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I spent the better half of 2020 preparing to move, and it taught me a lot about what I don’t need.
The reason for moving, however, was all positive. I’d recently gotten engaged and planned to move to Virginia with my fiancé after our wedding. So, in between days of full-time work and after-hours wedding planning and Skype calls with my other half, I was figuring out how to cram 25 years-worth of stuff into bins and boxes for a somewhat less stressful life transition.
The Process of Moving Shows You How Much Clutter You Own
Anyone who has ever moved knows that it doesn’t seem like your belongings will take long to pack until you actually begin packing. That’s when you realize you own way too many things. I definitely owned way too many things. I began selling stuff online, giving clothes away and bringing bags of miscellaneous items to Goodwill, but I couldn’t stop buying more—more clothes, more seasonal decor, more shoes for work, more books to add to my will-one-day-read list, and the list goes on.
So you can imagine my now-husband’s face when all my bins and boxes filled the apartment, while he had only brought a backpack and a couple large duffle bags that contained everything he owned.
One characteristic that sets us apart is our spending habits. I love shopping and swiping my card at every corner, and he doesn’t—he buys what’s necessary and is quick to gently inform me that the tabletop decor at Target isn’t really something I need.
But while packing, I noticed that even though I enjoyed every new outfit or purse that I bought, I began hating the clutter. Before moving, my closet and drawers were literally so full of clothing that one more shirt would involve some rearranging to make it fit. That decor I loved ended up stowed away somewhere because there was no room for it anywhere else! I constantly felt crowded, unclean and irritated.
After a month of shadowing my husband’s habits and seeing how little he needed to live happily, I began to see my hoarding habit through a new lens. Half of the things I own are sitting in the closet, forgotten or unused. What a waste of space and money!
I’m Not a Minimalist, But I Definitely Want to Declutter
We watched a documentary on minimalism together, and that really opened my eyes to a lesson I’ve heard my entire life but never really listened to: Things don’t buy happiness. They don’t add to our lives, at least not in the long run; maybe a board game will bring a family together for a special night of laughter and sharing, but at the end of our life, the decor and purses and trendy outfits just don’t matter.
I’ve spent years mindlessly buying items that I wanted so badly in the moment that I didn’t think twice before throwing them in my cart and shoving it among the rest of my stuff when I got home. Then I wasted time organizing and packing it all to carry more than 1,000 miles across the country, time I could have spent with family, or reading, or learning how to speak Spanish fluently (a longtime goal that I haven’t gotten around to yet—sigh).
I’m not minimalist by any means (I’m basically in spending rehab right now), and minimalism isn’t for everyone. But the idea that enchanted me so much was that you can have the things you need and a few mementos that cleaning queen Marie Kondo would say “spark joy” without feeling like you’re drowning under too much stuff.
To put this idea into perspective, I always imagine what I would gather from my home if there was an emergency, like a fire. If you had just a minute to grab what you wanted before running out, would it be that new KitchenAid mixer? For me, it was a binder of my important documents (birth certificate, Social Security card, etc.), a couple of our wedding mementos, a USB with years of family photos, an antique necklace passed down from my grandma, my laptop, my Bible and a bubblegum pink 1950s Royal typewriter gifted to me from my parents.
With those few items, I would be content to start over. A home free of clutter also frees you up to enjoy other areas of your life. Lately I’ve felt the pull to dedicate more time to my faith, but the stack of dirty dishes and crammed dresser drawers usually got my attention first. Cutting back on clothes and mug purchases to begin with would definitely have helped.
But as I start bidding adieu to these dust-collectors, I’ve found myself with extra time to devote to study and prayer, with the added bonus of being able to focus on the joy that God alone gives me, rather than worrying about the mess I need to clean when I’m finished. Author Wendy Speake said it best in her book, The 40-Day Social Media Fast: “The less you’re owned by stuff, the more room you make for God. And the more room you make for him, the less you’ll feel compelled to buy more fillers.”
Perhaps Less Really Is More
Now that I have my own home, a husband and a dear pet cat to care for, my perspective has shifted. I love our nights spent together, making home-cooked meals and watching reruns of Flea Market Flip. The memories and experiences we build together will be what we hold onto through the next several decades. They don’t take up space, and the money we save to spend toward a weekend roaming the national parks is better than money spent on trinkets that will sit around and just require more boxes the next time we move.
Whenever that day comes, I plan on loading just a few boxes of necessary items and sentimental pieces. Besides that, I only need my health and a heart full of memories that will never lose their value. There will always be space for those.
Need help curbing your spending? Financial guru Rachel Cruze shares ways to stay money smart this year: Know Yourself, Know Your Money With Rachel Cruze – 153