I couldn’t believe it when I saw that our neighbours, a young couple in their early twenties, were back for the tenth time to move out their possessions. During their move out of their one-bedroom into a two-bedroom flat they had already loaded a 7-seater four times, a moving van twice and their own car at least four times. Their main reason for moving was “the need for an extra room to fit in all of their things”.
Among the things that my neighbours were packing away were VHS tapes, games for consoles they no longer owned, furniture they never used, broken electric appliances and various items of home decoration that was mostly kept in drawers. It shocked me to see just how much energy and time they were wasting to move these useless things from one home to another. And to think that they would be paying extra rent for the sole purpose of storing these unused things!…and that they would now have a whole room just dedicated to junk!
I couldn’t understand why anyone would choose to have so many possessions – so many useless possessions, at that. I have been living with only the bare essentials for almost a year now. Last autumn, inspired by Dominique Loreau, I started sorting out all of my junk (because that is precisely what most of it was), trying to get it down to the essentials (see The Art of the Essential, The Art of the Essential Part II). During the first few rounds of sorting, I reduced the quantity of my possessions by about three-quarters. I then moved to a different country and have been living with about 3-4 suitcase-worth of things for the past ten months. And to me that is more than enough – I’m already worrying about all the books and magazines building up on my shelves!
I follow these few simple rules to ensure that I don’t end up storing unnecessary junk:
1) Don’t buy it. If I don’t need it or don’t love it, I don’t buy it. Even when I ‘treat’ myself, I still buy either something I need or love.
2) Use the library. Books take up a lot of space and weigh a lot. I usually only buy and keep books that I love and which I am sure to read more than once. If I can’t find them in the library, I buy them in second-hand shops and give them to charity once I’ve read them.
3) Sort as you go. As soon as I know that something isn’t serving me anymore, I put it up for sale or take it to charity immediately. That way, I avoid build-up of junk in my cupboards and basement, saving me space, time and energy.
4) Set a deadline. “If my chair doesn’t get sold on ebay after two months, I will give it to charity”. If we don’t set ourselves deadlines, we will keep holding on to our junk.
5) Rules for freebies. If someone, after having sorted out their own things, offers me free clothes, books, furniture etc., I ask myself “If this was on sale in a shop, would I buy it?”. Keep, if yes, give back, if no.
7) Make your own home decorations. Pen pots, candle holders, curtains, folders…there are so many things we can make ourselves using cardboard, paints, fabric and a bit of imagination. Once we’re bored with these things or need to move, we can just throw them away or recycle them.
What rules do you go by to avoid the build-up of superfluous possessions?