July 17, 2013 by drandmrso
Every time I move I ask myself the same question: why do I have so much stuff?!
And then I pack up a few more boxes.
And then I ask myself: no, seriously, why do I have SO MUCH FLIPPING STUFF?!
I’m sure you can relate. It seems that everyone I talk to that has moved recently is in a state of denial and recovery, muttering under their breath “never again” or “I swear I’m hiring movers next time.” Dr. O and I aren’t moving anytime soon (four years to go!), but after rearranging my bookshelves a couple weeks back I realized just how much stuff was on those shelves. The thought of eventually having to move it all sent a shiver down my spine. That’s when I decided it was finally time to crack open The Joy of Less by Francine Jay (and when I say “crack open,” I really mean pull it up on my Kindle. One less book to eventually move! Wahoo!).
The book starts with the basic minimalist philosophy: own only what you need, and love everything you own, and your life will be simpler and happier and easier. Then she walks you through each room in your house and suggests areas to focus on to start STREAMLINE-ing your stuff. Each letter stands for a part of the process: start over, trash/treasure/transfer, reason for each item, etc. (Have I mentioned I hate acronyms created purely for acronyms’ sake? Sigh.) The final section of the book covers the minimalist approach to managing your daily schedule and elaborates on the environmental and social benefits of being a “min-sumer” (as opposed to a consumer).
What I like about this author’s style is that she’s very comforting. She’s advocating living a lifestyle that’s at odds with the stereotypical American dream (which usually includes a big house with lots of room for storing lots of stuff). It’s a big deal to confront a cultural norm and simply say: no, I don’t want that anymore. It’s scary! She’s talking about getting rid of the stuff that I’ve lugged from house to dorm to apartment to apartment (to apartment…) to house! It’s important stuff!
Or is it? As I was reading through the philosophy chapters this sense of relief came over me: I don’t have to own nine kitchen appliances that I don’t use, or craft supplies that I haven’t touched in years, or clothes that don’t work for me anymore. The stuff I have doesn’t define me. What I do with what stuff I do have, and how I choose to spend my time, are what matter most. And she’s extra careful to point out that everyone will find different stuff important, so don’t compare yourself too closely to her personal examples or to your neighbors (or family, or friends).
I started with something simple in my house that definitely needed attention: the spice rack. Dr. O and I received lots of great spices for our wedding and for various holidays and birthdays since then. We love cooking together, and we’ve used quite a few of the spices we received, but somehow (and tell me I’m not alone here) we accumulated enough little bottles, shakers, grinders, and packets to fill a whole side cabinet in our kitchen as well as a significant portion of our counter top. Here’s the whole collection, all together on the island:
I found four (yes, four!) pots of chili powder, three vials of vanilla, and two taco seasoning shakers plus two open taco seasoning packets. And I don’t want to mention how many spices I found that had expired long ago. Talk about needing to streamline! So I pitched what we didn’t need (and recycled the containers whenever possible) and narrowed it down to what we’ll actually use. Here’s the spice cabinet after:
Top shelf holds spicy spices and sauce packets, middle shelf holds sweet spices, and the bottom shelf holds savory spices. That’s it! We clearly still have a very wide selection on those shelves, but I eliminated the pile that had accumulated on our counter top and our kitchen is just a smidge more organized.
The author goes by Miss Minimalist on her blog, which, I have to say, takes minimalism to the max. There’s a thread over there about whether or not she should have a second child since it might bring too much additional stuff into her life (!). So while I’m definitely not going to take her way of life and plaster it onto mine, the basic principles really do make a lot of sense. I’ve found myself shopping less often in the last two weeks since starting to read this book. I don’t feel pressured to walk through every aisle at Target just to see what’s on clearance in case I “need” it. And I’ve also cleared out a ton of stuff from my nightstand, the coffee table, our bookshelves, and the office. I feel lighter, freer, less cluttered.
Long story short (too late): I highly recommend this book to anyone trying to pare down, prepare for a move, recover from a move, or just live a simpler life.
How about you? What stuff would you love to not have to move again? Any shelf-clearing horror stories?