This weekend, my wife and I spent most of it at home trying out an interesting exercise. We went through everything we owned (well, not quite everything yet – we progressed from room to room) and looked at every possession we have.
Why? We’re realizing that one of the big keys to financially stable living is getting our possessions under control. Owning nice things isn’t the issue – the problem is when you own so much stuff that you can no longer keep track of all of it.
Here’s what we did.
First, we simply drug out everything in a given room so we could see it. Obviously, this was easier in some rooms than others – the guest bathroom was very easy, while the family room was much more challenging because of the quantity of stuff in there.
Then, we chucked the stuff that was obviously junk. An old stanky pair of shoes from our college years? Gone. An article of clothing that hasn’t fit me since high school (seriously, I grew four more inches after high school was over)? Gone. A big pile of beat up old paperbacks that weren’t good to begin with? Gone.
After that, we put stuff back slowly, only putting back things that had actual value to us. If we felt a strong attachment to something or if it served a clear purpose, we put it back where it went, but we had to describe that purpose in detail out loud.
Eventually, we were left with a pile of stuff in the room. This is the stuff that we’re simply getting rid of. That’s right – it’s all going. Where? Some of it is going to Goodwill, some is going to a consignment shop, other items are going to eBay or a similar service.
Obviously, this is a work in progress – we haven’t progressed through too much of the house yet. But it’s exhilirating to look around a room when it’s really been cleansed of the unnecessary stuff and realize that what’s left really has value to you.
Where do we go from here? We plan on slowly finishing the house with this process (it takes time) and then taking the financial proceeds and use it for quality home decoration that actually has meaning for us. For instance, I have a distant relative who is a professional artist who is giving us an original painting for our home, but it’s just the canvas. We’ll pay to get it framed tastefully using these proceeds.
Why do this? Whenever we open a closet or look at our shelves, there is so much stuff that we basically don’t need. In a way, the stuff becomes a psychological weight in knowing we have so much stuff, it makes it much easier to just get more stuff – the threshold for what it takes to get something new is so low that impulse buys rule the day.
After this is done, however, our house is empty of stuff we don’t need and don’t value. That means that when we make a new purchase, we all accept that we don’t buy stuff that we don’t need and really don’t value. It also makes house cleaning much, much easier and frees up a lot of space throughout the house.
Why not give this a try with one of the rooms where you live? What stuff do you actually need? Which items add real value to your life? Why are you keeping any of the rest of it? Even if you decide to not change a thing, it’s an interesting exercise in evaluating the stuff you have and its relationship to you.