Each and every one of us has made excuses (I know I have, and still do), we have an abundance of reasons to keep things and only a few reasons to get rid of them. To make matters more challenging, the benefits of living without something are intangible and unknowable until you experience it. Below are five categories of excuses that I feel are most common when one is trying to downsize their lives. Getting rid of our possessions is a very intimidating process and we often find ourselves justifying unneeded possession with one (or several) of the following:
- Emotional Attachment: Often we look at our possessions through a lens of memory. Our stuff are relics of good (or bad) times in our life. Belongings can be placeholders of people we have loved and lost, times we have shared with friends, or great things we have achieved. These items need consideration, not simply a consideration of what they mean to us, but what it might mean to live without it.
- Guilty Conscience: The classic unwanted (or possibly wanted at the time) gift. We all have these things. Sometimes they are truly cringe-worthy, but every time we consider getting rid of it, we are raked with guilt over it. After all, it was very generous of your Great Aunt Sally to get it for you. Guilt can be a strong player, and in many ways is a branch off of Emotional Attachment, but it is so common and difficult to work through, it deserves a category all of its own.
- We see $$$: More often than not we want to get rid of something but believe it is far too valuable to get rid of. We know what we paid for it, so we feel like just giving it away is wasteful. The idea that we should get our dollars worth for everything we want to get rid of is a very common and an understandable crutch (It is one that I struggle with the most).
- Our stuff brings us happiness: This is something I can not deny, there are some things that bring me joy. My guitar for example is a valued possession, and although I am mediocre at best, it brings me hours of fun making bad art with great friends. So I think it is best to consider what is actually bringing us joy. In my example is it the guitar, or is it the experience? I think sometimes possessions can be means to an end, tools to use to bring some more joy in our lives. However, it might be helpful to consider, are there ways to gain the same experience with less belongings. Would one guitar suffice instead of five? (Fellow guitarists—I know—there can never be enough guitars!)
- We think we need it: Surely I can’t live without a T.V. everyone would think I was a weirdo…I’ve got news for you, if you are seeking this out, people probably already think you are a weirdo. My mom thinks I’m a lunatic, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t love me. You will be surprised at how little you miss the things that you once thought were standard or critical to survive in our society. In fact, you might be amazed at the freedom you gain without the things you thought you “needed” most. You might also find that the people who think your crazy, also really respect you for what you are trying to do, you might inspire without evening knowing it.
The majority of our reasons for not getting rid of something exists within one of these five categories (sometimes more than one). Take time to realize what relationship you have with each item. Identify where your reasoning lies, that makes it easier to counteract and work through. Once you understand what you are thinking and feeling about a particular object, then you have a much better chance of being able to let it go. I will talk more about ways to work through, or around the excuses we make in some other pages of this site.