How I Threw Away A Ton Of Stuff
Even the important stuff.
Understandably, it can be very difficult, at times even seemingly impossible to throw away your stuff.
I would know, after all. I spent the last few months giving my space a complete overhaul.
After throwing away what would amount to about a person’s weight in pure junk, I proceeded to then throw away items which I used to hold dear but eventually parted with, nonetheless.
I forged on with the goal of having a space I can finally call my ideal design, the result of which is what you see here:
In my journey to unclutter my room — and by extension my mind, I learned a few things that helped me throw away the things I did.
In Japan, the general term for throwing away stuff is ‘suteru’ and someone who is obsessed with throwing things away is called (impolite) ‘sute-yaro’.
Many of these tips come from the Japanese who, as always, have formulated a philosophy into a system.
It was a Japanese whose book guided me into Minimalism, after all.
Before I continue, we need to understand that a Minimalist is not necessarily someone who only throws stuff away.
The act itself should have an effect that transcends the physical.
Getting rid of stuff is a step of the process; not the process itself.
This is important to know, otherwise you will only hate yourself for having thrown away that which mattered to you.
So if you are not in the mindset for this life-change, you should not throw your stuff out first until you are ready.
To begin with, these are some of the things I got rid of:
- Books from both my younger and current days.
- Knick-knacks of all shapes and sizes, including a metallic hourglass that my father gave me when I was about 8.
- Antiques, including a Jeep military radio that my father kept in my room and forgot about.
- Music and game CDs, most of which were pirated content. These were from the days when no one would punish you for being a kid that couldn’t afford real games with stupid piracy traps, that the game companies try to justify with “protecting creators’ interests” while earning huge salaries yet paying their artists peanuts :D
- Old toys I forgot I kept.
- Outdated, long-spoilt electronics, including cameras from the 00s.
- Old DV tapes from my film studies days.
- LOTS of papers; a good forest’s worth.
- Old clothes that no longer fit, since my waistline number exceeded my age. I gave them away to a volunteer senior citizen aid group.
- Random tools that I had in abundance for some reason.
- PVC pipes that I used for a makeshift steady-cam rig, when I was serious about film-making in my school days.
- Stationery items including expensive pens, pencils and markers that I binge-bought at ArtFriend; these were the hardest to part with.
- Love-letters from National Service; these were the easiest to part with.
Why We (Think We) Can’t Throw Stuff Away
As you can see, I disposed of a lot of items that at first, seemed like they held more than their intrinsic value.
Like most people, my tendency was to hover that item over the open garbage bag for a while thinking if I could really bear to part with it.
The main thing that stops most people from throwing something (that isn’t garbage) away, is the notion that its value — be it monetary or memorial — has not yet expired.
We think that because we spent so much money on it, it’s a waste to discard.
Or that we remember how difficult it was to acquire it that it’s not deserving of being thrown.
The act of throwing out forces us to look at these items from the pile individually, therefore we hesitate.
Think about it this way, though: When you go on holiday, do you insist that the hotel rooms you stay in be clean and free of clutter, or filled with the stuff from your apartment?
If we are on a break from our lives — including our homes, then isn’t there credence to the notion that we are also getting away from our stuff as well?
We would think that it is our stuff makes it our “perfect home”; therefore, it’s quite ironic that our vacations are spent so much time away from all that stuff.
The Most Valuable Commodity In Existence
The ideal Minimalist, in my opinion, is someone who understands what the most valuable item is.
They would, albeit reluctantly, be able to let go of belongings, whether it was taken from them or gotten rid of by, because they understand that so long as they are in possession of this one commodity, they shall endure anything.
“To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.” — Lao Tzu
While looking at each item brought back memories of when you first held it, it’s also important to note that the sum of these parts is what constitutes the greater mess that is cluttering your life.
Which is why I mentioned that committing to minimizing is not simply throwing stuff away — without the reason for doing it.
We are but transient visitors in the passage of Time.
Our need for leaving our mark in the soil is natural; yet our importance is measured not by the depth of our prints, but by their clarity in the sand.
It’s ultimately a question of which do you value more; your temporary items or your peace of mind?
Taking The Steps
With that out of the way, you should be having an easier time understanding how you got to wanting to minimize at all.
Say you’ve decided to make the leap, here are some tips I found and others I read up on to help you throw your stuff.
- Does the item still evoke the same emotion when you first acquired it?
If it doesn’t, throw it out, but remember to be grateful as you do so.
2. Minimize your definition of its usefulness.
Start to seriously contemplate what use the item has as a need in your daily life. ‘Keeping you sane or your morality in check’ is not a need; that is an excuse.
For example, a pair of well-made scissors can be kept, versus a gunpla figurine that does nothing but occupy space.
3. Remember that your ability to be happy is the most important item.
Throw away items that do not contribute to your upkeep of happiness.
If you are a militant hoarder who defends that every item you keep is somehow contributing to your happiness… then know that your best thinking is what got you here in the first place.
4. Throw away the one item you never thought you could part with.
Every pre-minimalist has had that one item that they thought they could never throw out; but felt much easier throwing everything else away once that barrier item was gone.
5. Allow yourself items that convey your ownership, not personality, of your space.
While a figurine may do well in conveying ownership of your room / apartment, you do not need 10 or 50 of them to let people know who lives there.
I have a wooden dragon that I kept, as a sort of mascot item I allowed myself.
Still, it sits on a shelf that does not get in the way of anything, so even if I did let myself keep it, I made sure it won’t end up being a hindrance.
Instead of remaining a knick-knack, I can now showcase as it deserves — another benefit of minimizing.
6. Every item is an occasion to contemplate what’s truly important.
In the process of revisiting the thoughts each item brings, you enable yourself clear up a lot of baggage mentally i.e. vacuuming the dust.
Once that is done, throwing away the physical object becomes secondary.
These are the same steps I took when I cleared my space of years of clutter and accumulation.
The evolution in my thought process went from ‘what I could bear to part with’, to ‘what I can bear to live with’.
Hope it helps!