If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you know I am in constant struggle with myself over super minimalism and owning too much stuff. My progress is slow and while there isn’t much difference between now and the last 6 months, there is a huge difference between now and 5 years ago and more importantly my attitude has completely changed which is really the key first step. And yes I know I sound like a broken record about this sometimes but that’s only because it’s actually incredibly important to me and sometimes gets overwhelming.

Recently I’ve been having fantasies of getting rid of every single thing I own. Not because I would ever actually do it, but just because of how freeing it would feel. Let me make that clear, I could never get rid of everything, even though I really do want to get rid of a lot. I haven’t read All My Life For Sale but that’s kind of the flash fantasies I’ve been having. Of course those come with complete panic as well because the thought of trying to sell every single thing seems like such an impossible task. But mostly, there are a few objects that are incredibly sentimental to me and I don’t think I could ever really part with them. I know people who decide to get rid of things by putting them in storage and then calculating the cost of the storage vs the value of the item, when storage becomes more expensive then replacing it they get rid of it. I think that’s a pretty good method for things aren’t irreplaceable.

I could just throw it all out or donate it but the truth is I have debts I’d like to pay off some day and I’m fairly certain the value of my stuff far exceeds what ever I owe so selling things definitely trumps just walking away from them empty handed. For more background on this I recommend It’s All Too Much which spends a lot of time talking about how stuff doesn’t really enrich your life, and having less of it allows you to live more fully. I know from my own experience that this is definitely based in fact – perhaps it’s the feeling of suddenly not being tied to so much that let’s you do so much more.

My problem is that when I get in this mindset and start looking around at what I can get rid of I start thinking of all the reasons why I can’t get rid of that. I started to think that perhaps I’m approaching things from the wrong side. Rather than looking at everything I have and trying to find places I could reduce, maybe what I should be doing is assume it’s all gone, and then see what I need and miss the most. This is kind of the desert island approach – if you could only take 5 things with you, what would the be?

So 5 things might be too limiting, but categorizing my stuff might end up making things easier to sort through. Or that’s my current thought anyway. Over the next few weeks I’m going to try and break things into a few categories that should help me isolate the expendables a bit easier. This isn’t final, but here’s the 6 piles I’m starting with:

  • Essentials: Things I can’t live with out, this would include things like clothing.
  • Requirements: While my life doesn’t depend on these things, they play a big part in my quality of life and I’d hate to lose them. This would include things like my laptop and my bike.
  • Irreplaceable: These are things that if I get rid of them they are gone for good. They could include a signed high school year book or a piece of artwork.
  • Replaceable: I have it, I like it, but if I got rid of it today and in 2 years decided I missed it I could most likely get it back in one form or another. I might put an Eames chair or my motorcycle in this category.
  • Expendable: Why the hell do I even still have this? Do I need 4 black hooded sweatshirts? Why do I still have this book that I read 5 years ago and never plan to open again?

I think that is a good start and once I get things mostly classified it will be much easier to start reducing. It’s not as simple as working my way backwards either. While the Expendable category is a no brainer, just because something is in the Irreplaceable category doesn’t mean I should keep it, it simply means I should be aware that goodbye is goodbye for good before I part with it. And similarly just because something is Replaceable doesn’t mean it’s out the door – I could replace my couch but I’m not getting rid of it because I sit on it all the time. You get the idea.

Anyway, a lot of this is simply thinking out loud but just processing this for a post makes it seem to make more sense to me.