7 Lessons From a Girl Who Got Rid of 90% Of Her Stuff
Being able to tell the world I got rid of 90% of my stuff and live to tell the tale sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it?
Yes, my life drastically improved after getting rid of all that stuff.
Yes, I only kept things I truly needed and loved.
But decluttering sucked. Becoming a minimalist sucked. It took years to accumulate it all and three months to get rid of it.
Calling the whole thing a tough process was an understatement. You would think it’ll be such a cathartic experience. But it wasn’t the case. Actually, I experienced a wave of emotions that took me by surprise.
Seriously, it was like PMS.
Why the F()*#K Would You Get Rid of All Your Stuff?
The short answer was that I no longer needed any of it.
The long answer is that I realized how much money and time I wasted accumulating all of it.. It reminded me of a time when I felt so low about myself that I bought and bought and bought. I couldn’t bear to look at them anymore
Plus, I’m living in a super tiny apartment with a neat freak husband and a two-year-old that can’t seem to get enough closet space (is it me or are other people’s relatives dying to see little people in adorable outfits?). If I were to take all my stuff out and *gasp* display them, we’d wouldn’t be living in a house, we’d be in the middle of a curio cabinet.
From what felt like a treasure hunt opening my storage unit, to taking that crap out, to the realization I didn’t need it, to letting all of it go, I guess I learned a few things here and there.
Lesson #1 — You Will Want to Vomit
You may not have to deal with a dusty storage unit like I did, but if you have a lot of items in storage, I bet you five bucks you’ll find cobwebs or even those elusive dead bugs hiding in nooks and crannies you never thought existed. Or mold. Smelly mold.
So yeah, you could dump all your stuff by the curb and let someone else deal with it, but at some point you think you might want to sell some of it.
There were 500 Pez dispensers I wanted to get rid of. I knew for a fact a ton of devoted collectors go gaga over these collectibles, enough to convince me the Pez would be worth hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.
Let’s not forget the hours of internet browsing to see how much my 100 rare vinyl records were worth.
Back to the vomit.
If you have items stored away for years (in my case, over ten), creepy crawlies and other assorted goods will get in there. Opening boxes upon boxes of stuff, I had to stop myself before I made a big mess all over my Pez dispensers.
Not sure how many people talk about how gross unused items are, but unless you have a love for dead bugs and musty smells, you will hate this part of the process.
Consider yourself warned.
Lesson #2 — You Will Feel Sorry For People Who Buy Your Stuff
“We first wasted money buying those pillows, we then had to purchase a bin to store them in while we slept, we had to clean them periodically, and ultimately, they came to represent a dreaded daily chore. All because I thought we should have throw pillows.” — Mrs. Frugalwoods
Posting my Pez dispensers on Etsy was the easiest (and cheapest) solution I could think of to sell it off. Focusing on getting it out of my house as fast as possible, I made my items dirt cheap.
And getting out of the house quickly it did. As in, one person wanted to buy 90% of my collection. After some serious negotiations, I shipped everything off to this person within a few days.
Now you’d think I was ecstatic about getting rid of it and making a few bucks in the process. For whatever reason, I felt sorry for him. In fact, I kept imagining this person living a lonely existence and shopping was the only way he felt connected with the world.
This pity party lasted a few days. So much so I talked my husband’s ears off about the whole incident. As he gently reminded me, it doesn’t matter what somebody else does with my stuff. And he could have been reselling these items off Ebay as we speak and making some mad cash.
So yeah. You will imagine what your buyers will do with your stuff. Or you may feel bad for those who take secondhand stuff, something that crossed my mind when I was dropping a few items off at Goodwill.
Lesson # 3 — You Will Feel Cheated
The brutal truth is that you’ll place a higher value on the items than others will. It’s not your fault, it’s just that people are looking for a deal when buying used goods, even if that item has never been opened.
When I decided to sell my vinyl record collection, I wanted to sell my record player first for $35. A woman replied to my online ad asking about it and only wanted to pay $25.
I wanted to tell her to F*($k off.
