Back in January, my family decided we would get rid of half of our belongings. This was our New Year’s resolution to help us cut down on clutter.
The whole concept of minimalism was completely new to us. In fact, letting go of things is hard.
I am not a minimalist. I definitely have hoarder potential.
At the start of this project, I had 36 scarves. I guess I like to have options… or I am just really terrible at getting rid of things.
The project started out great.
We donated three truckloads worth of stuff to our local Habitat for Humanity “Re-store”. Plus, we also sent a lot of clothes into thredUP for resale and donated some to the Goodwill store. We also have boxes in our basement filled with things waiting for our next donation trip or yard sale.
Our closets have thinned, but we’re nowhere near reaching that halfway mark.
It felt great to get rid of that much stuff. But, after 5 months, I will tell you that progress is slow. Really slow. Almost at a standstill in fact.
Going through closets and drawers one at a time is easy. Tossing trash, donating things never used, and selling objects that you have no attachment to is easy. Making extra money off of thredUP, Craigslist and eBay make the hassle seem worth it.
One day though, your reach a point where you still have so much stuff and one million excuses as to why you are holding on to each and every item.
Why is so hard to get rid of things? Why do we hold onto items that we never use? And why do we have so much clutter?
3 Excuses I Use to Justify Each and Every Item
As I thought about it more, there are three main reasons why I justify keeping almost every item:
- I know it just sits there collecting dust, but it’s a family heirloom. (Insert deceased relative’s name here) would be mortified if they knew I got rid of it.
- I remember when (insert living relative’s name here) gave this to me for (insert special occasion). I couldn’t possibly donate or sell it. They put so much thought and money into the gift.
- I spent so much money on that. I hate the thought of selling it at a yard sale and only making back 1/10 the cost of what I spent on it originally. I’d really rather just hang onto it.
When looking to say goodbye to all of these things that have such a stronghold on you, the emotional struggle is real.
While dealing with these three scenarios, I have found one simple question that has really helped me to make the decision to let go.
“Is this item beautiful or is it useful to me right now?”
I’ve found that if the answer to this essential question is no, it’s a lot easier to let go. If the object in question does not make me happy, then it goes. If it isn’t useful, it goes.
Finding sentiment behind an item is all well and good if you have a place for it in your home and in your life. But, if you are living with minimal square footage, or have just made the decision to live with less, then you need to make the tough decisions.
Is the heirloom item truly one of a kind and irreplaceable? Then hang onto it to pass on to your kids. But, if it is easily found elsewhere, not useful, and was really just given to you to be gotten rid of from their home, then maybe you should think about letting it go.
For example, I have lace made by my great-grandmother that I will never let go of, despite the fact that I hardly ever touch it. It is special, made with love, and passed down from mother to daughter for four generations. It’s priceless, and I won’t ever get rid of it.
Other things, like little figurines given to us by family, don’t mean as much. Those little decorations may have been special once, but they are replaceable. They weren’t hand-made with love. So, we have decided to let them go.
What about gifts?
When it comes to gifts given, or items purchased, just let go.
If you don’t use them, touch them, or if they have no place in your everyday life, let someone else get some enjoyment from them.
Make what money you can off of Craigslist, eBay, or a yard sale, and cut the losses.
Realizing how much money you may have wasted on these things will make you more mindful in the future. It’ll teach you to think carefully about what you’re spending your hard-earned money on.
Once you learn to let go, it gets easier and easier.
I’m a slow learner at this whole minimalism thing. But so far, every bit of the project has been worth it. I still have a lot of tough decisions ahead of me. But, I’m ready and willing for the challenge. I’m even down to 18 scarves. 😉
Do you have a minimalist mindset? What excuses do you find yourself using to justify keeping your stuff?
Haha! Kayla, I’m so glad I’m not the only one with a scarf hoarding issue!
I want to declutter and live a minimalist lifestyle, but I can’t bring myself to do it yet. I keep making excuses as to why I can’t start now. My main excuses right now are I don’t have the time to actually go through it or I’ll wait til I lose weight to go through everything.
Looking at your house as one big project can really be intimidating. Don’t tackle it all at once. You can start today by choosing just one drawer or one basket and de-cluttering that small space. As you have more time, you can start to tackle the bigger projects. It becomes addicting as you realize how easy it is to do one project at a time and how much more organized you become.
