Throwing stuff away, even precious, valuable stuff, can be lightening and liberating. A writer called Erich Fromm, who wrote a book called ‘To Have or To Be’ says there are two essential ways of being – having or being. Our society encourages ‘having’. We are encouraged to take a lot of photos when we are experiencing something important, like a wedding or a trip, so we can ‘have’ the experience, for later. We’re encouraged to take a lot of notes when we’re learning, so we can ‘have’ that information for easy reference. We’re encouraged to buy a lot of stuff and take it home to have it. Even in our relationships, it’s thought desirable to ‘have’ a lot of friends. Fromm’s idea is that by not having, you create more space for real being. You’re making yourself be alive and responsive in that moment, instead of a curator, busy accumulating notes or photos or mementoes for looking at later. It’s something to think about.
I see enormous amounts of accumulated stuff when working with people as they downsize after living in a home for 25 – 40 years or even longer. Little by little a home can be filled up for various reasons including inheritance, redecorating or simply filling up the storage areas. Down deep, I think most of us know that the best stuff in life isn’t stuff at all, and that relationships, experiences and meaningful work are the staples of a happy life. But, letting go is not often a priority so when it comes time to make a major transition the stuff can be overwhelming for people. We’ve found that there when it comes time to dispose of some of the stuff there are basically two kinds of people when it comes to cleaning out a house: “the throwers” who relish clearing out and who will empty a house quickly and efficiently, and “the keepers” who want to preserve special things as well as memories, and who will linger over the process. Success comes when those in the household have come to the realization that the most valuable thing in a house is the life that has been lived there.
If I Had to Do It All Over Again
I’m 82 and live on and with the barest of necessities, for the less I have, the better I feel. I regularly go through my small house wondering what else I can get rid of. Minimalism is soothing, aesthetically appealing. I sometimes fantasize about living in a cell like a monk – a cot, a table, and a window. Knowing what I know now, if I had my life to live over, at the age of 18, instead of sitting around devising plans for a cluttered life, I would put a knapsack on my back and with my dog I would leave the house and just start walking. –Sonja
So, even if you are not making a major move, think about getting rid of the stuff before you move. Here are five reasons why it’s a good idea.
1. You’ll start to find all those things you never thought you would.
2. You’ll have so much more space to live and work in again.
3. You’ll save so much money when you make your next move! Moving costs a lot of money; and the more you have to move, the more it costs.
4. You’ll feel so much better about yourself.
5. If you don’t do it, someone else will do it for you.
Living a clutter-free live takes practice and the development of new habits, but the rewards are great. May the most valuable thing you find in your home be more life!