Let’s start with a challenge today. Look around the space you’re in. Is everything adding to the beauty, function, or your wellbeing within the place?

Now close your eyes for a moment. Imagine I came into the room and removed something. Would you notice? How long would it take to scan the items and determine what I took?

And another thought experiment — can you tell me what apps are on the home screen of your phone, or the order of icons on your desktop.

OK, so besides the nice mental workout, and potential anxiety about someone sneaking into the room to take one of your things, this is a warm up to get you thinking about your stuff. And if you are like most people there is a lot of it. We seem to be stuff magnets, accumulating it without trying, without even really noticing. Our closets bulge and our basements become breeding grounds for totes ranging from infant to adult size and everything between. Even some frail and partially cracked ones that stick around, their contents about to burst free.

And we get so wrapped up in the care and shuffling of these things that we rarely ask if we need it. Or if it adds value to our life. Or if it’s really as cool as we thought it was on the store shelf or clothing rack or flashy commercial. And we never ask about the continued cost of owning.

So pick up something. It doesn’t really matter what. Now ask yourself if you still like it. Try to remember how it came to be in your possession – or you in its. Ask if you get as much out of it as you put into maintaining it. Is it useful? Is it beautiful? Does it have a special meaning? Could it mean more to someone else?

spaceNow put the thing back down. (either back where you got it from or into a box to be donated or given away)

I keep a box on my front porch for collecting items that have stayed past their welcome but have plenty yet to give. Old toys from the kids, a book I’ve decided doesn’t need to sit on the shelf anymore because I will never re-read it (or read it in the first place — and can’t remember why I ever picked it up in the first place) or a shirt I no longer like enough to wear or a…

It’s been a slow process (minus some major purging weekends) and I think the family and I are at a good place. Far fewer things coming in and still more things going out.

Now for the gains. The things I really do need, more than the second TV or dozens of cartoon covered plastic cups. Things like more time with family. Space to paint and draw and color and build giant block towers and have an indoor picnic and reading nooks and manageable household chores and more calm and…

So there are some losses. People look at me a little different. They think it’s odd to focus on getting rid of more. I’m not so good in conversations about what someone bought and don’t get so excited for people who get new cars and things. Bit of the bah-humbug at the Xmas party, though I think I hid it well.

Slowly we are unburying ourselves from the mountain of stuff and the maintenance and the debt that comes with it. It is good to take a breath of unfettered air and have some space to move and think and create and be.

And for the final challenge, see if you can remove in thing from your house or office or car – from your life – each day for the rest of the month. If that goes well then up the ante and try a challenge from the minimalists next month.

Thanks as always,

With civility ~ Brian

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