HOW TO SORT OUT YOUR HOME
AKA. THE SCIENCE OF LETTING GO
A lot of people got inspired by our process of liberating ourselves from material things and asked us, how we did it.
Well, let us get something straight right away: It didn´t happen overnight. It was a process. But maybe we can speed up your inner process a little with our experience and help. Therefore, we will share with you our 5 top tips that helped us to cut our stuff down, so that now everything we own, fits in a car.
But first we want to examine with you, WHY it is so hard to get rid of your belongings or even more so: Why is it so easy to accumulate so much stuff we do not need anyway, in the first place?!
A LOT OF SPACE CRIES OUT FOR HOARDING
The more space you have, the more you will feel the urge to fill it. I mean, clearly you cannot fill a VAN or one-room apartment with the same amount of belongings like in a house. Vice versa, a big house would look pretty empty if we would fill it with only the things we do possess at the moment. The difference is: Now that we have lived with less, we do think twice about buying something, whilst most people are caught up in the consumption spiral buying anything without consciously thinking about it. If you take a look at some cellars, the sentence "Long absent, soon forgotten", comes to mind. But space should not be a reason for hoarding and letting go consciously of things you do not need, is always very healing, irrespective of where you live and if you are planning to move or not.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
It sure was easier for us to free ourselves from all that material stuff, because the both of us we do have some history of moving from one place to another in a very short period of time. If you have to move a lot, you are really happy about not having too much stuff and with every relocation, we possessed less and less.
If I take my grandparents for example, who have lived all of their life in one house, it comes naturally that over the years belongings are accumulating and there comes a point where it is so much already that one gets overwhelmed and doesn´t know where to begin sorting out anymore.
CONSUMPTION AS A WAY TO FEEL COMPLETE OR LOVED
One of the first things we had to free ourselves from when moving into the van - and even more so, when travelling around in our Alfa Romeo - was consumption or the feeling of "needing things", because we simply didn´t have space to hoard things. And after some time in nature, at peace, experiencing what it really feels like to feel "whole", we also realised that we really do not NEED anything else. We already have everything we need and everything else would be simply satisfying the ego. When YOU do not feel enough, you will always seek happiness in the outer world. For most people, one way of filling that inner lack of something is consumption. You literally buy yourself some happiness. Or you think you are more "worthy" when you can show off with some particular pieces. As long as you don´t ask yourself the question of "Do I really REALLY need that right now? What does that stand for in my life?", you won´t escape the consumer spiral. Start by strengthening yourself, calming your ego-driven intentions. Start by being THANKFUL for what you have right here, right NOW.
KNOCK-OUT ARGUMENT: "I MIGHT NEED IT IN THE FUTURE!"
Stefan got so good at cutting down his stuff, that in the end, everything he owned already fit into one car. I myself had a harder time. I would always hear that inner voice telling me "oh, you know, mayyyyybeeee I´d like to settle down in the future and I miiiiight eventually need this again." - I´m sure you know that inner voice as well. This dogma in our heads of needing to hoart things for those "rough times", was passed onto us from our grandparents and parents, and they definitely had their reasons to believe that, but time has changed.
Most of us possess far more than even needed and if we would start trading again, we would always have what we need without ever having to spent a cent.. Try it: Just ASK for whatever you need - use Social Media as an awesome tool to do so - and you will be surprised of how many people are more than happy to help or trade.This sure is a process of TRUST! Trust in the sense that, yes, if I DO decide to settle down somewhat in the future, then there will be another possibility opening up of getting what I need at that time.
It is also a process of realising that we have to start living in the NOW! We don´t know what´s coming, so just ask yourself: Do I need that object NOW?
