Discarding stuff

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shelves of stuffLooking at moving into my RV has made me become super conscious about everything I own since I need to get rid of most of it. While some of you may be able to relate to that, I’m sure many people reading this have no intention of moving into an RV and getting rid of the majority of their stuff.  Either way, we can all stand to be a little more conscious about the things that we have.  Preparing to move into my RV is the thing that really got me thinking about discarding stuff, but once I got rid of a lot of things I thought, “Why didn’t I do this sooner?”  So, I wanted to share my thoughts on things (and getting rid of many of them), plus some tips on dealing with specific items.

Thoughts on things

Getting rid of extra stuff feels good- I have been going through the process of donating, throwing away, or giving away a lot of my stuff for the last three months, with a lot more to go.  At first, I was worried that it was going to be hard to part with my beloved possessions.  So far at least, that has not been the case.  I decided to start with getting rid of the things that were easy to part with.  If I had second thoughts, I would just wait on that item.  This policy certainly made it easier to start the process.  Everything I get rid of feels like a weight lifted that I didn’t even realize I was carrying.  The space and diminishing clutter made me want to get rid of more things.  It felt motivating and exciting.  It may have felt even better than acquiring the stuff in the first place did.

Things all come with a price- And I don’t just mean the price we pay to buy them.  Even free things come with a price: they need to be taken care of, dusted, organized, stored and looked-at.  It seems silly to say that you have to look at something.  It’s not like that is a hard task or anything.  The things we see influence our thoughts and moods even though we may not be aware of it.  It makes a difference whether I see clean, organized shelves in the garage when I get in my car or if I see piles of clutter on the shelves.  This isn’t even a space I live in, but it matters.  Somewhere in my mind these things register and weigh on my brain.  Even when I’m not in the garage, somewhere in my brain is the memory of the clutter.

“Just in case”- One of the things that The Minimalists talk about a lot is things we have “just in case” and how dangerous this is.  I have been guilty of having a ton of things “just in case” and these things rarely or never are actually used.  I recently donated boxes of clothes that no longer fit me.  I kept them for years “just in case” they fit again some day.  Some of them were nice clothes, but the truth is that if I’m ever a size zero again, I probably won’t want to be dressing like a freshman in college now that I’m in my late twenties anyway.

Storage- I spent a summer cleaning out storage units that people had defaulted on.  Most of the stuff was just junk.  I’m pretty sure some of them paid more to store the stuff than it would have cost to replace everything in there several times over.  Stuff in storage really doesn’t provide value to anyone’s life.  In general, I am completely against the idea of storing anything.  That said, there are a few things I plan to store with family while I’m living in the van.  I have a few musical instruments, a couple of antique pieces of furniture from my grandma, a few things from my childhood like (don’t laugh) my Lion King sheets and blanket, a ton of artwork I made and some other things that are important to me.  These are all things that can’t just be replaced some day with a quick trip to the mall.

What I really need- I travel for work and I can spend two weeks on the road with only what fits in the trunk of my car.  Granted, I do stay at hotels that provide a lot of the basics: a bed, a shower, and a roof over my head.  Really, I never feel like I am lacking for stuff on these trips.  I actually enjoy the uncluttered feel of a motel room without extra junk cluttering it up.  If I can get by without a bunch of crap for two weeks, I’m pretty sure I don’t really need it at all.

I have also thought about the stuff I actually use or touch in a given day at my house.  Sometimes people think the van doesn’t have enough, but if I go through my routine, it has all I need.  So much of my stuff in my house just sits there untouched and unused day in and day out.

Less is more- I don’t plan to get rid of anything that is really useful to me.  I’m not looking to see how little I can survive on.  And I actually really like some things that I own: my favorite jacket, my computer, my insanely expensive kitchen knives, and the list could go on for some time.  My goal is to get down to having quality things that I really enjoy and use and to get rid of the excess that just takes up space.

Tips on discarding stuff

Getting started- Chances are, you don’t want to get rid of 97% of your stuff like I need to.  But you probably have things that you don’t need, don’t like or don’t use.  The best way to get started on clearing out a few of these things is to get an empty cardboard box or a trash bag and start filling it up with things that you don’t want anymore.  You don’t have to do this all at once.  You can let the box sit there and just put things in it as you notice things throughout the day that you could part with.  When the box or bag is full, take it to the thrift store.  (And don’t be afraid to use your trash can!)

