Is there such a thing as too much stuff? How much stuff is too much stuff? There’s a lot of advice, and wisdom, out there telling you to downsize, minimise, try the Marie Kwando method, simplify life… . I’ve written a post or two myself (did you note the links here?), as I am a great believer particularly in the latter. Although they all sort of wrap up into each other.
But why is there all this advice? I can tell you, from my perspective at least. It feels good to downsize and own less. This may seem strange, especially if you were brought up in a country where achievement is seen as bigger or more is better.
Here, I’ll ask you a key question. Sit down somewhere, anywhere in your home. Look around you. Now specifically, look at the things around you. Focus in on each item that you can see. One at a time. Can you remember who gave you each item? Or where you bought it for yourself? That’s the key.
If you can look at all, or even most, and they spark a memory, you appreciate what you have. If, on the other hand, most of what surrounds you does not provide a memory of receiving, making or purchasing, then you are into purchasing for the sake of it. And I would guess you have a lot of stuff.
Now I am not here to tell you that you should or should not purchase. Or even, maybe surprisingly, how much. More, what I hope to get people to consider is mindfulness of waste when it comes to what surrounds us in our day to day.
Many of us these days have become more mindful particularly of food waste. Here in France for example, since 2016, it’s against the law for supermarkets to throw away unsold food. Food now has to be reduced to clear or given away. And there’s the popular food app ‘Too Good To Go’ that gives you the opportunity to buy food at reduced cost from shops and restaurants to help stop them wasting food.
Yet wastefulness comes in many forms. One could easily consider a too large house for say 1 or 2 people is wasteful. Or large car. But I’d like to turn that on its head and consider rather than size or quantity it is the money spent that was potentially wasteful.
These days with talk of so much personal debt abounding, doesn’t it make sense to consider that if we didn’t buy bigger or more, but rather paid off debt, saved that money or even do something charitable instead, wouldn’t we be more at peace with ourselves. Life would feel freer, possibly a little less stressful.
My experience has taught me that having only items around me that I can look at and remember the effort a good friend went into making it, or a childhood memory with my parents, makes me happy. A sort of feeling of warmth, like a hug. My things, I guess, give me metaphoric hugs. They relieve stress rather than add to it by simply being too much stuff.
It’s a very different mindset than what I grew up with. It’s a mindfulness that has been a slow progressive journey, but one I am very glad to have the luxury to enjoy now.