I’ve always had a thing for things (and especially clothes). When I flew to Los Angeles for my first year of college, I brought two 50 lbs. duffel bags, and two fully stuffed carry-ons. One was so big that it couldn’t fit in the overhead compartment or underneath the seat in front of me – so I spent my four hour journey to my new life in a middle seat with my legs cramped around an upright bag on the floor in front of me. (Clearly, airline regulations were a bit more lax then, and I had very kind neighbors!)
When I was in college, I would wash clothes by color – pinks, blues, blacks, whites, greens. I remember my friend’s stunned expression when I explained my system to her – she couldn’t imagine having so many clothes as to wash them by color. It was one of those moments when I thought, “hmm…maybe I have too much stuff!” It didn’t change my love of clothes or my rate of acquisition, though. It just made me pause for a moment.
Fast forward seven years – I was gainfully employed, had access to excellent credit, and was happily indulging my love of things.
In 2003, I decided to quit my soul-sucking corporate job, live off savings, and ‘find my passion.” To prepare for this, I started searching for a place with more affordable rent than what I was paying at the time. It was hard – I couldn’t find much of anything that was cheaper and still large enough to handle all the stuff I had accumulated by that point in my life and still have space for me. I viewed a few studio apartments and cringed at the idea of trying to get all my furniture, clothes, fake trees and assorted other miscellany in there. I wasn’t a hoarder by any means – I had excellent storage systems and made sure I had plenty of closet space in any apartment I rented prior to this. But I had a lot of stuff.
Meanwhile, I was looking at ways to cut costs, and had slashed everything I could. I was willing to cut cable, give up my TV, give up A/C, and reduce wherever possible. Renter’s insurance kept coming up as this painful $400 a year cost that seemed so pointless. But I knew I couldn’t replace my stuff in case of emergency, so I didn’t see a way to cut it.
I remember driving down my favorite boulevard, wondering how I was ever going to be able to quit without a significant change in rent, when it finally dawned on me:
I could get rid of the stuff. Just because I owned it didn’t mean I had to keep it and insure it. I could just let it go.
It was a moment of complete freedom. Shortly after that, I found what I consider to be a miracle apartment – an adorable studio apartment in a great area, with a separate kitchen and mini-dining room, for half of what I was paying at my previous place.
I signed the lease and quit my job.
I got rid of a ton of stuff…and still had quite a bit left. My friends insisted on helping me move (despite my desire to hire movers – they insisted. They’re awesome like that.) As I was throwing down giant hefty bag #14 of clothing, my friend looked up and said “eh…all of these are clothes?” with the same stunned expression my college friend had at my laundry. It was another ‘pause’ moment in my love affair with clothing.
Did I find my passion in that studio apartment? No, but creating space for it allowed me to find one passion, which led to another, which led to another…and so on. What I truly learned about passion during that studio sabbatical year how to track it.
I could never have done this if I wasn’t willing to simplify. I continued to simplify long after this (you will see my closet in two weeks, when we talk about The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up), but this was my beginning.
My questions for you this week:
- In which areas is ‘stuff’ holding you back? This might look like having to keep a stressful job to support a large home, or clutter in your spare room preventing you from creating a studio.
- How is the stuff holding you back?
- If you could let go of stuff in some area, what would you be free to do?
- What’s stopping you from letting go of it?
If you are ready to let go, I invite you to leave a comment with the stuff you are clearing, the date you will clear it by, and what you expect to free up by clearing out this clutter.