What I learnt from owning too many things

My desire to simplify and organize my life in better ways didn’t come to me in an ‘AHA’ moment or as an inspiration. Rather, it came in as a feeling of necessity from being an overwhelmed mom trying to hold on to my sanity.

My kids are well, kids. They get into stuff, scatter them around, create messes and live life gloriously. While one part of me is glad they are curious kids brimming with energy and creativity, the other part resents the endless cleaning and picking up.

I realized all the stuff and disorganized clutter was draining me and kept me at the edge of my temper at all times.

More stuff meant more responsibility, more picking up, more cleaning – more of everything I didn’t want to do.

It’s the organising, I thought. If everything was put into boxes, easy to put away – there will be less to pick up. If I have a nice schedule to do the laundry, I wouldn’t be overwhelmed by it.

So, I set out to organize, schedule my cleaning, laundry, and life. Surprisingly (or not) this overwhelmed me more. Too many lists to keep track of. And on top of that life happens.If life was unpredictable, throw a few kids in and it becomes a drunkard on roller skates.

Back to square one, I realized organizing and scheduling alone will not make my problems better , because I had way too much stuff to organize and schedule. The answer then must be to own a bit less.

I put my theory into test. I started with the kitchen. I cook everyday. So that must mean I need a lot of utensils – right? Not really. I was using the same ones almost everyday. The ones which were the most comfortable to use.

And the rest were pushed all the way to the back of the closet, taking up valuable space – physically and mentally.

I gave away the stuff I never used and instantly felt better. No more guilt, every time I saw it and decided not to use it. That encouraged me to give away more stuff and my kitchen became clutter free and easy to put away. Everything has a place and things have continued to be organised, even years later.

These are the lessons I have learnt from years of owning too much. I still haven’t reached a point where I own only things I need or love, but I am way ahead from where I started.

1) The more there is, the less care it gets.

This is true for everything me or the kids had more of. Too many toys? No toy got care or attention. When something broke, it was just ignored. My dress with a tear would just be scrunched up into a corner. Nothing was dear or precious enough to be taken care of.

With fewer things, I feel I take care of them better, because those things that I have, are my favorites – things I love and things that made me feel good.

2) We need a lot less than we think.

I didn’t need ten different knives or five different white blouses or ten sets of bed sheets. The more I looked at things mindfully to analyse, if I really needed them, the more I realized I didn’t need much or at least not as much as I owned.

3) Buy one give up one is the best advise.

Early into my organising days, I came across this advice over and over again. And I did try it occasionally. But it didn’t make a difference. Because at that point I already owned too much, for it to make a real difference.

Now I have a set amount of space for everything. I have a box with all my blouses. So, any new blouses I get has to go into them. For that I have to give up one. Makes a lot more sense now, and it is the best advice I got, to keep a mindful eye on the things I own.

4) We always crave for the next thing.

Internet has brought all the wonderful things to be bought, right to our door step. Window shopping can be done anytime, all the time right on the couch.

While it’s enjoyable, it’s also unavoidable to crave for that latest, hottest thing.

Solution? Give it a month. Sleeping one night on it won’t really cut it. With the internet getting all savy and showing us targeted ads, I wouldn’t be surprised if they haven’t found a way to advertise things in our dreams.

Give it enough time to be forgotten.

5) If you can’t decide if you want to keep it or toss it, put it in storage for a while and see if you miss it.

Giving away things has never been easy for me. I always found a way to give myself a reason , why the thing needed to stay. I might need it one day or it’s made of such good material- no matter how uncomfortable it is.

I just put them in storage at those times. Once I’m convinced I would never need them again – I would throw them or give them away. It may take months and even years for me to be convinced.

6)The Diederot effect is real.

Denis Diederot was a French Philosopher,writer of Encyclopedie, owned a lot of books and lived in poverty all his life.

But his real troubles started when Catherine the Great, the empress of Russia, offered to buy his library for a substantial amount of money.

Now that Diederot had some money to spare, he got himself a scarlet robe. The scarlet robe was so grand that none of his other clothes went along. So new clothes, and a new rug to go with his new clothes, a new kitchen table to go with the rug, a mantle to go with the kitchen table- later, he fell into debt, and most importantly unsatisfaction – something he hadn’t experienced before.

If you have ever had the urge to overhaul your entire wardrobe or the TV set or bought new furniture for the home- you know what I’m talking about.

One purchase always leads to more. It’s real and worth keeping an eye on.

7) Having more than we need is stressful.

What stress really does, though, is deplete willpower, which diminishes your ability to control those emotions.

— Roy F. Baumeister

Lugging around stuff physically or mentally is exhausting. Everything we own is invisible responsibility and tends to creep into our thoughts and emotions.

Owning fewer things is both liberating and relaxing.

8) The right amount of things to own is different for each person.

There is no right or wrong amount to own.

I might find 2 knives is the right amount and 10 too much.

If you are a chef, you might need 20.

The right judge of how much to own is you and only you. Look into how you feel about your stuff. Does it relax you? stress you? make you feel safe? make you irritated?

You have the right answers.

9) Always aim for one empty shelf and one blank wall.

Instead of packing my shelves or boxes upto the brim, I try to leave space for just one more mug or an extra bag of chips.

Space could mean emptiness, but space also means possibilities. An empty shelf and a blank wall reminds me that there is always space if I need more. For some reason, this thought makes it easier to give up things.

10) Fewer things = less work = more freedom to do things you actually want to do.

And finally, fewer clothes means less laundry, fewer toys is less picking up.

if nothing else motivates you, The American Cleaning Institute has found that “Getting rid of clutter eliminates 40% of household work.” I know it motivated me.

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I’m a bookworm, mom and have a daytime job that involves computers and tons of data. I believe we have the power to make our lives better and the right time to start is now.

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