The Art of Throwing Away Your Stuff
So I’ve been thinking how to best explain to people who ask about my lifestyle on how I fit everything in my little RV. Getting into the minimalist mindset is a bit of an art and I will probably never master it, but I have been working on it for a few years now. I think there are two parts to it: mental and physical. I think you have to really get into the mindset of experiences over belongings and then you have to actually go through the process of ridding yourself of stuff, which can be painful and scary. I moved to Alaska in the winter and by spring the apartment I was renting had burned to the ground along with everything I owned. I was upset, but it was so freeing. Over the next 3 years, I started acquiring a lot of stuff: people donated things to me, I picked up items at the store, etc. Before I knew it, I had way too many things for one person. My goal was to move into my RV and I was going to have to purge myself of a lot of crap. So I thought I would explain how I got into the minimalist mindset. 1. Stop loving your stuff. Minimalists are seeking out the experience over the t-shirt you are going to buy at the gift-shop. They engage with the people around them or focus on an activity they love. While I love the newest gadget as much as the next person, I’ve really had to ask myself if it was something I really needed, or could I spend the money I would spend on that item towards a a concert, a night out, or a weekend trip I’ve been wanting to take instead. 2. Work to Live, not Live to work. We almost all have to work (I wish I didn’t but I got very few hits for a sugar daddy on my Craigslist post), but I don’t like the idea of a job owning you. I cringe when I wake up to texts or emails from work on my time off. While I am a part of a very rewarding career, I need my away time and I tend to only work enough to support myself. I don’t want to spend all my free time catching up on laundry or cleaning I didn’t feel like I could do when I was working. I focus my schedule on things that make me happy and what I want to do on my time. I don’t try to just fill my time with anything though, I try to do things that make me feel more fulfilled and happy. I try to do things that make me happy while I am working too, but I normally get a week off between stretches at work and I take that as a great time to focus on what I want. 3. Cue the Freedom Eagle. I don’t feel like I have to work a lot of extra shifts to afford my lifestyle because I’m not ruled by stuff I feel like I have to buy. This means I have the ability and freedom to travel and explore how I want too. 4. Quality over Quantity. When I moved into my RV, I had gone through all of my clothing in my walk in closet and got rid of 8 winter coats. Who needs that many coats???? I instead settled on a good cold weather coat and a good quality down jacket and donated the rest of the coats in my closet. That one down jacket has served me well during the entire year and travels well with me. Because I don’t have much storage, I try to buy items that serve dual purpose and I know will last me a while. How did I rid myself of my stuff? Minimizing your belongings sucks. I felt like I had formed a personal attachment to some of my things and I was feeling really guilty about throwing them out because I had told myself that “someday” I would use it and guess what, “someday” wasn’t coming. I was really attaching to my things and it killed me to think of how much money I had spent on those things I was going to get rid of. The first few days were painful, but it go so much easier as I went. Here are some of the rules I gave myself:
Go slow, one area at a time. You don’t have to sort through everything in one day. Be honest with yourself and know its okay to say you may not need or want an item you bought and were excited about at one time.
Make 3 piles and stick to it: stuff to keep, stuff to get rid of, and stuff you’re not sure about. I ask myself, Do I want it? Need it? Use it? Like it? If the answer is no, then it has to go. When you are done sorting, move the “unsure” pile out of the way. If you don’t use the items in that pile in 30 days, or if an item doesn’t pass your mind in 30 days, get rid of it.
If I haven’t worn it in a year, get rid of it. Do you really need that free t-shirt from the 5K you did 10 years ago?
If it doesn’t fit right now, get rid of it. Who knows when you're going to lose those 20 pounds.
If you have already read it, do you really need it? Can you get that book in a digital form? A meaningful card on your birthday is great, but can you keep a digital version of it via photo in order to not clutter up your house?
Cancel your magazine subscriptions, or go digital if you really want the content.
Do you really use that kitchen gadget often enough that you won’t miss it? (I still struggle with this one and have things I STILL haven’t used in the RV) Are you really going to start using that juicer from Christmas 3 years ago? No? Think of all the counter space you will gain when it is gone.
Discard the duplicates: this goes from kitchen stuff, to clothes, to DVDS.
Do you really wear all your jewelry? I saved a few small things I really loved, but all of the other stuff was gone immediately because I never wear it.
Don’t buy anything new until you think it over for 48 hours. You would be surprised how many impulse buys this has kept me from making.
Don’t feel like your only option is the dumpster for all of your unneeded items. It is only one of your options. You can always donate to a thrift store and don’t forget that you can also write off your donations on your taxes. If you don’t feel like being that selfless, you can always check with friends and family and see if they want any of the items you are kicking to the curb. Another option is to sell, be it on amazon or ebay, craigslist, or a garage sale. You aren’t going to gain all your money back on each item, but you’ll be a few bucks richer than you were when you started.
Hopefully this will help you start the process of purging the physical crap from your life. I'm always open to new ideas and ways of decluttering, so let me know if you have a great trick I can try.