Our culture has taught us to believe that possessions equate to security. We hold on to things not because we need or want them, but because we're afraid not to. What if I need it later? What does it say about me as a person if I throw it away?
"But your Grandmother made that tea-cozy with her very own hands! Nevermind that it doesn't go with your kitchen and you've squirreled it away in a drawer for ten years. How could you get rid of it? Don't you love your Grandmother?"
Look, the fact of the matter is that your Grandmother probably would be horrified to know that you've spent more than 30 seconds stressing over it, and she'd tell you to toss it out.
I've narrowed down my personal criteria for what stays and what goes to two qualifications:
- Is it useful?
- Does it make me happy?
Really, what else do you need? The first criteria, that an item be useful, is easy to decide. If you haven't needed it in over a year, you probably don't need it at all. It's the second item that I think people struggle with the most.
Let's take the example of the two lovely little Siamese cats in the Polaroid above. They were given to me years ago by a friend who wanted to cheer me up while I was having a rough spot. Aside from the associated memory, I really just adore them. It makes me happy to look at them, and the idea of parting with them upsets me.
Annnnd then there's this guy:
See that? See what he's doing there? That's how he looks right before he ruins someone's day. Usually that someone is my other cat, Miss Audrey. On this particular day, he decided that my two little china cats needed to be taught a lesson.
Poor Boyfriend had to break the news to me, bits and pieces of red porcelain in hand. I very nearly cried. Fortunately for both me and for Mr. Squinterson's health, crafty and lovely Boyfriend managed to carefully glue them back together and they're almost as good as new.
This is now the test I use for determining if an item meets criteria #2. "How would I feel about this item if it were broken? Ruined? Stolen?"
Try it. You'll be surprised how often the answer is "Relieved."
On the other hand, if you find yourself getting emotional about that scenario, it's time to call it a day and walk away. Minimalism isn't supposed to be painful. It isn't about deprivation and you shouldn't feel like you're being forced to sacrifice things that you love.
My goal is to own only things that are useful and make me happy.
What are your criteria?