Donating- Most items can be simply donated to the thrift store.  Some items can also be donated to homeless shelters or the humane society. (I’m an animal lover and I felt really good dropping off a few bags of towels and blankets at the local animal shelter.  They are always looking for these items for the animals as well as pet toys, food and water bowls, etc.  You can call and inquire about what items these places need.)  While it can be tempting to want to save things for a garage sale or to sell on Ebay, unless you’re really strapped for cash, it’s best to just donate it and be done with it.  Plus, you can feel good about your donation since most thrift stores support really great causes.

Duplicates- It’s amazing how many items we can have duplicates of.  I had duplicates of everything from extra bedding in case I have guests to bug spray.  I do have guests just frequently enough that it makes sense to keep an extra set of sheets and a blanket that can go on the futon in the living room.  My house only has one bathroom though, so I am unlikely to need enough bedding for 12.  (Of course, once I’m in the RV, I won’t need guest bedding at all.)  Unless we’re talking about underwear, you don’t need more than one of the same item.  OK, clearly there are more exceptions to this than just underwear, but you get my point.  Duplicate items can be a good thing to start with because you know you have another one in case you actually need the item.

Clothes- Clothes can be particularly hard to part with- even when they don’t fit right.  After donating all of the clothes that I knew were way too small for me or just not my style, things got more difficult.  My approach was to take everything out of my closet except what I knew I wore frequently.  I put this stuff in a second closet, but you could put it in a box or some where else.  In order for something to make it back into my closet, I had to wear it for at least a few hours or a day and see if it really fit me well and I enjoyed wearing it.  Some items fit me when I first put them on and actually looked really good on me.  Then within a few hours, I would find that I’d be constantly adjusting them or that the bottom of a shirt would lift up if I raised my arms and I’d be pulling it down to meet my pants again.  Clothes that fit don’t need to be adjusted constantly so these thing would go in the donate box.

Scanning– Some stuff like photos and important papers really can’t be ditched entirely, but I’ve come to love scanning things and then discarding the hard copies.

Photos– Old photos can be scanned and then thrown away.  Sort through the photos first and only scan the good ones that you really want to keep.  While it’s possible to reduce physical clutter by scanning everything, digital clutter is it’s own battle.  Plus you’ll have less to scan if you only do the ones you really want to keep.  While you may think you’ll go back and delete the ones you don’t want later, the time to do it is now while you’re going through them all anyway.

Documents- Like photos, sort through to see what you really need to keep and what you can do away with entirely.  Scan the things you need to keep.  I have found that my paper shredder is the perfect companion to my scanner.  I shred the sensitive stuff that I’ve scanned- which means pretty much everything.  That stuff I throw in the trash doesn’t really disappear and I don’t like to think of some guy that works at the dump seeing pictures of me from when I was in high school.  OK, maybe the chances of that happening aren’t that high, but I still like to shred things I don’t really want other people to see.

Books- Books are not trophies.  Having a shelf full of them won’t make anybody think you’re smart. OK, maybe they will make some people think that you’re smart, but that’s besides the point.  If you’ve already read it, you’re probably not going to read it again.  And they collect dust.  Pass them on to somebody who hasn’t read them yet and enjoy the extra space you have.

Recommended Resources- I have drawn a lot of inspiration and ideas from a few different resources on minimalism as I have been doing all of this.  I think any time there is something that we are working for it’s beneficial to read and learn about the topic.  This provides ideas as well as motivation.

So Much Stuff

I’ve got so much stuff
When do I say “enough”?
How much do I really need?
When does it all just start to impede

I thought I was of decent intellect
So why did I ever start to collect?
Perhaps I thought, “I’ll keep this just in case…”
But all the stuff does is take up space

I’m starting to ask, “Do I really need that?”
And “Whatever am I going to do with 15 hats?”
What good is a closet of clothes that don’t fit?
Could I perhaps clear out just a bit?

I used to think I needed all this stuff
That parting with it would be tough
But every box I donate is a relief
And the things I really like, I simply keep



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