My husband is more minimalist than I am. He does not like clutter (not that I do either!) but we do have some healthy debates over whether certain things, like a throw pillow, are clutter or a necessity. 🙂 The good thing about his minimalist ways is that everything tends to have its place and we can both generally let go of the things we have.
It’s great that your husband is on board with living more minimalist! My husband hates clutter, but he has a hard time letting go of things.
not the scarves!! 🙂 I go through stages of finding it easy to toss stuff and then times of feeling a bit bogged down by it all. I’ve got rid of heaps of ‘stuff’ but still have a lot left to sort – we’ve been in our house over 25 years. What makes me hesitate now is that as I head towards retirement I don’t want to toss stuff that might genuinely be used in years to come when we won’t have the income to replace things. What helps me toss things is reminding myself I’m going from an 11 room house down to a 4 room house & that includes the bathroom.
Wow! 11 rooms to 4, that’s quite the change! That “what if” mindset really can hamper the getting rid of things process. I struggle with that too.
I always have trouble with the “what-if” scenarios. I was brought up with the “Be Prepared” motto of girl guides (girl scouts in US), and it is a hard thing to change… or maybe I’ve just taken it too far and am prepared for things that will never happen… I’m working on getting rid of the clutter in my house, but it is definitely a slow process.
I have the same trouble with thinking that I might need something. I have a fondue set we were gifted as a wedding present that we have only used twice in six years, but I can’t bring myself to get rid of it. I keep thinking, “But it would be nice to use if we ever have a dinner party.”
The heirlooms I can never let go, but I buy so few clothes I usually end up having the opposite problem! There are tons of chachkis I need to get rid of, though. After a certain point, you do hit burn out!
Chachkis are my worst enemy. I am not a chachki person at all, but we are constantly being gifted them. I feel so bad donating them or selling them, but I hate chachki clutter.
While I don’t collect scarves exactly, I have just as much trouble getting rid of my tons of baseball memorabilia! It’s true that items with sentimental value, especially those we connect with a particular person, are tough to lose, but one way to “keep” it without keeping the clutter is to take a digital photo as a memento. I know my wife recently decided to part with a beautiful painting that hung in her deceased grandparents’ home. It’s not our style, and we don’t really have space for it, but at least she has a photo to hang on to the memory.
That is a great idea, Gary! There are certain things that I might eventually part with, but I would like to hang on to a picture of for sentimentality.
It sounds like you’ve made a whole lot of progress — three truckloads is a lot — even if you have stalled out a bit lately! I’ve always liked to keep things pretty clutter free at home, but needed to adopt a more minimalist approach when we decided to move abroad, since we knew we’d be downsizing on space. That being said, we do have more stuff than we should in storage in the U.S., as we ran out of time for proper sorting before the move!
Thanks, Jennifer! We have made a bit of progress, but not nearly enough. The truck we are using is a small two-door truck, but we’re getting there one load at a time! You tend to accrue A LOT of stuff when you have kids. That plus the fact that we combined two apartments worth of stuff when we got married, we just have so much stuff still.
It must have felt really great to move into a smaller place with just the items that you use on a regular basis. When you return from abroad, it will be much easier to part with certain things that you haven’t seen or used in years.
I tend to develop ridiculous sentimental attachment to EVERYTHING. I’m making progress with my goal to minimize by going slow, but it is difficult. Thanks for the inspiration to keep at it!
Ha! I do as well, Harmony! I kid you not, there are pairs of socks I can’t bring myself to part with because “I wore them that one time we…” It’s terrible. We are all works in progress!
I love this article! We, too, are on a minimalism journey that started around 2 years ago. So far, we have gone from a 4 bedroom, 3 bath home with a huge, over-sized 2 car garage, down to a 10×20 storage unit! But, we still feel like we have SO much excess in our lives and are slowly going through the storage unit (we sold our home and are living where everything is furnished) and trying to figure out what to keep and what to let go of in there. Oh, my, it is a daunting challenge, but God has us on this journey, so He will provide the strength and courage we need! Thank you for sharing this…I love reading about other people’s situations and how they are minimizing. It is so liberating to let go of what you don’t need and use.