And last but not least, it is a process of non-attachment. Because sometimes, we also use the "I might need it in the future"-argument, because we do not want to let go since we are too emotionally attached to the objects. A good example is my school and university documents. Since knowledge and learning is one of my greatest values and everything that has to do with it, like books, are my greatest possessions - I would call it my personal hoarting Achilles` heel - I was moving around like 4 big cardboard boxes full of documents from school and university. I did the A-levels 10 years ago! And I still had all those documents, because I thought, well, you know, mayyyybeeee, I will need them again. There is so much knowledge in there - what if I DO start a tourist agency in the future eventually - won`t I be super grateful that I kept that folder where AMADEUS is explained? Yeah, right... And even if, that folder was written 10 years ago! 10 years! I mean, does AMADEUS even exist anymore? I have no idea, but I´m sure, things changed a little since then... But I just couldn´t get rid of those folders, because of me being emotionally attached to these memories. But believe it or not - I am now officially almost folder-free. The only folders I kept are the one with my personal documents, obviously, and the training folders I did a year ago for Mental Coaching and Yoga Teacher Training, because these I am looking into, obviously, almost on a weekly basis. FEELS AWESOME GUYS!
So here are my top 5 tips to help YOU free yourself from some superfluous objects and to start minimalizing now:
#1: THE THREE-MONTHS-RULE
"If you have NOT used it in the last three months, you do NOT need it!" - Quote by my hairdresser Robert! This really wise concept of him was a true eye-opener to me. I visited him once and his flat was like suuuuper minimalistic and clean. Amazing, considering he also shares his apartment with his wife, 2 dogs and a handful of cats. He is obsessed with cleaning, though. But especially the non-chaos was stunning to me. So I asked him to reveal his secret, and he told me: "Every three months I am throwing away everything I did not touch in that period of time." I mean, WOW. Call that the perfection of non-attachment.
He is right, though! Let´s start in your bathroom, for example.. Take a look: How many parfumes, cosmetic articles, medicine etc. has been there for AGES and you have not used them at all? Especially as women, we do collect so much cosmetic articles, which we buy, cause we think we might use them, but then it turns out we don´t like it or it´s not like expected, or we have another favourite anyway which we are ALWAYS using.. Same goes with clothes, right? And in the end - if you do not wear it, what´s the point in keeping it? So this truly is my GOLDEN RULE #1 for every little thing of "daily routine" (clothes, cosmetics, electronic devices, kitchen equipment): If you have NOT had it in in use the last three months, LET GO, because clearly, you won´t miss it 🙂
#2: START EASY
Do not start with heavy stuff, like things you are emotionally attached with - or you will soon give up, because it will take you too long. Those things differ from person to person. To me it would be books, others might have a hard time with kitchen equipment, cosmetics, clothes, jewelery, shoes... So, whatever your weak spot may be: Do not begin there. 🙂
Once you started the cleaning process with something easy, you will be self-empowered, feeling liberated by the process and the sight of what you have already accomplished and therefore the "emotional" stuff will be easier as well, because you will be familiar already with what it means to "let go" and "free yourself" of material things.
#3: INVITE YOUR FRIENDS TO A SORT OUT PARTY:
Congratulations if you may have made it through some easy stuff already. It feels awesome, doesn´t it? Now we get to the "tough part" - things you are emotionally attached with. So, here´s my little secret when it comes to my weak spot - books, documents, letters and folders (as you may have noticed - all kinds of MEMORIES.. Something I feel attached to, because my EGO likes to believe that these things are a part of ME and therefore I am having a hard time to let them go. Also, it is kind of a clinging to the past, another version of not letting go and being fully committed to the NOW.)
So, here´s what happened: I carried my folders all one by one from the cellar into the living room. And I would sit there, looking at every single page - memories popping up ("oooh wow, I didnt even remember!" and "ahhh, interesting, I should really read that script about brain-body-mind philsophy again one day.. when I have finished all the other books that I have on my list..!") - and if it wasn´t for Stefan, I would probably still sit there reminiscing. 😀 He was working on his laptop next to me and realised my inner reluctance of letting go, and that I was already looking at one folder the last half an hour without making any progress. So he sat next to me on the living room floor, took some random folder and just started to tear out the pages and threw them into the cardboard box next to us.
