Toward Simplicity: Less is More

“What we want and what we need has been confused” – REM, Finest Worksong

Note Part 1 of a series suggested by my review of Timeless Simplicity. Further parts will appear as and when I get them written.

How much stuff do you own?

How much of that stuff do you really need?

Most of you will have answered that second question with All or Most. So let’s rephrase it. How many of the items you own get used used regularly? What could you get rid of and not even notice?

We all accumulate junk as our lives go on. I used to be able to get all my belongings into an old style Mini, even though they included a valve-era television that had to be belted into the passenger seat. Nowadays it takes several trips in far larger cars or even vans. And that’s not including the stuff in spare space at my parents’ house or in friends’ attics.

How did I acquire all this excess? Years of spending money, of course. And I’ve not even been that profligate, there have been periods when I’ve had no money to spend. Other people have hoarded more over their lives.

The logical endpoint of this behaviour is a house that looks like a scrapyard or junk shop. Every neighbourhood has at least one, with old cars out front that just need a bit of work and cardboard boxes stacked in the rooms. The extreme is the tinker’s farm of the sort around where I grew up. With the added space of outbuildings and a yard the collections begin to take on epic proportions.

There are ways to avoid this. One is to have regular culls of your junk. Which is easy to say, but not so easy to do.

So start by thinking of it like this- all that stuff is costing you money.

The self storage business is thriving at the moment. People pay good money to lock stuff away where they won’t see it for months or years. Even if you have yet to go that far and still have your junk at home it’s still costing you money. Those boxes are occupying space you’re paying for. If you got rid of them then you could get more value for money from your property or save money by moving somewhere smaller. And when you move it will save you on transport.

How to go about cleaning out your clutter?

In my last two house moves I have gone about reducing my baggage as part of the move. This has happened through a few avenues. You can do some or all of these things, and there’s no particular order they need to be done in.

Throw it Away

The most obvious answer, but also the method of last resort. Only do this with the stuff you can’t or won’t dispose of by other means. Also remember that you’re not trying to get rid of everything, just the clutter that is no longer useful or wanted.

This method works best for paperwork. Sit down with all those old letters, bills and flyers. Remember that you may want to keep some bills and tax related items and separate them out first. It’s highly recommended that you shred the remaining paper because you don’t want your identity hijacking on the road to simplicity. Where possible, recycle.

Give it Away

There are a few levels of giving.

Some stuff you may want the option of reclaiming at a later date- furniture for instance. This is where friends come in. Ask around, it’s possible someone you know might want something you don’t currently need. The terms of the loan/gift will be best worked out informally. If you might want the object back at some point make it known.

This is a great way to help someone else whilst helping yourself and that has a special kind of karma all of its own.

Give to Charity

The charity shops of Withington have done well from my efforts to trim my library. Rarely will a charity shop pass up a donation. Providing it’s in a sellable state what you give them is almost as good as cash.

Freecycle

There are freecycle networks all over the world. Look your nearest one up and register. This is a good way to get rid of items that are too large for charity shops and of no use to your friends. Remember that you are inviting strangers around to your home when they come to pick things up, so be wary. However, as yet the system has generated no horror stories.

Sell It

Ebay has made us all shopkeepers. Before giving away my comics I have usually tried to sell them on Ebay. This is, of course, a potential source of income, providing you have stuff worth selling. If you have books or CDs in good condition then you can list them in Amazon‘s marketplace. There is no listing fee, but they take a share of the sale. Unlike Ebay you set the price price on listing and this is what the customer pays. Do some research, into the minimum you can sell an item at to break even and to how others are pricing the same product, before deciding to list an item.

It can be a wrench getting rid of stuff you bought or were given years ago, but you’ll thank yourself when you find all the extra space it gives you. Next in this series I will consider other ways to reduce your unnecessary possessions.

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