I moved out of my 7-bedroom, 3-car garage lake house about 7 months ago. I parted with a lot of things. Over the last four years I have culled through my belongs, junk and memorabilia to get down to what I thought was a reasonable amount of stuff. I’ve been told my home was minimalist. I tried to focus on plants and artwork that I truly loved. There is relief in shedding things that are cluttering up my life. I feel lighter and somehow less distracted. It’s been a journey, and sometimes a struggle, but certainly worthwhile.
I recently read an article by Julianna Poplin at The Simplicity Habit called, “Statistics on Clutter that will Blow Your Mind.” It’s pretty mind-blowing to see the numbers and percentages of clutter and junk that fill our homes, apartments and storage units.The two statistics that jumped out at me were, “80% of the items people keep are never used. 54% of Americans are overwhelmed by the amount of clutter they have, but 78% have no idea what to do with it.” This emboldened me to eliminate even more items in my apartment and these are some of the items that, irrationally for the most part, I have difficulty parting with:
- Parts. I have several attachments to kitchen equipment that I never use. I have an old beater for my stand mixer, blades for my food processor, spare parts for my pressure cooker, and a pasta attachment for my mixer. I don’t use them. Ever. And yet, when I sort through my kitchen, I think, “Well, no one else will be able to use it, so I guess I should keep it.” This is irrational. Just because the Salvation Army isn’t likely to have someone looking for a specific attachment for a particular brand of mixer, doesn’t mean I can’t throw it out. If someone else can’t use it, I feel like I must hold on to it.
- Cookbooks. There was a time in my life when I had upwards of over one hundred cookbooks. Fast forward some 25 years later and two house moves, now vegan and sober, and I have about 10. There is nothing more painful for me than to let a cookbook go. Somehow, it’s letting go of the potential and aspiration when I originally bought the book. So I will never be an expert sushi chef or bread baker; it’s like letting go a bit of my potential, which is, of course, irrational.
- Coursework. When I moved into my new office in my apartment, I had to blend three closets of materials into one. I spent a day, traipsing through all the course work I did over the last 25 years since my master’s degree. I let go of textbooks and tore out “the meat” of training materials. It was an undertaking, and painful, as I struggled with “what if I need this later” thoughts. It’s honed down to the essence now.
- Duplicates. I recently bought two Cumin spices accidentally. I use cumin on about a weekly basis. I won’t use the extra one for over a year. Ugh. I don’t want to throw it out, but I can’t stand it cluttering up the spice drawer. Now I am in search of a cumin lover that I can off load it to. The proper thing to do would be to return it to the store but I rarely hold onto receipts. So, it sits in the spice drawer reminding me of my memory slip.
- Suitcase. I had two very large suitcases that I dragged from my house to my apartment. Then there was a pandemic that eliminated all travel. In my effort to adopt minimalist ways over the last few years, I never take a large suitcase anywhere. I am loath to check a bag even if I am doing long-distance travel on a plane. But it’s giving up the potential of flying off to some exotic location for a month; the living out of a suitcase. It’s busting my paradigm that I need a large suitcase to go to exotic locations when it can be accomplished with a backpack and duffle bag.
- Experiments. I have recently bought something called Laundry Soap Nuts from Trader Joes. I have been trying to reduce my use of plastic and I thought this new product might be the answer. It wasn’t. I found some laundry sheets that are packages in cardboard that I really like. But my experiment in Soap Nuts is sitting in the top of my laundry closet. I hate to throw things out when it’s only been used once or twice. It feels so wasteful. So here I am trying to reduce my trash only to create more trash.
- Gifts. There is always a gift that is too big or too small or not your color or not your taste and yet I feel stuck with it. I feel as if it will hurt the person who gave it to me if I let it go. Like my daughter or my friend or my coworker is going to come into my home to inventory all the gifts they ever gave me and ask me to account for it. It’s irrational but painful to let them go, none the less.
- Clothes. There are the pants that will fit if I lose ten pounds or the blouse that only looks good with the pants that are too long. Or the blouse I really didn’t like but didn’t return because it was too much of a hassle. I recently donated several dresses when I realized I would never be in an office on a regular basis ever again. So much money is spent on clothes. As written by Poplin, “Globally, the apparel industry is worth an amazing $2.4 trillion. Women have an average of $1,000 to $2,500 of clothing sitting in their wardrobe. 9% of women have more than $10,000 sitting in their closet.” I’m still holding onto a shirt from the restaurant I owned 25 years ago. Letting go of clothes is a struggle.
I haven’t addressed all the things I know I need to eliminate yet. When I remember Marie Kondo’s advice in her book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, I need to thank the item for its service to me and let it go. I can let go of the unrealized potential of a bottle of never used cardamon, a tarnished mixing blade or a grilling cookbook. I accept that the unrealized potential would never be and that’s OK. Irksome, sometimes guilt-ridden, frequently painful, but in the end, freeing. What do you have difficulty parting with?