Some of us are in debt or don’t have savings because we paid our way through university, stretched ourselves to get a mortgage, had a kid, or undertook some other kind of important life project. But a lot of us simply went shopping and bought a whole lot of crap.
It’s hard to resist the temptation to accumulate things. We are bombarded with advertising from all angles, especially at times when we are a captive audience. There are now little TV screens in the back of black cabs, digital advertising along the escalators on the tube, screens on the Heathrow Express. It’s difficult to reject that consumer mindset when advertisers are constantly screaming at you to spend, but it can be done, and life can be better for it.
When I was trying to pay off my credit cards, I found myself wondering where that money had actually gone. A lot was on meals in fancy restaurants and mojitos in cocktail bars, and I don’t regret that spending in the least because those were fun experiences with people I care about. What bothered me was the amount of needless stuff I had accumulated. Shoes I couldn’t really walk in so had never worn, clothes which didn’t fit and I never ‘slimmed in to’, enough cosmetics and toiletries to open a Boots, boxes and boxes of crap, ‘storage solutions’ to manage it all. The extent of it really hit home when I had to move house twice in the space of a year – I filled an entire van with crap, just mine, no-one else’s, and I had to cart it up a lot of stairs. I sweated my balls off for that stuff, my muscles ached for that stuff, I couldn’t find enough places to store it all so I tripped over that stuff. What was it all anyway? Did I really need it? No I did not. So I started to eBay it.
A painful process
I ripped my CDs and then sold them, I got rid of most of my books and bought a Kindle instead (I’m not going to lie, this was painful. I was very attached to my stuff.) Anything in season which hadn’t been worn in the last three months had to go, whether sold, donated or recycled. I was ruthless. Even if I sold something on eBay for just 99p and accidentally undercharged on the postage, I considered that the buyer was still doing me a favour by removing this item from my life and my home. The whole process was a total pain, taking all the photos, listing every individual item, then the wrapping and carting it all to the Post Office. I tried to see it as penance for my greed in acquiring all that stuff in the first place. Gradually, my Paypal balance crept up and I was able to start throwing that money at my credit cards, which helped to clear them a lot faster.
Living with less
As these items were leaving my life, one by one, I felt lighter. It becomes a bit addictive – you start looking around to identify the next thing you can get rid of, and the next thing. Items you decided were essentials last week start to look less important. I started reading about the ‘living with less’ movement, and found it totally fascinating. For example, could you live with 100 things or less? This is such a brilliant concept, it makes you question every single possession. Do you have 85 pens hanging around in a junk drawer in your house? Maybe you only need one. Do you have 25 pairs of shoes? Could you survive with one pair of trainers, one pair of sandals and one pair of smart shoes? How often do you really use your bread maker, your egg whisk or your Magimix?
My main fear about doing this was that the second I got rid of a seldom-used item, I would suddenly need it for something. Sod’s Law dictates that this will probably happen, but if it does you can always borrow what you need from a friend, or even rent it for a day. This is infinitely better than storing it forever, maintaining it, insuring it, and whatever else goes with ownership of that item.
Today I challenge you to remove five things from your house and your life, whether by donating, gifting, selling, or recycling. Say no to too much stuff.