We have just moved to Nashville, and what a change it has been. Though the Nashville is much bigger than Asheville, our space has shrunk, along with our available space outside. Areas and rooms we took for granted don’t exist any longer, and the stuff we filled the rooms with no longer has a home.
Morgan and I have gone through a lot of things, stuff we didn’t really need but didn’t really need to throw away. As we packed, we both kept looking at items and wondering “why did we get this?” (biscuit cutters) or “when did we last use this?”
Comparatively, I think we had less stuff than the average married couple in their late twenties, but then again people normally look on themselves with a kinder eye than we warrant. But there was still a lot.
Stuff when we started packing
Stuff when we kept packing
Stuff when we were unpacking
The stuff I came across whilst unpacking was the most frustrating. Why did I think I needed this stuff twice already?! We have moved in to a little 550 sq ft apartment, and there just isn’t enough room for all this stuff! Even stuff I didn’t need any longer I had continued holding on to, because I was too proud or because the item reminded of something great I had done or been a part of. I couldn’t let go of either past failures or successes.
Why we find it difficult to let go of stuff
Pride and Sentiment. Those are the emotions blocking my ability to unload stuff, and they’re probably the same for you as well. I don’t want to get rid of something I haven’t used because I paid good money for it. So I’ll justify keeping it because I’m going to sell it on Ebay, except I never get around to posting it. But I certainly don’t just give it away!
Giving it away for nothing means I made a mistake in the past, and I don’t like admitting mistakes.
There’s the deadly sin. Pride.
I was and still am too proud to unload things which are providing no value to me. Simply recognizing the trait does wonders, and I’ve improved! Realizing the wastefulness of buying things in the past makes me consider current and future purchases. Do I need this? Do I already own something that will work? Would I keep this if we moved to a small apartment?
Sentiment is another reason, we hold on to old things because they remind us of past versions of ourselves, and the good past self to boot. We keep home run balls, not the one we struck out on to lose the game. I have lots of this stuff, and while some has been tossed, a few boxes remain. If they’re going to have a place in your life, do yourself a favor and look through them sometimes, get some use out of their memories.
Whether you are downsizing your living space or not, cutting through your clutter can be a great practice to keeping your space manageable and clean. Cleaning our small space has been much easier and quicker, precisely because there’s less stuff! Here are five ways you can do the same.
1. Have a yard sale – and keep it cheap
Set up early, because pickers come around by 7:00 am, guaranteed. Keep it simple and cheap with yard sales, most people coming through aren’t looking to spend $50 on a coffee table. This is a good place for old DVDs, CDs, clothes, and other stuff you don’t want to ship or sell online.
2. Sell on Craig’s List and Ebay
Sell your big, expensive, or unique items here. We sold our bedroom furniture for $550 on CL, and have racked up $150 in Ebay items. An example of a unique item was my lacrosse helmet. No one was coming to the yard sale looking for a lax lid, but someone in South Carolina sure was. Use this helpful guide from Man vs Debt to get your stuff sold online.
3. Hold a friends and family giveaway party
If you don’t want to give your stuff away to strangers, give it away to your friends and family! Here’s the catch though… give them nice stuff. If it’s something useful that you’re just not using anymore, let it go to someone else! In the past few months, we’ve given away clothes, small appliances, cutlery, and sporting goods to loved ones who will give the stuff a nice new home and regular use.
4. Take useful stuff to Goodwill
Didn’t sell it or give it away to loved ones? Pack it up in bags and take it away to Goodwill or Salvation Army. Don’t get all sentimental or proud, just do it! Freecycle.org is another great resource for getting your stuff to people who will make use of it (see below).
5. Trash it
If none of the above worked, time to trash it. An item making it through the first four steps does NOT mean it’s destined to be yours now, but the fact it has survived this long means it should definitely be kick to the curb.
Simplicity isn’t just about minimizing your stuff, it’s about maximizing your life!
UPDATE: As you see in the comments, Ansley suggested using freecycle.org as a way to unload your stuff before trashing it. This is such a great point and one I didn’t emphasize enough. Trashing is the last resort, and you should look to make good use of your stuff keep the planet uncluttered!
I know we’re not making it easy on ourselves. The temptation is to blindly accumulate and keep up with the rest of society, except it isn’t working. We’re slowly waking up to realize that all this stuff isn’t making us any happier, and it’s not filling any deep need. The answer isn’t to go live at a monastery or tucked away in the woods (though that does sound nice at times), but to be mindful of the choices we’re making with our time and money.
Let’s help each other choose well
Additional Resources on Stuff…
Comedian George Carlin holds up the mirror on our addiction to stuff… in 1986!
I got my start on minimizing stuff and maximizing life from the Minimalists.