As I continue to think of the madness that was Black Friday here in the US, my mind goes back to a decision my wife and I made about 3 years ago. We agreed we had way too much stuff when it took a fully loaded tractor trailor to move us from place to place as I changed jobs. As we unpacked in Memphis, we agreed things had to change. We had “stuff” stacked in corners, over filled closets, kitchen cabinets with more unitasking appliances than we ever could use, stacks of books we’d read a few times, and other gathered knick-knacks. Our son’s “stuff” was just as overwhelming as he had well over 1000 to 1200 Hot Wheels. We committed to each other we would change our ways and see if we could clear away the clutter.
Deciding to do it was the easy part. Actually doing it, on the other hand, was painful, especially for me. Those of you who have known me personally for any length of time, know what kind of a pack-rat I am, especially where books and electronics are concerned. If it is a gadget, my overwhelming desire is to buy it, even if I don’t really have a need for it and keep it forever. You never know when that Creative Nomad MP3 player will be useful, or the cable connector to convert a Sun Grapics Monitor from the funky DVI connection to VGA will be needed. And USB cables, you’ve got to have at least 3 cables for every device and extensions for backup right? I was just as bad about software. I had OS’s back to CPM including PC and MS Dos, Windows 1 through XP, including a special autographed copy of WindowsME. I even had 8 in floppies in a box, never used. I had more video cards, network adapters, and multiple caseless hard drives all boxed, and “ready to use.” I don’t know WHY I gathered so much stuff; maybe I was secretly hoping to single handedly save the world after the collapse of society with my antiquated, yet good as new technology.
My wife started us out by going through the kitchen cabinets and closets. Shoes we didn’t wear anymore but still had some usability went into the donate stack, the others, to the trash. I went from 7 pairs of shoes to 3. She dropped by more than half as well. She took out any article of clothing she knew she hadn’t worn in over 6 months, not including seasonal items (she did eliminate a few of those based on what she liked) and set it all aside for good will. I was a bit more difficult.
Being a typical guy, I knew there were some things in the closet I hadn’t worn in a while, but I couldn’t tell you what those items were. (I am also “that guy” who sees 5 different shades of red as “red”, but that is another story.) Instead of agonizing over the clothes, I used a tip someone had given me a long time ago. I turned all of the hangers around backwards. Over the next 4 weeks I dressed as I normally would, most of the time forgetting the hangers were backward and getting frustrated when they didn’t come right off with the first pull. After the clothes wee washed they went back in the closet the right way. Doing this began to show what I was wearing. After a month or so, I looked to see what clothes had not turned around the right way and learned a few things.
- I am very boring. I wear the same 8 to 10 shirts all of the time
- I am EXTREMELY boring. I wear the same three colors of pants all of the time, Black, Tan, and Blue
- I am SO EXTREMELY BORING. All of my shirts look very similar and can go with any of the three color pants of the handful of jeans I own
Besides realizing I need a fashion intervention, I discovered several shirts I had purchased and worn once or twice still on the backwards hangers after 6 weeks. I did two things, first I went through the clothes I wear constantly and retired about half of them. The clothes in decent shape went to Goodwill, the others went to the rag pile or trash. (I never donate something that is not still useful.) I then went though the clothes I hadn’t worn and donated the clothes I knew I’d never wear (Like a REALLY green shirt, you know the kind, the green is SO green, it hurts to look at it) and filled in the gaps from the older clothes I had removed. The rest were, you guessed it, donated.
I gained a huge amount of space in my side of our closet and felt better not having so much stuffed in there. Now, my wife and I operate on the principle of buy and replace when it comes to clothes. When we buy some new article of clothing, unless it is a special piece, like a Christmas sweater, etc., we remove an equal or greater number of older clothes and donate or eliminate as the case may be. We do this with my son’s wardrobe as well and it is remarkable how much easier it is to close the drawers of his dresser.
Clothing was probably the easiest thing for me to let go of because, as I stated above, I am boring when it comes to how I dress. Moving on to the library (read stacks laying everywhere) of hundreds of books and magazines was an adventure. I’ll tell that story another time, but now I’d like to hear your thoughts on this idea of Simplification. Do we have too much “Stuff?” What do you do to eliminate the extra fluff in your home and life?