Time to Lighten Up!

I recently moved into a new apartment–a beautiful loft full of light that I absolutely love! As I was moving in, I realized I had the opportunity to only move in objects that I absolutely love as well.

If you read this blog regularly, you know my sister and I often write about living with what you love and clutter clearing, so this isn’t the first time I’ve had this thought. But this time, I had the unique experience of spending four months prior to my move only living with what I could fit in my car.

Five months ago I gave my landlord notice, packed up my apartment, put the majority of my belongings in storage, hopped in my car and drove 16 hours to a beautiful mountain ski resort where I enjoyed small town living for awhile  (but that’s a different story!). As I was leaving LA and leaving behind the majority of my stuff, I felt lighter and free… like a heavy load had been lifted. It was as though my belongings, my lease, my cable bill, etc… had been a burden keeping me locked down. Living without all of “the stuff,” was a wonderful experience.

When I returned to LA, I rented a temporary, partially furnished apartment while I searched for a new home. And by partially furnished I mean it had the basics: a bed, sofa, small table for two, four plates, four forks, four glasses, one pot, one pan… you get the idea. By the time I found my new place, I had spent about four months pretty much only living with what I had packed in my car while most of my things sat in storage untouched, and as I learned… mostly unnecessary.

I really didn’t miss anything I had stored… a few times I thought “it would be nice to have blah, blah, blah…” but I also realized “it would be nice” is certainly not the same as needing it. So when the movers arrived at my new apartment and container after container was unloaded, all I could think was “what’s in all those all boxes? I already have everything I need!”

So instead of asking the movers to bring everything upstairs to the loft, I asked them to put the majority of boxes, and even furniture, into my garage. Then over the last month, I’ve slowly unpacked the boxes and only brought about 1/3 of what I owned into my actual living space. The rest I’m selling, giving away, or putting into very organized storage units in my garage until I determine if I’m going to need it.

I was also very conscious of only signing up for essential services… water, gas, and electricity. And although last week I did change my mind and get cable, I got the bare minimum in my package.

As a result, I feel lighter and my life feels simplified. Even though my schedule is actually busier and workload heavier than it has been in years, since the foundation from which I operate everyday, my home, is streamlined, clutter-free and full of things I love, I feel organized and inspired. As I sit right now in my living room writing this blog, I look around and feel very grateful for this new space—which has become: 1) a reflection of who I am today rather than a reminder of who I was in the past; 2) a creative outlet and artistic expression; 3) a supportive environment that helps my daily routines flow with ease and grace, and; 4) my home.

Here’s the process I used as I determined what I would bring into my new home:

– As I unpacked boxes, I looked at each object one at a time. I thought about how it made me feel and what thoughts came up. I imagined if the object had a voice—what would it be saying to me? I also considered whether the object triggered any memories. Often we keep things for the sentimental value, but it’s important to check in with the memories and thoughts associated with items to make sure they make you feel good or serve you in some way. I found myself often asking, “this object meant something to me in the past, but does it still have meaning now?” My answers gave me a pretty good idea of how these things were affecting my energy. I let go of anything that I didn’t love or wasn’t serving me anymore.

– I reconsidered what I needed. It’s easy to get caught up in thinking we “need” something when we really just want it, especially when we’re part of a society that celebrates consumption. But if we’re not careful all our stuff can begin to feel a bit overwhelming (we have to pay for our stuff, clean it, store it, repair it, etc…). Our belongings can end up owning us! I know continuing to evaluate what will truly be useful and what will just become more stuff will help me keep my home more simplified and less cluttered.

– A few times I found myself reluctant to let go of some things that I didn’t love and I didn’t really need. When I considered why it was usually because of some subconscious fear. I find that whenever I observe myself thinking, “I am keeping this object because I’m afraid (fill in the blank),” I have what is referred to as fear-based clutter. For example, holding onto a closet of business suits you don’t like because you’re afraid you might lose your new creative job that you love and where you don’t have to wear a suit. The suits become fear-based clutter you don’t need and that keeps you stuck in the past. If every time you look at an object you’re reminded of a fear-based scenario, you’re weighing yourself down with fearful thoughts. Instead, I’ve found it’s better to let the item go with the positive thought that you will be provided for and that all your needs will be met. After all, it doesn’t take a lot of stuff to meet one’s needs.

– Once I decided what to let go of, I then sorted items into the following piles: 1. Donations. Consider Goodwill or a local nonprofit. The Salvation Army may even come to your home for a pick-up. 2. Friends and Family. Maybe you bought something and it never quite fit you, or the color just isn’t right, but it might be perfect for your friend—chances are they will appreciate it. 3. Salable items. Garage sales, consignment shops or E-Bay are a few ways to sell things. If you are never going to use your great grandmother’s china, first offer it to other members of the family and if no one claims it, then by all means sell it. 4. Repairs and cleaning. Commit to repairing and cleaning the items within the week. 5. Trash and recyclables. It is best to schedule a pick-up or plan on getting items to a recycle center or dump right away. Leave the boxes and bags out in the open, so you will be motivated to clear them out faster. 6. Not sure yet. There were a few items I couldn’t decide what to do with, so I placed the few things that I wasn’t sure about into an organized storage unit in my garage. If I don’t use something within the year (I’m giving everything all four seasons), I’m giving it away.

– I admit I did buy a few new things for my place—mostly replacing things that were in poor condition. But as I was shopping, I asked myself if I absolutely loved it. If I felt lukewarm about something, I didn’t buy it. I also waited to buy something until I took at least 24 hours to consider the purchase so I didn’t buy anything on impulse. Finally, since I had just spent a lot of time looking at everything I already owned, I asked myself if something I had could work just as well as what I wanted to buy—more than once the answer was yes.

I’m now living with so much less stuff than I did before—and it feels great.

If you like this blog, you may like:
More Stuff Doesn’t Equal More Happiness
Green from the Inside Out
Self-Acceptance is the Ultimate Simplicity
Common Clutter Clearing Challenges
On Simplicity

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