Whilst recently listening to a podcast by The Minimalists, the topic turned to adult sons and daughters who had to clear out their deceased family members’ homes. The speakers were discussing how to explain the story of a mother who still had fourteen winter coats in her closet even though she, after many years of living in a cold climate, had moved to the tropical city of her dreams after retirement. The fact that people above the age of 60 protect and appreciate their belongings—never throwing them away in case they’re needed one day and stuffing them into a corner—is perhaps a natural reaction to being brought up by parents who witnessed the war and lived through scarcity or struggled through a similar situation. With alternating volumes, which one of us hasn’t witnessed the random meaningless objects, belongings that we know will never be used, and overcrowding furniture at the homes of our mothers and fathers?
And what about the stuff in our homes? Our belongings that live happily in quite the functional closets with a corner designed just for them, becoming invisible because of our eyes that quickly become accustomed to this layout, and fading from our minds as time moves on…
If we’re spending money so that we can be orderly, then perhaps the issue is somewhere else. A psychological state that no boxes, drawers, shelves, packages, extra partitions, chests, and box springs can solve. If it eases our minds that every belonging is neatly placed where it belongs, then we’re definitely an organized person. But perhaps the large effort we spend on being organized is the clearest proof for the fact that we have more stuff than we need.
Put aside the length of your working hours, your work stress, your children’s problems, and your monetary situation. These are not the causes, they are excuses. Living with only the belongings that we use, is an issue of preference. The fact that the belongings we use are also the things we like and value is only a second, more thought-out, and other kind of preference. First, instead of accumulating without thinking (and inevitably gathering, organizing, and categorizing), sift through, separate, and sort out. Every day anew. And once we get used to it, it’s not as difficult as we thought!