One surefire way to pare down your possessions

Photo courtesy of Hernán Piñera

 

There’s a lot of talk these days about minimalism. Apparently, we’ve all gotten so good at acquiring stuff that there now is a trend toward pairing down. It used to be that whoever had the largest house, the biggest amount of stuff, was seen as being culturally “winning”. But eventually, we have found that most of us have more than we can handle.

This can be considered a kind of success. We used to want, and now many of us do not. But we now exist in kind of confused waters: we both want more and less, simultaneously.

But if you’re at the place where you feel like you have too much, like you’re drowning in stuff, and that it’s affecting your equilibrium and your ability to feel at ease, you may want to go on a paring down spree. (For religious, biologic, and tradition reasons, this often happens in the spring.)

I’ve recently learned a certain way to pare down your possessions to a more manageable load. It’s not for everyone right now, but it will likely work for everyone eventually.

Inducing good behavior

Want to pare down your possessions? Sounds great, but it’s a lot of work. And who has time for that?

When there’s a good behavior that is difficult to induce in yourself, you need to put a system in place to induce it. Basically, you need to externailze the mandate.

So if you want to pare down your possessions: move.

Ever known someone who’s lived in the same place for years or even decades? How much stuff do they have? If you’ve ever been to their basement, attic, or storage area, it’s not uncommon to see things there that have been there for pretty much forever. Because there was enough space, the stuff never needed to be dealt with.

When you don’t need to deal with something, chances are you won’t.

But when you up and move, everything comes into consideration. There is a cost, both in effort, time, and money in moving something. So there is no default option anymore. Do you really need all that?

In advance

But just moving isn’t actually enough. After all, if you’re sufficiently well-heeled, you could pay someone to pack up everything and take it to your new place. And even if you’re a manual mover such as myself (relying on the grace of friends), it can be tempting to turn off the decision making mechanism inside you.

So the trick here is to have sufficient time to take stock of your possessions prior to your move. This means that the weeks leading up to the move, you go through each room and identify those possessions that seem like they might be worth scuttling.

Taking time for this in advance of the move will get around one important truism of moving: when the time comes to move, reason goes out the window, and everything gets thrown in a box.

You may be the most organized person on the planet, but when the day comes and all the last minute stuff happens, you will not have the energy to make decisions. Anything that’s there, will come along.

So moving will help you pare down, and preparing for the move in advance will help you pare down more intelligently.

Which leads me to another, if unrelated, truism: moving sucks. Painful, stressful, destabilizing, a serious blow to your equilibrium. And, especially if you are a self-mover, exhausting beyond belief.

So after you pare down, think twice about building up more stuff. Your future self will thank you.

My life.

My life.

But enough about me: do you pare down when you move?

Mike Pumphrey

Mike Pumphrey

I'm the founder and author of Unlikely Radical, a site to help people succeed with money, achieve their goals, and live intentionally.

I offer a free phone consultation to anyone who is interested in changing their financial narrative. Are you ready? Click here for details.
Mike Pumphrey
Posted on November 5, 2015
  • Jess

    I’m preparing for a move next week. Luckily, I’ve been pairing down my possessions this year, even before I knew I was moving.

    I have a “giveaway” box on top of the fridge in my kitchen. Every now and then, I put something I don’t want or need in the box.

    Then, on a Saturday or Sunday, I sit the box in the lobby of my apartment building with a “free” sign on it. People take almost everything. It’s amazing. Even the weird, random stuff like branded coasters from my dentist. (Yes, branded coasters from my dentist. Bad branding at that.)

    This form of pairing down doesn’t get rid of a ton of stuff, but it does help. I’m about 70% packed for my move this week. I’m pleasantly surprised to see fewer boxes than I have in the past. It’s also refreshing to see an inventory of all my possessions, knowing that I actually need or want about 90% of it. The extra 10% I’m still working on shedding. 🙂