Art of the Essential Part III

22 Nov

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?

15 Responses to “Art of the Essential Part III”

  1. rumpydog 22/11/2011 at 00:17 #

    One problem I have is I have a few things that I KNOW I should donate to charity but I still hold onto because of some feigned emotional value I think these things hold. To address this problem I started putting the items in a box, and putting the box in an out of the way place. Then I say that in six months if the item is still in the box, it goes to Goodwill. This practice helps me break the attachment I have to the item and I don’t have to look at it again before it leaves the house because it’s already packed up!

    • l0ve0utl0ud 25/11/2011 at 17:45 #

      That’s a great way of doing things – putting them in boxes and out of sight so that they get out of the mind, too! Hope you manage to donate all of those unnecessary things. Emotional attachement is one of the hardest things to break away from with possessions.

  2. Karina 22/11/2011 at 01:32 #

    I have to admit – I am one of the consumer age.
    It’s terrible to admit but, often then not I will buy what I don’t need than chuck it out a few months to a year later. I’m far from the hoarding type but your suggestions for keeping the bare essentials was insightful and probably just want I needed lol.

    • l0ve0utl0ud 25/11/2011 at 17:49 #

      I was exactly like you – I’d buy everything pretty in sight and then it would go to charity or in the bin a few months later, without even having served any purpose. Seeing as I am more limited financially than I was before, I am able to control my consumption much more, and I can see exactly what is necessary for comfortable living…and what is excess!

  3. Balancing Stick 22/11/2011 at 01:57 #

    Wow, great story and perspective. I just moved out of my apartment yesterday and had the realization that I don’t use about 85% of my belongings. I was planning on sorting through all the unused clothing and old papers from college (an high school…and elementary school), and I will use your tips to hopefully prevent thing from cluttering up again.

    • l0ve0utl0ud 25/11/2011 at 17:51 #

      Good luck in sorting everything out! It was very hard for me to sort out my school and university work, but I actually ended up throwing 90% of it away! It was only sentimentality that made it hard for me to get rid of these folders/papers, but in everyday life I never use them anyway!

  4. nrhatch 22/11/2011 at 02:08 #

    Good for you. We travel best when we travel light.

    We started downsizing 13 years ago after a flood in the basement. We haven’t stopped. Anytime we come across something that we no longer need, want, or love . . . we donate it to Goodwill. We have a box in the closet to gather items.

    We’ve moved from a 4,000 sq. ft house to a 2,000 sq. ft. house to our current 1,000 sq. ft. villa. Our utility bill is less and keeping the place clean takes less time.

    We don’t buy much unless we are replacing something that we wore out. Less is more!

    • l0ve0utl0ud 25/11/2011 at 17:52 #

      That’s a great philosophy! I agree with you about getting rid of unwanted things immediately and about trying to only buy things to replace others (or buying things that we don’t have but need).

  5. KatiesCameraBlog 22/11/2011 at 02:19 #

    These are great ideas. I should do this (and then move to another country 🙂 ).

    • l0ve0utl0ud 25/11/2011 at 17:53 #

      Wish you luck with the clearing process – would love to find out how it goes 🙂

  6. Charlotte 23/11/2011 at 21:59 #

    In my last feng shui attack I’ve sold a lot of books… The library is great but when I really want a book i have to buy it and take it with me anywhere 🙂

    Great post.

    I think I’m sorting out my new junk this weekend.

    • l0ve0utl0ud 25/11/2011 at 17:55 #

      Yes, unfortunately libraries do not always have what we are looking for. Books and magazines are my own ‘collector’ weakness 😉 Have fun sorting out your things!


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