Luckily, the sensible part of me took over before that happened. Instead, I reminded myself that the whole point was to depart with it. The woman was just trying to see if she could buy it at a lower price. What’s the harm in that?
Once I let go of the feeling of being cheated, I offered it to her at $30.
It pains me to even admit this, but I felt cheated more than once. Remember when my husband said the person who bought my Pez dispensers was probably selling them on Ebay? No lie, I stalked listings to see if any of my stuff was being sold. My husband, after seeing me do this for a solid two weeks, kindly hid my computer and offered to take me to counseling.
Lesson #4 — You Will Feel Really Angry
That’s why most people don’t care about their souls, about their hearts and about what they feel inwards. They only care about how it all looks on the surface. They only care about making themselves and their lives look perfect on the outside, failing to realize that the inside is falling into pieces. — Luminita D. Savuic
There were boxes of cameras I never used.
There were quite a few vinyl records were in their original shrink wrap.
There were mountain of clothes that still had the tags on them.
Curiosity got the better of me and I added up all the money I spent: a grand total of $500.
For the rest of the day I was snippy and couldn’t figure out why until I realized that I was angry with myself for being such a fool with my money.
Seeing that number had me seeing red. As in, how could I be so stupid with my money? What compelled me to throw it away like that?
After the anger subsided, I realized that this is an unfortunate part of the decluttering process. It forces you come to terms with all the mistakes you’ve made with your money. As in, I could have put the money I spent on all those cameras and vinyl records in a retirement account. That $500 could have easily grown to $700 or more. Thinking about these what ifs will cause a lot of regret and resentment, which turns into anger.
I dare you to add up the monetary value of the items you’ve never used and see how much it comes out to. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Lesson #5 — You Will Regret Getting Rid of Things at Some Point
“Our memories are within us, not within our things” — The Minimalists
What minimalism and other decluttering blogs won’t tell you is that you’ll harbor feelings of regret over donated or sold items.
There’s probably mention of sentimental items, but nobody talks about what happens after you finally let them go.
When you see more space in your home, you’ll start thinking about those items you could have used. You may even go so far as to think about memories associated with them.
When I shipped off all my vinyl records, I had vivid flashbacks of spending time with friends and a boy I had a crush on for years. We were in my basement listening to songs, drinking coffee and reminiscing about life. We spoke about our hopes, dreams and what we would do when we won the lottery. I wanted so badly to get the records back and listen to those songs one more time.
Instead, I told myself those friendships were no longer a part of my life and moved on.
Lesson #6 — You May Relive Some of The Crappiest Moments In Your Life
Going through each item when you’re decluttering forces you to think about why you actually bought that stuff in the first place. As in, what need were you trying to fill when you made those purchases?
Decluttering is so hard for many because they don’t want to relive those moments when they go shopping to numb the pain. Or to affirm a sense of self-worth.
Reminiscing about lost friendships and why I constantly felt ashamed forced me to realized that I tied my identity to my things. I bought many of these items to make friends. I was known as “pezgirl”, the quirky girl who had a massive Pez dispenser collection. People were intrigued and would want to talk to me. I also bought vinyl records I thought would make me interesting. It was as if I wasn’t worth being around without any of that stuff.
Lesson #7 — You Will Finally Learn It’s More About the Stuff
The goal of minimalism is not to remove desire entirely from my life. Instead, the goal of minimalism is to redirect my desires. — Joshua Becker, Becoming Minimalist
Decluttering your things isn’t about the physical items, but what it represents. It’s about taking matters back into your own hands.
Want to make some cash quickly to pay down your debt? Sell your things.
Want to move to smaller house? Get rid of all the items in your spare bedroom.
Want to get rid of emotional baggage? Donate items given you by past friends and lovers.
The truth is, decluttering is meant to be emotional. You’re making a change, and it’s never easy. When you finally purge all the unnecessary clutter from your life though, you’ll find yourself changing for the better. You’ll make more informed decisions. You won’t waste as much money as before.
The entire process may suck, but it’s oh so worth it.
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