This step is about emotional attachments to your material possessions. I’m not much of a sentimentalist. Or a historian. So for me, I think this step is easier than it is for some people.
But let’s put it in terms that I do understand. The closet. When I went through my wardrobe to decimate its contents, I went with reckless abandon. Not only because I had a personal vendetta against the laundry that my closet seemed to create, but because I had way too many clothes that didn’t fit me, and I was sick of wishing I could fit into my college sizes, or regretting those years I fit into the larger sizes after having children. So, I really did have a “it’s just you and me” mentality as I sorted through the drawers and hangers. Does it fit me today? Not a size I once was, or someday hope to be. Does it fit me? And do I feel comfortable in it? Not … is it in fashion? Or will it be in fashion again some day? But, do I actually wear it? I know for a fact that even with a closet FULL of clothes, I was only wearing a small percentage of the items on a regular basis. Those are the ones I chose to keep. And I can honestly say that in the two months since I purged my closet, there has not been one day that I’ve thought “gosh, I shouldn’t have given away a certain item–I could really use that today.” Instead, I have exactly what I need and now I can find it when I need it. I didn’t save the little black dress that my husband really liked … because it doesn’t fit me anymore. And I had a different little black dress in my current size. I didn’t save my Hawaiian print shirt in case I happen to attend another Hawaiian themed party some day … because the truth is, I probably would have bought a new Tommy Bahama dress for such a party anyhow. So, as I purged the closet, my thoughts were simply–do I wear it? Does it fit me? Is it comfortable? Does it make me happy? There were a few items I kept … not so much for my own memories, but because I think my kids will like to see them some day–like my wedding dress and my high school Letterman’s jacket. I could do without them, but two sentimental items out of my whole wardrobe seemed reasonable in that moment.
As for the rest of your house, you will have to decide what is valuable to YOU. Not to your long-lost great-great-grandmother who immigrated to America in the 1800s. If you are a historian and those items are valuable to you, then keep them. But if you feel a sense of obligation or responsibility to keep your family’s fine china in a box in the garage, then it’s probably just taking up space … physical and mental space. My rule was that if it was something that I had not looked at or found valuable enough to display in my daily living space, then I didn’t need it. Again, there are some items I kept because I believe I will put them to use some day … old journals, or books about interesting subjects that I would like to explore with my children. But I’ve also put a timeline around each of those items, and if I don’t get to them in that loose parameter of time, then they will probably move on as well.
The easier part for me is to cleanse out the clutter. I’m not that girl who can’t part ways with the stuffed bear her boyfriend gave to her decades ago … or the souvenirs from a childhood road trip, or the Collectors Edition Garbage Pail Kids cards that my Mom saved for me in her attic for thirty years. If you have bins of “stuff” in your garage that you don’t see at least once a year (like holiday decorations, for example), then chances are that the world will not cease to spin if you donate it to a good cause.
I also started thinking about my life in terms of mobility and freedom. What if I want to pack up my family and move to Africa to teach English for a year? Could I do that right now? How difficult would it be to rent out my house and leave? Or sell everything? I don’t want to have an amazing opportunity staring me in the eyes and think … sure … I’ll be on the next plane … as soon as I figure out what to do with this crystal punch bowl and the 57 little crystal cups that go with it.
So, as you ponder your possessions, think about the value they are actually providing to you. Do they have a function? I mean … don’t give away anything that you use on a daily basis. Or do they just provide you with a memory? Is the memory a good one? Do you *need* that item in order to preserve that memory? Then, also consider the *weight* of that item … does it bring you bad memories and weigh you down emotionally? Does it take up physical space and weigh you down figuratively–from being free to move or travel, or live your dreams? Does it weigh you down mentally? Are you constantly thinking what you could do with that “storage” room full of “stuff” that could be converted to a guest room to house friends and family who come for a visit?
Go back to the list you made during Step Two, and think not only in terms of physical items that could be minimized, but the possibilities and opportunities about what your life could be like without so much “stuff” consuming it. What would you do with your bonus room if it were empty? Turn it into a man cave for Football Sunday gatherings? Turn it into an art studio and learn how to paint? Turn it into a library and curl up with a good book?
It’s just you and your “stuff”. Prioritize. You will be happier. I promise.