“Far too much stock is placed in material values. They are important, but they will not solve our stress, anxiety, fear, anger, or frustration.”-Dalai Lama
As an advocate of simple living and decluttering, you will find me saying quite often that extra stuff we have around the house would be better off gone, giving us more space to think, move and be.
However, as the Dalai Lama points out, ‘material values (things)’ are still important and do contribute positively to our lives in many ways.
There is nothing wrong with owning items that contribute to our wellbeing, our health, happiness and which make our lives easier. Having a surplus of items that do not contribute in these ways is when it may be time to consider paring down.
There is a popular quote that circulates among minimalists and simple living advocates-
“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” –William Morris
This week I’m personally taking a look in my home and asking myself the questions below to identify what is useful and beautiful, and what is not. I’m not decluttering so much as just taking note and deciding if what I do have in my home meets these standards.
When Things Make Life Better
Looking around my home, I can see things I own that instantly make life easier, simpler and better for me. A washing machine and dryer are big ones for me, as well as excellent quality pots, pans and kitchen knives. Other items that I’ve noticed that I use on an almost daily basis and increase my enjoyment and ease in life include my vehicle, my Kindle and my laptop.
I believe owning things does make our life better. Having the basic necessities of shelter, food and clothing are obvious, but anything that makes our lives easier and simpler, allows us to focus more on what is truly important. There are so many conveniences we now enjoy that have increased our ‘free time’. Hopefully, we choose to use that extra time to build lasting relationships and make positive changes.
I have found that as I simplify, there are two different categories my ‘stuff’ falls into, Useful or Beautiful, and I suppose some of my belongings could fall into both. When I am making a decision to purchase something new, or whether an item should stay in my home, I put it to the test with these questions-
–Is this item something to be enjoyed? If so, will the enjoyment of it surpass my contentment of the current empty space it will take up, as well as the free time I currently have because I do not have to care for it? How will I enjoy this?
–Is this item something to be used? If so, how often will I be using it? Do I currently own anything else that can ‘do the job’ of this item? Will this be a duplicate item? Is it good quality, or will I have to purchase it again?
Answering these questions helps me determine what things will make my life better and are worth owning and bringing into my home.
What Stuff Is Useful
There are many things that have been created with the purpose of being useful. But what does useful actually mean?
One definition that I like is that something is useful when it is “able to be used for a practical purpose or in several ways”.
What I like about that description of the word is it helps me to consider when keeping or purchasing something, whether or not it can fulfill the job of several items, or if it is practical and useful enough to keep solely for one type of use.
A few examples of how I’ve applied this to my own daily life-
Cosmetics. Instead of owning both daytime and evening facial lotions, I purchase a lotion that is good for anytime use. I buy cosmetics that can double in use such as both eye shadow and eyeliner.
Cleaning sprays. Instead of buying a bottle of toilet bowl cleaner, shower cleaner, mirror wipes and kitchen spray, I buy a bottle of all-purpose cleaner that can be used in every area of the house.
Furniture. Instead of having both bookcases and end tables throughout the house, I keep bookcases next to chairs, with the nearest shelf clear for use as the ‘end table’. Having a smaller surface area as an end table also helps keep from creating piles that usually creep onto those tables.
Kitchen appliances. This is a difficult one in my home, as my husband loves to cook and loves all of his appliances. That being said, I can name several kitchen appliances we have that I feel overlap in functions and could be consolidated. The electric knife for carving at holidays versus our high quality knife set; our mandolin versus the food processor, and the hand blender versus the regular blender.
What items in your home can be used for more than one purpose? Are there any things you could part with because you already have something else you use in their place more frequently?
What Stuff Is Beautiful
There is so much that is beautiful in our lives; nature scenes, vibrant colors, soothing sounds, artwork and music to name a few. Possession of beautiful things in our lives can enhance our wonder and our appreciation for the simple, yet good things on a daily basis.
I keep several things in our home that are there simply for their quality of beauty. Yet, they still serve a purpose of adding peace, contentment and wonder to our lives. As I looked around my home, I realized the following things I own mainly for their beauty to me-
The houseplants I purchased at a local grocery store. They are a collection of smaller plants, all potted together, but create a beautiful picture of nature inside our home.
An aluminum kitchen backsplash picture, taken while we were on a family trip through Vermont during autumn. The colors of the leaves were unbelievable, and through the picture, we get to enjoy them everyday.
I own a small collection of Willow Tree wood statues, all of which have a different meaning to me. I love looking at them and thinking about what each one represents in my life.
The pictures hanging on our walls are few in number, but consist only of what is beautiful to our family. Our family pictures as well as outdoor scenes from various places we have lived and enjoyed are the main focus.
Consider taking a look around your home today and noticing what you keep simply because you think it adds beauty to your life. Do you have just enough that you enjoy each of them on a regular basis, or so many that you don’t notice a lot of them anymore? If the latter is the case, take some time to choose those items that bring the most enjoyment and beauty into your home, and let the others go.
When You Can’t Let Go Of Something Not Beautiful Or Useful
Sometimes I find myself holding onto things that I don’t use, or even find enjoyable to have around. This has included items of new clothing that I didn’t like as much once I got home from the store, books I thought I would read and drawers full of pens to serve as 50 backups.
Those are fairly simple things, but I’ve also found that I’ve kept other things because I felt like I was supposed to want to keep them. For instance, I held onto a food processor for over ten years and used it only once, because it was a gift from a coworker that had passed shortly after I got married. I also kept religious pictures and pages of text hanging on my walls for years, because it was expected to show my devotion.
What I’ve come to understand about not letting go of stuff, is that my reasons usually stem from one major thing: guilt. Maybe yours do too.
Guilt for spending money on the item in the first place.
Guilt for not using the item as much as you intended.
Guilt for getting rid of a gift from someone you love.
Guilt for not wanting the item, even though it’s a family heirloom.
Guilt for getting into debt to buy the item.
What I’ve also learned is that guilt is detrimental to progress and growth. You have to let it go and move on to progress in life, and that includes progressing in the area of ownership or de-ownership of stuff.
If you have some extra time, check out the links in the list above. I’ve written several prior posts on how to get past the feelings of guilt that keep us from having more than what is useful or beautiful in our homes.