Taking Only What You Need

How often do we justify our stockpiles of stuff by thinking we’ll need them for a rainy day? Do we ever really resort to using them?

Chances are, if you’re like me, you use the same few things over and over, neglecting other things because you simply don’t like them as much or don’t really have a need for them because you have other things that you like better. You have your favorite clothes, so you wear those the most, leaving the “not-so-loved” clothes in the back of the closet for laundry day or in hopes that you might find something cute to wear it with later, magically transforming it into a more beloved item.

But what if we were to only hold on to, only choose to keep, the things that we really need? I’m not talking about the bare essentials, because I believe that we also ought to keep things that inspire us, not just things that have practical uses in our everyday lives. But I am talking about seriously reducing the number of things we have, eliminating the excess.

What if we were to let go of the fear of not having enough and just hold on to the things that are truly loved by us? I think we would feel free, able to go where we want and do as we please without excess baggage weighing us down. We would likely be more content with what we have if all we had was things that we believe are beautiful and useful, no longer hidden behind and beneath things that are of lesser value to us.

As I’ve begun packing for our move, I’ve questioned whether I want to keep some of the things I currently have. If it’s not worth it for me to have to pack it up (carefully, if it’s fragile, which takes extra effort) now, unpack it later, and find a new home for it, then I know I need to get rid of it. “Move it or lose it” has become a bit of a mantra for me.

The same concept applies when traveling; if you don’t want to carry it with you, you shouldn’t be taking it. If you feel like the space a particular item takes up could be better filled with something more useful, special, or beautiful, then that item isn’t worth taking. And if you can live without it for a trip, you might want to consider whether you can just live without it entirely.

I know I felt odd about that concept when I was in college. Because I went to school a few hours away from home, I only took what I could fit in my dorm room (and later, my room in a rented house). That being said, I left behind a considerable amount of stuff at my parents’ house. After graduating and moving back in with my parents, I realized I had effectively accumulated two whole bedrooms’ worth of stuff, and I still only had one bedroom to store it in.

I had to find a way to sort through my belongings and get rid of the excess in order to better appreciate what was most important. I had to get rid of duplicates and rarely- or never-used items, which sometimes felt really difficult. But when I was able to find a home for everything I chose to keep, it was much more comfortable than staring at piles of boxes of things I didn’t have room to store because there was just too much.

Since then, I’ve continued thinking critically about my possessions, more so in some seasons of life than in others, but I have been paying more attention to what I keep and why.

I’m not saying I’ve got this whole thing down. I keep revisiting the idea of minimalism and trying to apply the idea of simplicity to my home and my life. I hope that I can continue moving forward toward a life that feels like a Goldilocks kind of “just right,” between having far too much and getting rid of everything. And if you choose to join me in this adventure, I hope you find your own sweet spot!

 

Further reading:

The Spiritual Discipline of Traveling Light by Tsh Oxenreider

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