How much stuff we really needPosted: June 22, 2011
When we started relocating, we packed all of our belongings for sea-shipping. And by all I mean everything from furniture to books, winter clothes, stilettos and the bulk mouthwash I bought couple of months before. I knew it would take two months for our stuff to arrive in Vietnam, so I had to make a selection of stuff that I will need meanwhile. This is no easy task, and even though I knew that it was just a temporary measure, I panicked while I was making lists and thinking what I really need. But while I only had the limited amounts of clothing, shoes and cosmetics, an amazing thing happened: I found the liberating feeling of not having so much to chose from. I only had 10 shirts. And I wore them all. Same with pants and dresses. The only area where I over-did it was in the shoe department, but I tend to feel more secured when my shoes are where I can see them.
Group and count your items. When you realize that you actually own 30 shirts and even more shoes, it becomes a wake up call. How much money did you spend on them? How often do you wear them? Honesty is the only way to go at this stage. When I was packing I found that I have 15 dresses. I maybe use one dress every month. That is a supply of more than one year without repeating the same item. Establish which ones you wear the most, add a favorite one and that will be the “yes” pile.
Limit access to your stuff. Whatever is not in the “yes” pile gets into boxes. Put it away for a while if you feel you will miss them or one day might need that purple velvet running pants. If you are brave, decide to give them away: charity, Salvation Army, your sisters, eBay. Possibilities are endless.
Select your clothing according to the climate. If you live in an area where summer is very hot and winter is very cold, you need to create separate wardrobes for each season. The secret here is to keep your winter clothes away in summer months and vice-versa. Keep them in a separate closet or in nice colored boxes at the bottom of the closet. If your wardrobe is year-long, then you are one of the lucky ones. In Vietnam is pretty much warm all year round. I knew that before we moved, so I kept only one sweater, one rain coat and a pair of multi-purpose shoes. All our winter clothes were sent to Belgium in case we visit Europe during our winter break. Thanking my mother in law for giving us the storage space…
Get rid of junk. My grandparents were the “squirrelers” type. Maybe I invented this word, but I am sure everybody has somebody they know that never throws anything. They keep old receipts, buttons, baby clothes, wedding souvenirs, musical instruments, toys, weird cooking utensils, and the list can continue for pages. My main area of focus just before I left our old home was paperwork. I kept all of our original documents (marriage and birth certificates, university diplomas, and other important papers) in one neat folder, and all the rest was either scanned or disposed. Stuff like bank statements can be viewed and kept online. Assess the situation one area at a time: paperwork – one saturday afternoon, pantry – couple of hours, cosmetics cabinets – couple of hours. Keep what you use and get rid of the rest.
Get your partner on-board. Having your husband or wife on-board during this process is a very important aspect. You might have to ease them into it, explain why do you want to do it and how will it benefit them and the family, but all is easier and more fun when done together. An added bonus is that it will strengthen your bond.
Having less stuff means less to worry about, less cleaning and less time spent making decisions of what to wear and what matches your orange pumps. Having lived like this for this time, I am planning that when our stuff finally arrives, I will make a selection of what is really necessary and downsize our possessions. Will keep posting about it!
I also discovered Project 333. While I can not imagine making such a huge commitment right now, it does have some fantastic ideas. Check it out!