“Simple living isn’t about having less stuff; it’s about getting rid of what doesn’t belong to make way for what does.” ~ Erin Doland
If stuff seems to have overtaken your life, if you feel like you spend all day long shuffling stuff from one place to the other, only to have to move it back to find something else, you need to consider how getting rid of some of your stuff could make a difference in your stress level and quality of life.
The effect of stuff on our “Quality of Life”
Most people say that quality of life is extremely important to them, but many may not have clearly defined what that meant. Quality of life does not have to do with how many toys you have. Living a quality life is a life full of meaning and purpose. Having the freedom to make choices about what you want to do with your time, your belief and what you buy shape your quality of life.
Quality of life is going to look different for each one of you, just as determining what level of stuff is acceptable to you. And of course, a certain level of stuff will increase your quality of life. There comes a point when more stuff does not increase the quality of life and will actually start to diminish it. At that point, you have become a slave to your stuff.
A slave to stuff
When you read that line above, you may be thinking about the poor people we see on Hoarders, being tied so emotionally to belongings that they can’t get rid of them. But, if you take a step back, there are many of us who are just as enslaved to our stuff. We may not have as much, but we sure don’t want to let go of any of it!
Being a slave to your stuff is exhausting. You have to:
clean it, repair it, insure it, secure it, replace it, upgrade it, decorate it, organize it, move it, store it.
And that is the physical part of it. We have to mentally keep up with all this as well. It’s just more that we have to juggle.
5 things to do today to reduce your stuff
- Before putting away clean laundry (because this is stuff that is definitely being used); remove 10 items of clothing in the closet or dresser for each person in your house.
- Bag them up immediately and put in the trunk to take to Goodwill or other organization.
- Try each week to remove another 3 or 4 items that are not worn or no longer fit.
It will become easier to pick out what to wear; your kids won’t have as much to throw on the floor, easier to put clothes away as the drawers/closet will have some space.
- Survey your flat surfaces in the kitchen.
- What is cluttering them up?
- Do you use the appliances on the counter on a regular basis(several times a week)? If not, find another place to store them, under the counter or in the pantry.
- Do you have food on your countertop? If possible, only have a basket for fruit and store other food elsewhere.
- Use the top of the fridge if necessary, but work to clear the counters as much as possible.
Papers on table/desk-
If papers tend to be a problem for you:
- Very quickly gather up all the papers, bills, mail, school stuff, etc into one pile.
- Get a trashcan and a basket or box and put them in front of you.
- You have 3 choices here: trash (or recycle), to file or deal with later, and URGENT (has to be dealt with within 24 hours, such as school papers for tomorrow, etc). I don’t want you to think real hard, this is a fast process here.
- Throw away what you can, put a lot in the basket and put aside the things that need to be done ASAP.
This is not a be-all, end-all solution. You will have to have a process for dealing with your papers. However, in the meantime, TODAY, you can enjoy a clean desk/table/counter. And until such a time as you can work through that basket, continue processing papers as they come in the door, but be ruthless with the trashcan!
- Depending on the ages of the people using the bathroom, this purging will look a little different.
- If little kids use it, corral all the toys in a basket and keep under the counter.
- Go through all the bottles, tubes, and jars and get rid of anything that is empty or hasn’t been used in forever.
- Either place everything under the counter, or as I have done in my 18 year old daughter’s bathroom (which also happens to be the bathroom that guests would use) get a nice basket and put all the bottles, etc in the basket.
- Your goal would be an empty countertop except for a basket or two.
- Set the standard that this is what it is supposed to look like every day. It only takes 30 seconds or less to put back in order after using, yet can make a big difference!
The “Living Room”-
Whether it is a living room, family room, den, whatever you call it, it is the room where you spend most of your time while at home. And so it tends to be the most cluttered. Again the ages of the inhabitants will come into play here.
- If it is necessary to have toys in the room, keep them in a corner in a designated area and boxes or baskets.
- Books can tend to multiply. I have had my share and recently reduced by 50% or more.
- Magazines, newspapers and catalogs are still a problem in many homes. Contact catalog companies and ask to be removed from their snail mail list.
- Read the magazines and then recycle. If you still get newspapers, read and then place in the recycle bin. If you have paper clutter here too, add them to the basket we talked about earlier.
- Each night before going to bed, have every family member remove or put away any items they were using.
- School books put away.
- Food and trash taken to the kitchen and disposed of.
- Teach little ones to pick up after themselves, it takes time and practice, but very worth it.
- Clothes, socks and shoes should be put in their proper places.
- Take a second to straighten the cushions, and put the remotes where they belong.
These are all things that can be done fairly quickly. Get your family involved. Don’t try to make this a major purging today, just remove the easy top-level stuff this go round. I think you will feel a weight lift off of you as you start clearing off some of these spaces that tend to stay cluttered. You won’t be so uptight when you have to find something to wear or you no longer have to “squeeze” to get the laundry put away. It will feel good to get home tomorrow and the living room is neat, the counters are relatively clear, you can quickly sort your mail.
Let’s go back to the quote at the top. Simple living is not about depriving, it about getting rid of what doesn’t belong to make room for what does. By removing some of the extra stuff in your life, you are giving yourself room to breathe, to relax a little, to enjoy your family more.
So, what are you waiting for? Grab a trash bag and get started!
PS. While I am all for recycling as much as possible, if the weight of needing to shred your mail or sort the recycling is keeping you from clearing out your clutter, just throw it all out. You can start recycling once you have things under better control!