How getting rid of excess stuff can change your life
Recently, many people have started to see value in minimalism. There’s something to be said for the idea of only possessing what you really love and need. People like Marie Kondo, with her Konmari method, have brought the art of tidying up and keeping only what makes you truly happy, into the mainstream. But the idea of only having what you need and has a practical use is a concept that has been around since the dawn of time. Nomadic cultures knew what many people in modern society have forgotten — that having too much stuff can sometimes just weigh you down. With that in mind, here are a few ways to spring clean like a minimalist and find joy in doing so.
What do you really need?
Sometimes it’s easy to get into the collector’s mindset. A lot of people find themselves thinking that joy will come from finding everything that can possibly be obtained and keeping it forever. But does lasting joy really come from having a mess of stuff that just sits around, not fulfilling any purpose? Many minimalists believe that what is most important in life are experiences, and what really matters is what we need, not what we want. So, when thinking about spring cleaning, my method of eliminating possessions always comes down to this question first: what have I used in the last six months? Over time, people’s needs change. An object one might have used all the time a few years ago could now be superfluous. It’s during those times of change that it’s most useful to be honest with yourself. What do you use? What do you just hope you’ll use, or think you might at some point in the future? When I’m cleaning, if there’s something lying around that I haven’t even looked at in over half a year, it becomes clear to me that I don’t need, or even want, the item that much. That’s when it’s time to give that item to someone who will shower it with the love and use it deserves. Think of it this way: that unneeded object could become someone else’s favourite, most used possession.
Which items are stressing you out?
Sometimes people hang onto things because they have sentimental value. This isn’t an inherently bad thing, and it’s not necessarily damaging. However, people also hang onto items that emotionally hold them back. That’s where minimizing the amount of things you own can really relieve some burdens. Maybe you’re working toward loving your body the way it is, and you want to form healthy habits because you love yourself, not because you hate yourself. Well, hanging onto that pair of “goal” pants that you bought because you hope that one day they’ll fit could be damaging your ability to accept and love yourself. Alternatively, perhaps you’ve been hanging onto an old t-shirt because it belonged to your toxic ex. Maybe every time you wear it, you feel comfortable, but somehow it brings you back to a dark time in your life. If you have something in your space that could be stressing you out, or keeping you from moving past a skewed idea, or a difficult memory, consider letting it go. It’s the things we look at every day that often set the tone for how we feel about ourselves and our lives. Be free of those old thought patterns and relationships by making space for new items to come into your life. You’d be surprised how much stress this can relieve.
What will bring you freedom just by getting rid of it?
For a lot of people, there are things they really want to do with their lives that they don’t feel they can because they’re always left asking, what would they do with all their stuff? Does this sound like you? Do you want to move to another country, go travelling, or downsize your space and save some money? Is any of your stuff holding you back? Perhaps you want to build a new wardrobe, or redecorate, but the idea of getting rid of all your excess junk or tossing out clothes you don’t quite love anymore is super overwhelming. Getting rid of items you don’t want or need is one minimalism trend which provides something that holding onto unwanted stuff never can: freedom. If you’re ruthless in your pursuit of making more space in your home, you’d be surprised how free you feel to do things like travel, move house, and change up your style. When your possessions aren’t weighing you down, you can feel free to pick up and follow your dreams at any given moment without fear that you’ll have to pay to move a tonne of stuff, or to store it while you’re away. What better method is there to remove excuses for not going on the trip, or moving into the city of your dreams, than to get rid of what’s holding you back?
Some of the final places I look to downsize my possessions are my fridge and my makeup bag. It’s so easy to keep things in the back of the refrigerator that are so old, it’s hard to tell what they used to be. Maybe a few of the things you’re holding onto are growing new things — fuzzy things — and are doing nothing but taking up precious space. Have no fear, minimalism can help. When looking into places where it’s easy to stash an excess of old stuff, such as the fridge, consider what is still good and can be used, and what’s going rotten and needs to be tossed. Another example of a place where things go bad is a makeup stash. Every item of makeup comes with a little mark on the label — a jar with a number on it — that tells you how many months the makeup is meant to be kept after opening. Past that number, the makeup is expired and could cause styes, acne, or eye infections upon use. If you’re keeping expired makeup, that’s yet another thing that just needs to go. It feels so good not to look in cupboards, the fridge, drawers or collections and see things that are disgusting and possibly infectious. On the plus side, this kind of cleaning will save some space and open up room to add new items, or new spots in the fridge to fit your fresh groceries.
In this day and age, when every “baddie” on Instagram is spending all their time flexing with their rows of shoes and handbags, it’s easy to become inundated with images of people who hoard items like it’ll stave off death. Sometimes it can feel like minimalism is just a hippy fad with no real worth. But the truth is, physical belongings only have the worth we assign to them. Often it can be stressful to be surrounded by stuff, or weighed down by an overabundance of it, and we may not even know that these things are a source of stress until they’re gone. This spring could be a great time to be honest with yourself and question what really brings joy and what’s just taking up space. The most freeing thing you do this month could be to let go of a few items that no longer make you feel good and make space for something new.