When I was younger, I wasn’t addicted to candy or junk food like most kids. I was addicted to stuff.
I use the word stuff not because I’m lazy or can’t think of a better word, but because it’s all just stuff to me. Bath & Body Works lotions, clothes I told myself I would wear but never did, toys I begged to have, fashion magazines — they’re all meaningless clutter surrounding me, packed into my closet and stacked around my room.
I first realized I had a problem when I moved back home after graduating from college with double the amount of possessions I left with. As I started working a full-time job and developing an adult life, I felt like I was being swallowed by the endless piles of books, papers, clothes, toys, and body products, unable to find any peace in my room. Looking at it all made me feel like the walls were closing in. I realized I clung to so many unnecessary items I didn’t need and was never going to use. Throwing them all away and sending them to a landfill somewhere seemed like the easiest option, but I didn’t want to be wasteful. I decided that there had to be a better use for all my stuff, and I was determined to find it!
So, here is how I’ve gone about decluttering my life.
1. Decide what’s worth keeping
The first step was deciding what I wanted to keep and what I wanted to get rid of. At first, I felt an emotional attachment to anything I held up, from a shirt that didn’t fit me anymore to souvenirs I had bought on trips. Over time, I began to feel less and less emotional and was able to make logical decisions about what to keep. I had to realize that most of the things I owned did not hold sentimental value. Any clothes I hadn’t worn in more than a year were automatically placed in the donation pile, same went for any books I hadn’t read in more than five years and any body products I hadn’t used at all. Most of the items I felt an attachment to made me reminisce about a memory from my childhood. I had to remind myself that the memories belonged to me, not a material object.
2. Spread the love! Repurpose or donate to those in need.
Reading was one of my favorite things to do as a child, but now I’m left with a mountain of books in my room with no kids to read them. Luckily, there are plenty of organizations or families who are in need of children’s books. I donated a box of books to a local children’s hospital. You could also reach out to your local library, an after-school program, or community center. And don’t forget that younger cousin/niece/nephew/neighbor. If you forget that you owned a book and aren’t excited when you find it, then maybe it’s time to donate it to someone else.
Another vice: As a teenager, I was obsessed with clothing that I thought would make me look cool. I don’t feel cool now that I have piles of clothes that I have only worn once! Sell or donate the clothes you no longer wear. Now there are even apps that help you to sell your old clothes! I donate all of my old clothes to my church, which gives them to people in need. Goodwill and Dress for Success (for business attire) are two other options for donations.
3. Be a thoughtful shopper
I keep a constant running list of all the things I need or really want to buy. This includes a new car, a more powerful computer, an online course to learn a new computer program, and more. Things that would really improve my life. Whenever I go shopping and something catches my eye, I always reflect on my list. When I think about what’s really important to me, it’s easy for me to say no to something that isn’t.
4. Talk to friends and family about gifts.
On my journey to minimalism, one of the most important things I’ve done is articulate the gifts I truly need. This might sound a little harsh, but telling family and friends — politely — exactly what I want if they want to give me a gift for my birthday or Christmas has cut down on clutter. I send them my Amazon wish list, and they all love it! They don’t have to worry about getting me something I won’t like, and I don’t have to worry about receiving gifts that I won’t use. And if I don’t need anything I ask them to make a donation to a charity of my choice. Nothing makes me feel better than a gift benefitting the people who really need it.
Decluttering my life is a long process that entails constant reminders, but I already feel so much better when I walk into my room. Like any lifestyle change, it takes time to put these practices into place. Now that I have distanced myself emotionally from material objects, I feel like a weight has lifted off my shoulders, allowing me to find peace and focus on tasks with a clear head. Instead of being stressed out and feeling like all of my stuff is closing in on me, I now have a space where I can relax and do things I enjoy.