When Less is Really More

Do we own our stuff, or does our stuff own us? I’ve gone through my possessions multiple times in the last year, trying to purge my home of things that aren’t used enough or valued enough to keep. But it seems like excess and materialism keep rearing their ugly heads, filling up spaces with unnecessary things time and time again. Whenever I turn my back, I give them margin by neglecting the act of intentionally curating my belongings.

When you have less, you appreciate the things you do have more. Consequently, when you value having less, you crave things less, lending yourself more to generosity. Living life in pursuit of owning fewer material possessions frees you to focus on experiences and allows you to invest in more than temporary things that will never satisfy you.

Having too many things creates unnecessary clutter– both physically and emotionally. I know I can’t focus when my workspace is cluttered; seeing unorganized spaces actually stresses me out. In college, I would take study breaks to clean my room because I just could not focus on my school work in the midst of a messy room. On the flip side, having a place for everything is soothing. And it’s much easier to find a place for everything when we only keep what is useful or beloved.

When considering new purchases, I weigh the cost. If I don’t really like it or know I will use it, I put it back. The same line of thinking ought to apply when I turn to the things I have previously purchased. Instead of acting on autopilot, stashing away everything that comes my direction, I’ve realized that I must take a more careful, intentional approach to sorting through the things that cross my threshold. I should question whether something will actually get used enough to take up valuable space, if it is worth the monetary cost, and how much I truly like it.

Maybe it’s spring cleaning fever, or perhaps I’ve been bitten by the minimalism bug, but whatever it is, I am feeling compelled to once again take a good, hard look at what things I’m filling my home with. I think my possessions are a reflection of my priorities and values. If someone were to take a look around my apartment, I want them to have an accurate picture of who I am.

As I sort through trinkets, papers, clothes, shoes, and craft supplies– just to name a few areas of weakness and subconscious accumulation of clutter– I’m aiming for keeping things that are truly useful or particularly meaningful to me. I’ve come to notice that buying one new thing (be it a kitchen tool, pair of shoes, or book) makes me want to buy more because getting new things is exciting. But I don’t want to continually accumulate things simply because of the rush of adrenaline I get, and I don’t want to feel discontent with what I have. So I will take time instead to appreciate what I have and let go of what is no longer valuable to me. Knowing that everything I keep is truly important and carefully chosen will ideally keep me from buying extra things on impulse and filling my life with unnecessary purchases that will inevitably sit in the back of the closet until my next round of cleaning.

While this truly is proving to be an on-going process and really more of a lifestyle and attitude change, my goal in this season is to create a place for everything, curating a collection of things that I’ve purposely chosen to keep. Instead of looking at my belongings and asking what I should get rid of (my default approach), I’m trying to rewire my thinking to ask what I would like to keep and why. If I can’t come up with a good reason to keep something in my home and my life, it doesn’t deserve to stay. Someone else might get greater pleasure or more use out of it, and it’s taking up valuable space in the meantime.

Now I must bid you all adieu and dig into my closets, drawers, and cabinets to see what things will get a place in my home and which will get the chance to begin again in someone else’s. Wish me luck!

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