I never watched Seinfeld. I was too young when the show was in its heyday, and by the time I was old enough to watch the sitcom I didn’t have the resolve to work my way through the full nine seasons.
Despite this, a Jerry Seinfeld quote remains one of my all-time favourites.
“There’s too many things,” said the comedian in a 2014 stand-up routine. “All things on earth only exist in different stages of becoming garbage. Your home is a garbage processing centre where you buy new things, bring them into your house, and slowly crapify them over time.”
And it seems our homes can no longer contain the rubbish, with a third of Australians using, or previously using, commercial storage to handle the excess.1 We are also disposing approximately 22 million tonnes of waste a year.2
As a born minimalist (I cleaned and decluttered my room for fun when I was a child), the idea of hoarding drives me nuts. However, I’ve come to realise our possessions aren’t the biggest problem. The real waste is the money, time and energy we spend on things with price tags, instead on that which is priceless(family, experiences, service).
When it comes to our stuff, less really is more. Decluttering and simple living have even been linked to a number of health benefits, including reduced stress and anxiety, a greater sense of self-confidence and the ability to make better decisions.3
So, are you ready to declutter, and to literally kick some of your excess stuff to the kerb?
Before I suggest a few tips to get you started, I would like to stress a very important point: you don’t need to declutter. Needs, musts and shoulds work on the basis of guilt and “not good enough”, which, in my humble opinion, is a load of rubbish. You are good enough. Period.
However, if you—for you—want to step into the realm of minimalism, then the following ideas might help you out.
Take it slow
Rome wasn’t built in a day . . . neither was your bedroom. Accumulation takes time, and so should decluttering. Start with removing one item a week for one month, then two items a week the following month, and so on.
An eye for an eye
Shopping may be the biggest obstacle on your minimisation mission. For some, though, not shopping is simply not an option. To these people I would recommend an “eye for an eye” or “one for one” approach. That is, if you buy something new, get rid of something you already have.
If you don’t like to throw, give!
In fact, give first and throw second. Whether it’s to a friend or to a stranger (via a donation bin), there are always people who can put our clothes and possessions to good use.
When it comes to things that take up our time and energy, our digital devices are the biggest culprits. For those keen to step away from screens, why not try putting a curfew on your family’s screen time? You could also remove the TVs and computers from your bedroom, and delete email or the various social media apps from your phone.
Involve your kids
Child psychologist Anna Cohen says don’t just involve them, but “give them ownership” and “let them take charge” of the decluttering process.4 In doing so, parents can teach their child/children lessons in responsibility and organisation.
Decluttering can seem daunting, but it’s very doable. Just remember you are not at the mercy of your possessions. You own them; they don’t own you.