box. Decide whether you want to give the vase back to your aunt with an honest explanation that it just doesn’t fit you, or pass it on to someone it does fit. Once you’ve made a decision, stick to it. Be sure the decision isn’t made out of anger or depression; these are never healthy choices and often lead to regret.
If you run across an item you can’t decide on, take a photo and put it in a box marked,
“Decide By Date”. Give yourself a specific time limit and keep these things to a minimum.
By shopping my possessions, I make decisions based on logic. It has given me back control over things and space. Best of all it has given me more free time for the things I enjoy, with the people I love. How many people do you imagine would say this at the end of their lives, “I wish I would have wasted more time dealing with my things instead of spending time with those I love,” I wonder—would you?
Author’s Note: Downsizing or clearing clutter is rarely an easy task, but these guidelines will help make this chore a little less painful. The photograph was designed for this story.
Remember: Time is really the only commodity we cannot replace—Spend It Wisely!