Decluttering Your Life

My computer’s been dragging the last few weeks.  I’ve seen the spinning load wheel more than I’d care to admit and it’s been quite the annoyance having everything operate so slowly.

I’m on a 2009 Macbook, so it’s starting to get on its last legs, but if it was just the age of my computer I would’ve noticed it slow down more gradually.  The real reason it’s been at a crawl?  I only had 521 megabytes of free space left on my hard drive.  I’d been so busy with school that I’d forgotten to clean it in months.

I had games on it that I hadn’t played in two or three years.  I had justified keeping them on my computer in case I ever went on a long flight or car ride, but it’s now clear to me that I just didn’t want to decide on what I wanted to do with them.

They were easy to get rid of once I realized I was probably never going to play them again, and that even if I did go on a long flight the time would be better spent writing articles or studying Spanish.

I also had 150 gigabytes of juggling video that I had already uploaded to Youtube and no longer needed.  I had made the justification that I would keep the video on my computer “just in case” anything ever happened to my Youtube account.  Initially that was fair, but I’ve been backing up all my videos to an external hard drive for several months now so really, I’ve just been procrastinating.

I’ve recently began taking steps to become more minimalistic as I’m not a big fan of materialism.  Freedom’s much more important to me than the acquisition of useless things I don’t even want.

Even if I was rich I still wouldn’t want a ton of stuff.  Every single thing you own costs more than just the initial money you paid for it.  You also have to pay for maintenance and repairs that are bound to be needed at some point.

I don’t know much about cars, but let’s use them as an example. Most cars are going to need repairs at some point, but even if you’re lucky and you happen to buy one that never breaks down you’re still going to need money to maintain it.

You’re going to have to pay for gas, oil changes, insurance, and a countless number of other expenses that I can’t think of, but someone more car literate could probably point out.

Money’s not even the biggest issue when it comes to having lots of possessions.  Even more important is the time and energy they require.  There’s the time spent researching the best deal on a product, going to buy it, maintaining it, and for many products, eventually selling it.

Possessions also have an invisible energy cost to them.  It’s the reason people who have cluttered houses feel so overwhelmed.  Every single thing you have takes a small energy toll on you.  Even things like old clothes that don’t require maintenance.

Excess possessions weigh you down because you’re worrying, even if it’s only subconsciously about what you should do with them.

I’ve noticed that whenever I’m stressed my room is almost always a mess.  Could it be that the mess causes the stress? Sure.  Is it also possible that it’s simply the stress causing the mess? Certainly.  But, regardless of which one initiated my lack of tidiness I’ve found that I always feel better after cleaning my room.

You don’t need to get rid of all your stuff, but I’ve consistently found that I’m happier when I only have possessions that are really important to me.

Do I need a camcorder? No.  But having one’s important to me because it’s allowing me to document and share the progress I’m making with my juggling.

On the other hand there’s some things that are clearly contributing to the clutter and therefore stress in my life without benefiting me in any way.  For example, my Wii.  I haven’t played video games in almost two years and I have no intention of ever playing them again.

I had kept the Wii simply because subconsciously I thought that sometime if a friend was over on a rainy day we might bring it out.  But even if that were to happen, would keeping it all this time have been worth it?

Once I found out the answer to that question there was no doubt in my mind that it was time to sell it.  I’ve finished rounding up all my games and controllers and plan to list it on eBay or craigslist sometime this week.

Procrastination with electronic clutter is even more expensive than other types of clutter because in addition to the constant energy they steal from you, electronics also lose value the longer you keep them.  I probably could have sold my Wii for twice as much if I had sold it the day I decided to stop playing it.

My recommendation to you is to keep only the possessions that are clearly contributing to your life.  You don’t need to be a hardcore minimalist and fit all your possessions into a backpack like some do.

Doing so could provide for some interesting opportunities to travel, but it’s not a necessity to benefit from the idea behind minimalism.  Regardless of whether travel’s important to you or not, everyone can benefit from getting rid of the excess possessions that aren’t truly important to them.

When you’re trying to decide whether you should keep something or not ask yourself these two questions.  Is this object contributing significant value to my life?  If not, is it likely it will in the future?  If you answer no to both questions, it’s probably time to get rid of it.

Of course, some things have sentimental value and are worth keeping.  Your diploma, the last letter your grandpa wrote you before passing away, the first picture your child ever drew.

But most of the clutter you’ve got lying the house is exactly that. Clutter.  Useless garbage you’re only keeping because you don’t feel like making a decision on what you want to do with it.

I urge you to consciously evaluate the clutter in your life.  You won’t regret it.

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