As far as new year’s resolutions go, I’ve done pretty well over the past few years. Two years ago I resolved to lose 25 lbs., and I lost 31. Last year I resolved to keep the weight off. I did, and even lost a few more pounds (and then gained a few back between Christmas and January 1). This year’s resolution? Get rid of stuff.
When Bruce and I married, neither of us realized the packrat tendencies in each other. Twenty years later, it’s not as if we awoke one morning to suddenly find stacks of magazines, too many clothes, and more CDs and LPs than we’ll ever have time to listen to. No, these things crept in gradually, year after year.
When we first married, we lived in a tiny, 4-room apartment that probably totalled 800 square feet. For our first move we were able to cram everything we owned into the back of our car and a dinky U-Haul trailer. That was in 1992. Eleven years and three children later, we moved again. That time, the move took two of the largest rental trucks U-Haul had to offer, and we left a few things behind!
As I look around my house today, I cringe at the amount of needless stuff I have in my life. My eye will catch something and I’ll think, Do I really need that? Am I ever going to use that again? Is there someone else who could use it?
I’ve already begun to hoe out certain areas. The Salvation Army has received many bags of clothing, and we’re just barely scratching the surface of 2012. I have boxes of books yet to deliver to the library for their quarterly book sales, and numerous items have sold on ebay and Amazon.com. And yet, with an attic larger than the size of our first apartment, I have a long way to go.
You may be wondering what brought on this resolution. Well, back in November as I was surfing facebook I came across a photo. It was one of those split-screen photos with starving children on one side and black Friday shoppers on the other. The emaciated children reached for food while the shoppers, looking annoyed at having to wait in line, stood with carts overflowing with overpriced plastic toys that will be next summer’s yard sale fodder. The caption of the photo: Define Necessity.
From the very moment I saw that photo I began to take a mental inventory of my house. Aside from a few basic necessities, I could live without 90% of what I own. Does this mean I’m going to get rid of nine tenths of my possessions? Well, not right now. But it does mean I am going to make a concerted effort this year to remove the physical items in my life of which 1) I have no need, and 2) someone else could use. I’m tired of drowning in stuff.
So I have a little challenge for everyone: Define necessity. Before you buy something in the store, ask yourself, “Is this a need or a want?” When you begin to think of building another bookcase to hold your books, think of giving/selling/donating some to make room. Instead of boxing up clothes which you think you might someday fit into again, think of giving them to someone in need.
You’ll reap the twofold benefit of having a less cluttered home and the joy of giving your possessions a second life by belonging to someone else. I’ve always gratefully accepted hand-me-downs; in turn, I pass things along to others. But now it’s time for me to step it up a notch. A year from now, I hope to report that I was successful in keeping my new year’s resolution, and that my life is less cluttered than ever.