Over the past few months, I’ve learned a lot about “stuff”. Translation: I’ve learned a lot about material possessions.
If you follow Marie Kondo’s KonMari Method, then you know that you’re supposed to surround yourself with items that bring joy. I completely understand the rationale behind this philosophy when downsizing, but there are other items we need that don’t necessarily spark joy. And I don’t know that I would have come to this realization if we hadn’t recently put all of our belongings in storage.
Readers of Unretirement Project know that we’ve been building a home for the past year. At some point in the process, the lease on our rental house was up and we didn’t want to commit to another year. The builder said, “Oh, it’s only going to be a few weeks until closing.” So, we put everything we owned in storage. And a “few weeks” turned into a “few months”.
During those “few months”, we didn’t have our stuff. And it made me realize how much we rely on things to bring us happiness, make us productive, and help us feel safe. In fact, I’d say that when it comes to decluttering or downsizing, it might make sense to put belongings in one of those three categories.
Items that bring happiness or joy. Like the KonMari Method, I totally believe that there are things we have because they make us happy. It might be a picture, stuffed toy, or an old worn book. It’s possible that the item has a utilitarian purpose, but my guess is that the item is more sentimental in nature. To me, the challenge with these items is that we’re always accumulating new items that bring happiness and joy. When downsizing, we might need to discard items that brought us joy at one point in time, but today…not so much. Or not as much as other things. And it’s okay to not feel guilty about it.
Items that make us productive. With all of our belongings in storage, we found ourselves wanting little things like chip clips. Any other time, I could find a zillion free logoed chip clips at conferences. Now that we needed them…nowhere to be found. Would I say that a chip clip sparks joy? Not really. It has a utilitarian purpose to keep potato chips fresh. But this is just an example of an item that most of us have and use on a regular basis. On some level, we take having it for granted and maybe we shouldn’t.
Items that help us feel safe. When we put all of our stuff in storage, we were wearing shorts. Thank goodness we got all of our stuff out of storage before we needed to deal with winter (or what passes for winter in Florida). While I like my sweaters, I’m not sure they make me happy. They do keep me warm. Another thing: while our things were in storage, we were faced with the threat of a hurricane. All of our hurricane supplies? Yep, in storage. It’s a real dilemma. Do you go out and buy all new emergency supplies knowing you have everything you need…but it’s in storage?!
Thankfully, we didn’t have to repurchase too many things and we learned to live without. And that’s the point. As we talk about decluttering and downsizing, it might make sense to think about not only what we want to surround ourselves with but what we need to surround ourselves with.
Of course, it’s possible that items fulfill more than one purpose and they’re both something we need as well as want. An example for me would be my phone. I need it to send texts and occasionally make calls. And I want a certain brand with certain features. Another example would be the hair products I use, I need shampoo, conditioner, etc. I might want to try a certain brand. We might want to apply this to the other things we own. While I’m not advocating hoarding stuff, I would be careful not to discard something you need too soon. The last thing anyone wants to do is toss a memento only to regret the decision later.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring the streets of Washington, DC