Paring down belongings (Home Duties Series)


As busy women taking care of just about everything and trying to create the lives we want, we often find ourselves overwhelmed and struggling to get it all done. The Home Duties Series will focus in on specific issues relating to taking care of this most important tool; the home. Please subscribe if you haven’t already so you’re updated when I post a new article on this topic.

Many articles have been written about decluttering and minimalism as it’s become a popular topic in recent years. But this is, in fact, an ever-increasing problem; in these days where many of us have access to just about endless amounts of things, we often find ourselves buried in stuff.

People have an idea that things will make them happy and when it doesn’t happen, their only solution is to add more things. While the extreme result of this might look like something you’d see on Hoarders, the more normal version is what we see in homes all over the western world. We increasingly have houses where there aren’t many surfaces left empty, no place to put anything, full of clutter and confusion.

This is oversimplifying, perhaps. But the fact is that people in general have much more than they need and it isn’t making them any happier. Actually, having too much steals much more important things from us. Things like peace, space, time and energy. Minimalism as a movement in recent times is a direct reaction to that — or perhaps an over-reaction in some cases.

Living with less is mainly a matter of improving our focus. Whether or not you identify as a Minimalist, there are certainly good reasons to pare down the amount of stuff you have in your possession. This applies especially if you are trying to set your life into a pattern of focused work towards specific life goals.

Living with less has a tendency to give us more. When we are less encumbered by a barrage of tiny responsibilities (as each item we own is indeed a responsibility) we actually increase a number of other very important things in our lives:

  1. Space – no matter how small, each item in our homes or workplaces takes up some amount of space. This becomes obvious to you as you  begin to collect more and more and find yourself without a place to put anything. Having little space around you creates visual clutter which can be stressful and distracting. This steals power away from your ability to focus on things that really matter to you.
  2. Time – while true that you may not spend much more than 5 seconds dusting a knick-knack once a week, consider how much time that is when added to the thousands of other items in your home. If you’re someone who complains about not having enough time to get your housework done and being able to pursue other interests, it is time to address how many things you have in your house.
  3. Money – there’s an interesting thought pattern many people have when it comes to money; the idea that small amounts of money aren’t important or don’t make a difference to the budget. If this is a thing for you, I want you to look around and start adding up how much money you’ve spent on each little item you see lying around your house. Or try to write a balanced budget for the next year and see how tiny expenses like this add up. If you don’t need an item, buying it is simply throwing away your money.
  4. Energy – many people say they hate housework and many of these same people have a clutter problem. I know, because I’ve been there (and if I’m not careful I get myself there fairly frequently). The truth is that having too many things requires constant, ongoing effort from you. Because your energy and time are finite, the effort you’re expending on these things that do not matter to you is taken directly away from the things that do matter.

Let me be clear here, I’m not telling you to get rid of things to fit in with some philosophy, as a sort of religious exercise in and of itself. Your focus should be an honest appraisal of the items in your possession, weighing up whether each item is giving to you or taking away from you.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself about your belongings:

  • Do you really need this?
  • Do you really love this?
  • Is this item worth the space required to house it?
  • Is it worth the effort you expend to take care of it (or should be expending, if this item’s care is neglected)?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, then get rid of it. It is that simple.

There are often emotional reasons why we may begin to accumulate many things. If you’re reluctant to get rid of things that you don’t need or love, why? What purpose is this clutter serving you?

Sometimes we need help with this problem so that we can work through it. If you believe this describes you, I encourage you to take this head on and seek out that help. This clutter problem can be a serious roadblock for people and it is your choice whether or not you will work through this or allow yourself to be halted at this point on your path.

For further information on how to declutter along with some great support, I highly recommend checking out the website of Marla Cilley, also known as the Flylady. Thousands of people have used her free advice and techniques to improve their quality of life and free themselves from the weight and responsibility of excessive belongings. If you simply begin on this track of ridding yourself of extra baggage, I promise you it will repay you with a new sense of focus, clarity and freedom in your life.


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