This is our new home, on top of a hill, looking down a valley. We have been here now for just over two months, and we have discovered something over these two months – we own way too much Stuff. It starts with the need to move all the Stuff from one house to the next, sorting, throwing out, boxing, prioritising, picking up, putting down, stacking and stashing. Then there is the need to transport it, pay some people to help, then walk up and down 75 steps what feels like 75 million times. Once that is over, well, there is Stuff everywhere. Really, everywhere. And where are we 2 months later? There is still Stuff everywhere. Despite our best efforts to find spaces and places there is just quite simply far too much. We are throwing out what seems to be a minimum of a box per week, yet the Stuff pile doesn’t really feel like it’s going down. It’s everywhere, in piles of I don’t know what to do with it, around the house just waiting to be dealt with.
Well, this is the point where I throw down the gauntlet, kick up a tantrum like a two year old in a supermarket, and strike Stuff in the face with my gloves whilst challenging it to a dual. I have had enough, Stuff can go jump off a cliff for all I care. The moment I opened a box of I don’t know what to do with it and realised this same box had held the same issue 9 years ago when I opened and closed it at the last home, and it was making my heart feel heavy. Time to do something about this. Obviously the issue also sits with going through the Stuff so it can be sorted and organised or simply thrown out, but that in itself is emotionally draining and time-consuming work This sucks, how did we ever let it get to this? Don’t get me wrong, we own just as much as the last person, no more, but when we moved home something in our thinking shifted too. This Stuff weighs you down. This is not a new or unique problem, as the hundreds of thousands of Minimalists will attest, and in no way will we ever become Minimalists because there are some things which bring us great joy but the current problem is that those things are lost under too much Stuff. As Rob Bell put it ‘Physical things have a Spiritual weight’. Yes, yes they do.
So we have a rule for addressing Stuff, and some guidelines to help with clarity.
- Do you LOVE it? This is about a 5 second thing – you know straight away if you pause the answer is no. Your heart knows the answer and is extremely honest about it to boot.
- Are you keeping it just in case? This is a terrible reason to keep things! The it might be useful someday for… fills those cupboards, sheds and garages faster than anything else. And invariably the one time you do reach for that just in case thing it was not the right fit/size/colour anyway
- Are you keeping it because someone gave it to you? I think, for me, this Stuff has the heaviest spiritual weight. It’s hard when you have something that you don’t want or just isn’t your thing any more, yet you feel bound to hold on to it because it was gifted to you. I remind myself that I do not expect people to keep things I have given them forever, I gift something purely for that moment, I do not look around someones home wondering where that thing I bought/made/sourced is, and I sincerely hope there is no one out there thinking they have to hold on to something because I gave it to them. (If so this is your Permission Slip to let it go) Hopefully the people in my life have a fairly similar view.
There are obvious exceptions to the above, some Stuff you can’t get rid of, you need to hold on to it because it is simply too loaded an item, and that’s ok too, but as a starting point these three questions work exceptionally well. Right, off to attack another box then…