“Amidst one's daily clutter, one doesn't usually reflect on the splendor of being free because - naturally - one has to get on with the business of living.” - Upamanyu Chatterjee
Americans spend $1.2 trillion a year on non-essential goods and services. And It’s not because we have lots of money. If we did, maybe we’d save it and nearly half of us don’t. In fact, this month, the average American household had $16,140 in credit card debt. And we’re teaching our kids the accumulation game. The U.S. has 3.1% of the world’s children, but consumes 40% of the world’s toys.
Not only do we like things in great number, we also like great volume. Our cars have turned into Trucks and SUVS and our houses have doubled in size since 1950 even though the size of our families continue to shrink.
In fact, we spend so much, buy so much, that we run out of space to house it all in our average 2000+ sq.ft home. That’s why one in ten of us invests in offsite storage. According to this LA Times Article, The American Dilemma, Your Clutter or Your Life, “There are 2.3 billion square feet of self-storage space in America, or more than 7 square feet for every, man, woman and child in the country. We’re crowding ourselves out of our own houses.”
It’s high time we stop and ask: Why do we have more bathrooms or TVs in our homes than people? Why are we filling, on average, a 2,349 sq. ft living space with stuff?
Before this is dismissed as anti-materialism preaching, keep in mind that clutter affects your mind and health. According to this great Life Hacker article, How Clutter Affects your Brain, clutter competes for our brain’s attention and increases our stress.
The best bet for better life performance and mental health is never to acquire that new Holiday doormat in the first place. Why? Because once you acquire an unneeded item, you become emotionally attached to it easily. This means getting rid of it is very difficult because your brain’s pain centers light up when you debate discarding it. When you junk up your life with the unessential, you’re junking up your brain and sabotaging your real goals and purpose.
So here’s a good place to start:
Define one goal around minimalism and simplicity. The Holidays are coming up. Starting there might be good. How many events do you want and need to attend? How many decorations need to be put up? How many gifts does the family actually need and want? Break down the steps of what a minimalist Holiday looks like and try it out. When you think back on your best Holiday memories, what are they about really? We’re guessing it’s probably not the presents, decor and packed schedule.
Declutter one space. Consider it a try out. Pick a room and eliminate all the unessential. Clear out the unneeded. Pack it up and put it in the basement, garage or GoodWill truck. See how it changes your brain and your life to be in a space where there is much, much less.
Shop differently. Yes, it’s adorable. Yes, you or the family will love it. But, what purpose is it really serving? Can you borrow this from someone else? Is the one you have still functional? Will it bring you joy or make your life easier for years to come?
SO MANY of the things we buy will not stand up to these questions. The old purse is fine. Your friend has a juicer she’ll let you borrow for the upcoming fast. The new Christmas wreath is lovely, but so is the one from 3 years back.
Remember that the moment you buy it is the moment it becomes your problem. You become attached emotionally, it takes up precious space in your home, life and mind, and it will be difficult to extract.
Keep the big picture goals of your life in the forefront of your mind, and you may find a form of minimalism follows.