A Simple Approach to Living With Less

Eat, Pray, Declutter

There are two things I remember from the movie Eat, Pray, Love. One is the gorgeous scenery. I found myself wondering if I would get to see that kind of epic beauty in my life. Two, the scene at the beginning where Elizabeth is packing up her boxes in a self storage unit. She is in awe of the fact that her entire life fits in such a small confined space. What is memorable about that scene to me, is the owner of the storage unit saying, “You would be surprised how many people never return for their life-filled boxes.” (Ok, that’s my paraphrase but I think it’s pretty close.)

The reason that scene stood out to me so much is because I would love to do exactly that. We have a large storage unit full of stuff that has been virtually untouched for nearly five years. For the most part, I have no idea what is in all those boxes. I would rather just walk away from it all. In my dream, we just stop paying for the unit and let the owners sell off our belongings to whatever kind of people buy things from abandoned storage units. However, dealing with our storage unit is this week’s chore so I’m trying to psyche myself up for the challenge ahead.

How to Avoid Recluttering

Although the task is daunting, I’m not actually afraid of the decluttering work. I may find some treasures that I had forgotten about. What I am fearful of is recluttering the spaces that I have worked so hard to clear out. Here are some guidelines I’ve put in place to help me avoid recluttering our home. Perhaps you’ll find them useful too.

  1. Don’t bring it inside unless you know it needs to stay. This is a good tip for new purchases too, but in this case I’m sorting boxes in the garage so I’m not tempted to bring something in and deal with it later. We all know what happens when we tell ourselves we’ll deal with something later.
  2. Leave the emotions at the door. This is my main goal. Most of the items in storage haven’t seen the light of day in years so the general conclusion is that they aren’t necessary. My biggest fear is being sucked into an emotional response of seeing a long lost item and wanting to hang onto it for sentimental reasons or because we just haven’t had it in a long time.
  3. Prioritize, don’t organize. I have found that picking out the things I know I want to keep first, makes it obvious what I need to throw out. If something isn’t worth keeping, then it’s simply not worth organizing. If I wouldn’t buy the item again, then more than likely I don’t like it enough to hang onto it now.
  4. Immediately sort where an item needs to go. Determine if the item will go in the give pile, sell pile, or in the rented dumpster. Since we’re waiting on renovations to be done there will be some things that need to return to the “store” pile as well. The goal is to have a much smaller amount of possessions in storage that we know we will be using.
  5. Plan an item’s purpose and give it a home. Anything that gets the green light to come in the house or go back in storage must have a purpose for being saved not just “because I like it.” Plus, it needs to be given an immediate home so it doesn’t just sit around and become clutter.

We saved way too much when we originally stored our items, but that was long before we knew what minimalism was and the freedom it could bring. I’ve really been dreading it, but I’m actually starting to get excited. I can’t wait for this task to be over because it’s the last major hurdle we have on our journey to minimalism.

What areas of your life that need decluttered have you been avoiding?


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Article originally published on 11/15/2010

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