A key focus of my blog is Health/Wellness. A key aspect to our lives is our living space. Sometimes our living space becomes unhealthy to our attachment to items and things. There’s a healthy balance to managing your belongings and your living space. The following contributed post is entitled, How to Manage Your Relationship With Stuff.
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Image Credit: Pexels CC0 Licence
‘Stuff’ was a big topic in 2019 and it’s no surprise that 2020 is set to continue the conversation. As we watch the planet change due to our activities, it is natural to question the wisdom that has gone before. Challenging how we live and what we accumulate along the way is a sensible start but it isn’t as simple as throwing everything away and starting again. In fact, that would be a disaster!
Learning to manage your relationship with stuff is about more than being tidy. You need to learn the difference between needs and wants, better understand terms like quality and value for money and only then begin to live with a little less.
How Much Stuff Do I Already Have?
There are some incredible statistics out there that really show how we relate to stuff. For example, the average American home has doubled in size over the last 50 years and now contains around 300,000 items. Just trying to imagine that is quite difficult but if you consider the number of pens, pots, pans and pairs of pants you own, you can see how quickly the numbers add up – and we’ve not even considered the rest of the alphabet yet!
Another interesting statistic claims that 10% of Americans also rent off-site storage. This is madness when you consider that you could get a simple residential shed from twin city sheds for your garden but even crazier when you ask how often these people actually use those belongings (almost never). So why do people continue to pay to store things they don’t need? Because they don’t have a healthy relationship with stuff or really know what they need.
Having stuff makes us feel successful and safe. Knowing that you have a thing – even if you never use it – is reassuring because it might come in useful in the future. But that way lies hoarding and an unhealthy obsession with gathering and holding onto stuff. The classic item is a pair of trousers you are going to slim into at some point in the future. You keep hold of them because they cement the idea that a “better you” is possible and you need to be prepared for that eventuality. But, of course, the future never comes.
How Much Stuff Do I Actually Need?
The amount of stuff you personally need depends entirely on who you are and what you want to achieve. If you are an artist, for example, you might have a lot of stuff so that you can pursue your work. If you are a parent, you will probably have more toys than you think you need but your kids will insist otherwise! If you are a determined and radical minimalist, you might have just a few important things and little else.
There are a few ways to realize that you have more stuff than you need but perhaps the most obvious is that there is stuff everywhere. When you literally can’t put things away because there is no storage left, you need to reconsider what you need and what can go.
Imagine for a second that your home is completely empty – what do you need? When you start writing your list, you will quickly find that the number of items racks up. But, when you then go around your house, you will see how many items didn’t make the list but are still there. These are the items that you should now think about more ruthlessly. You don’t need them, so do you really want them?
Learning to Live With Less
Buying less is a great way to save money, space and sanity. When you stop bringing more and more unnecessary stuff into your house, the space you have will feel a lot bigger and calmer. But how do you curb the tide of stuff?
One good idea is to start focusing on experiences instead of things. This is really popular with younger people who value experience far more than things. There are a few interesting suggestions as to why but perhaps the most interesting is that millennials were watching in 2008 when the markets crashed and suddenly people didn’t own their stuff anymore. It seems like a natural response to choose experiences, where the memory will last a lifetime, when you can’t rely on keeping your stuff forever. This generation has also grown up with a sharing economy, endless pressure to update social media showing off an incredible lifestyle and genuinely can’t afford to accumulate stuff anyway!
By focusing on experience, you can also add value to your life. Investing in travel or education or a particular passion will bring you far more joy than buying more and more stuff to fill up your house. Of course, as your interests change, you might find yourself purchasing items to explore a particular passion or hobby. But what is important is that you recognize when your interest is spent and it’s time to get rid and move on.
Selecting the Right Stuff
When you are comfortable living with less, it’s important that you then learn to select the right stuff. Instead of buying a variety of things in the interim, making do with what you have and then investing on the things you really want is far smarter. A little of something perfect is often preferable to a lot of something imperfect.
Quality and value for money are the key phrases here. Buying something of a high quality is often more expensive but if it lasts longer than comparable products, it is a good investment. This is one of the reasons smart spending is so important. Saving up and spending more can actually save you money in the long term.
When you are less dependent on stuff for your happiness, you own less clutter and value experience more, you are likely to be happier, healthier and calmer. But don’t try to change your lifestyle completely overnight. Like any relationship, your relationship with stuff takes time to build and will always include a bit of negotiation!