November 04, 2007

Life is fifty percent junk

Quoting It's All Too Much by Peter Walsh, "In the eighteenth century, an English architect named William Morris wrote that you should not have anything in your home that is not beautiful or functional."

I used to have a subtitle on my blog that went along the lines of "it's not about what you want, it's about wanting what you have". A few years ago I realized that I (and my family) had accumulated far too much stuff. We owned so many things that had attachments like:
  • I'll read that one day
  • We do use that once a year (sometimes)
  • That belonged to dear Great Aunt Peculiar
  • Won't that be fun to assemble when I take my year long sabbatical
  • That box is full of memories
My wife and I take pride in not collecting knick knacks, etc., but knick knacks would only have been the icing on the cake in terms of possessions. We had too much stuff, and it was time for a change...

I've been trying a new model for about a year. The goal is to prepare to move in less than six months to someplace far away. Since I've lived within 10 square miles of my current home for the last sixteen years, that is a good challenge. To make the goal more difficult, I've decided I'm going to pay for the move. Every pound I ship costs me cold, hard cash.

So I'm trying to get rid of 50% of what I own. Donations, trash, eBay, whatever it takes. I amended Morris's rules to:
  • It has to be functional
  • It has a very high sentimental value
  • It should be used at least monthly
  • If I'm not using it, I value it so much that I often let others borrow it
The converse rules to get rid of 50% are:
  • It doesn't work anymore
  • I don't use it even if I did in the past
  • It gets used once every couple of years
  • No one would ever borrow it
  • It's been in storage where it couldn't be seen or used in a long time
  • It's being held for some mythical date in the future where I will work on it
  • Record keeping past IRS requirements
It's amazing how many things accumulate in our lives that fit into the 50% junk bucket. Everything we keep requires at a minimum space, if not maintenance, whether intellectual, physical, or financial. And that maintenance leads to stress.

Which leads me to read books like "It's All Too Much" by Peter Walsh ;-)

Remodeling the house (which I'm doing this weekend and throughout November) helps because I have to move so many things around to rip open walls, etc. While I'm moving my possessions around, I ask myself if I'm really using them, or just storing them to make myself more stressed?!

I try every weekend to walk around my house and find things in the 50% junk category, then get rid of them. This weekend I've found about 10lbs of books we don't use and don't plan on letting others borrow. They'll be donated to the local library by the middle of the week!
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