First I was in shock - how could he do that? What if there was something valuable written on those pages? What if I would need them again? And oh my god, I have put sooo much love, devotion and effort into these folders, so much of ME is in there. But then he came along with all those reasonable arguments that I have already mentioned above in the first paragraph, and it suddenly made sense to me. Golden Rule #1 popped into my mind. And another thing hit me: I couldn´t bring these folders along with me anyway. Was I planning to move the folders to Vienna? Or abroad once we are moving? Or into a van? No, of course not. But would I call my mom one day, asking her to go into the cellar and look for that particular folder of accountancy to explain to me how an accrual accounting works? Sure not. So, it made sense to get rid of it. It was tough. But it was liberating to realise that these "memories" were only material ballast from the past and that everything I need to know, was already inside me. Or the world wide web. Just in case 😛
I would not have realised that on my own, though. I needed Stefan and his non-attachment to "my" things to be able to look at it with different eyes. It helped seeing him throwing away everything without any emotional attachment. It wasn´t his memories. To him, it was just another routine of rule #2 - the easy stuff!
So my top tip to get rid of things you are emotionally attached to: Invite someone you like spending time with and fetch a "NO!". Show that person the pieces, you have a hard time letting go of because of your emotional attachment, and let them decide. Sometimes, you just need to hear it out loud of another person´s mouth (one you trust), that you really do NOT need that anymore. And then... LET GO! I promise, it is the most rewarding feeling once you have made it to that point. Almost like the old woman in the last scene of Titanic, when she threw her beloved "heart of the ocean"-necklace with a relieved sigh back into the ocean. Which brings me to:
#4: JUST DO IT (DONT THINK TWICE)
Number four seems tough. But with all those reasonable arguments above, and having worked your way through it already, it gets easier to let go, doesn´t it? Anyway, it does not make sense to throw or give something away, if afterwards you regret it, or you think of it as a "loss". It will haunt you!
I once sold a lot of my clothes before flying back from Colombia after a one-year residency, because I simply took too much stuff with me at the beginning of the journey (I definitely learned from that experience) and my luggage would have been too heavy. Also, I needed the money 🙂 Most of those items I sold back then I don´t even remember and I certainly do not miss them. But there were two particular things I do still mourn after: a jeans jacket and a white summer dress, which I already felt bad while selling and up until now, even though it seems stupid, I never really got over "having lost" those pieces. But some changes need time. Take that time to be able to let go in peace. So, if it doesn´t feel right, even if you have gone through rules 1-3 above, then ask yourself: Why is that particular thing so important to me? What am I afraid of losing? What happens, if I don´t own it anymore; if I dare to let go? Most of the time, your fear is unfounded or ego-driven. But if it makes sense to keep it, then keep it and be even more conscious about that particular thing in the future.
But if not (and most of the time, that is the case!): let go without thinking twice - this is actually super healing and relieving. Getting conscious of the fact, that we really do NOT need everything we own! We need so much less and even with less, we would still have a lot more than we would actually need.
#5 GIVE AWAY, TRADE OR SELL - SEE THE BIGGER PICTURE
Nowadays and in our western consumer-society, where most of us do possess a lot more, than we would ever need anyway, we do throw away things too easily. But: There will ALWAYS be SOMEBODY out there, who would be super-happy about that particular thing you wouldn´t even think twice worthy of keeping. To me, I found that it is easier to let go of things if I made someone else happy with it. You could either
- Give away some objects for free for people in need or even to relatives who could use it.
- Trade the articles you are not using for something you will actually use. Clothes for instance. We all do have some mispurchases in our closet, don´t we? So why not organising a trading-party with your best friends - that way you get to have fun, and to chose some awesome new clothes for free. It is a win-win situation for everyone.
- Sell it online! The last option does consider some serious amount of work, especially if you are planning to sell a lot of odds and ends, like we did, but if you need some extra bucks it is totally worth it. We did that in our last cleaning session just to check out if it works and believe us when we say: "Many a little DEFINITELY makes a mickle." We almost made a 1000 bucks last month by selling some of the stuff we didn´t need anymore.
Just think about these options before throwing away, which should always be the last option. Not only will it be good for mother earth, but also for YOU, because you made someone else happy.
EXTRA GOLDEN RULE: HAVE FUN!
Everything´s easier with some FUN - put on some music, do it together with friends.. whatever you need to enjoy the process of letting go: DO IT!
We are curious! Write us about your experience with the process of letting go of material things! What was especially tough for you and did the rules mentioned above help you? Do you have more hints to share with the community?