Not empty, but free…

…not clean, but minimal; bare, but rich.

Recently, I’ve been spending a lot of time decluttering with weekly trips to the donation center, items for sale on eBay, and bags of things in my car. Having always drowned in the first world problem of too much stuff, I realized something had to change when I realized how much of my time was spent dealing with my stuff. I’m not even a homeowner!

What I realized in the midst of dealing with my things was just how much of a burden owning something could be. First, it takes your money (unless you got it for free…but of course, nothing is truly “free”). Then it takes your space as you give it a home. Then, when it needs maintenance (cleaning, fixing…), it takes more money and time that could have been used on your next dream vacation. And, when all is said and done, either you sell it, trash it, give it away, or donate it – or it settles into a permanent residence in the back of your closet or basement corner collecting dust and getting walked over by dust mites. Even worse, the poor thing, stripped of all dignity, still occupies a space in your cabinet completely unnoticed but in the way of other things. Despite having put it in the corner to be forgotten, sometimes it finds its way back into the fray and eats up more of your life. If it was an object that you meant to take care of or use, then every time you see it, you might find yourself burdened with the thought that you were “supposed” to do what that item wanted you to do – that pile of yarn telling you that you need to finish this sweater, or that broken toy you “need” to fix. And then, despite being that item’s master and owner, that item has owned you and imposed a burden on you.

Just...just toss it.
Just…just toss it. All of it.

You are not what you own. You are a sum of your experiences. Don’t be bogged down by your stuff.

We all know that we should spend your money on experiences, not things, to obtain happiness. Your things can help you achieve that – the shoes that will carry you to your destination, the frisbee you chase at the beach with your friends, the swimsuit you swim in. Leave behind the items that no longer serve you or are no longer relevant to you – that project you meant to finish for the past 5 years, but never seem to have time for, that ugly sweater that someone else might wear lovingly (read: goodwill), useless gifts from people (gifts are difficult – they’re meant as a gesture of kindness but they can also chain you emotionally)…liberate yourself so you can fully experience your present self.

I love free surfaces
I love free surfaces. The table might not actually be clean, but it looks like it is!

This same principle of decluttering applies to other things in life – people you let into your life, the food that you eat, invitations you accept, and commitments you decide to make. When you eliminate the excess, you’ll feel lighter, clearer-minded, and more focused.

I’ve always been drawn to John Pawson, the famous minimalist architect. He blends intimacy and minimalism with his luxurious emptiness. It makes a lot of sense – when you strip out all the excess, you’re left with a vast amount of space. With space you can have movement, and with movement, you are free. With emptiness, you’re left with infinite potential, infinite freedom, a feeling of lightness. Ahhhh.

Image courtesy of
Image courtesy of

Do you also suffer from having too much stuff? How has that affected your life?

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