My Nanna was a hoarder. She would keep things that had no value, and never wanted to throw things out because she believed that she may need it someday, just in case. I may not be as bad as my Nanna was, but I definitely like to keep stuff that I don’t necessarily need.
Every few years when moving house I go through boxes of stuff that I have lying around the house. I then repeat the process once a year, getting rid of one box worth of junk, but repacking much of the stuff which then sits in my storeroom for another year. I’ve definitely been one of those people who keeps things ‘just in case’.
In 2014 I listened to a talk by The Minimalists, the focus of which was letting go of ‘stuff’. When it comes to getting rid of stuff, they said to ask yourself two questions:
- Do I need it?
- Does it bring value to my life?
I wasn’t ready to change my mindset in relation to keeping things, so when I moved in early 2015 I went through my boxes again and got rid of some stuff, but I still kept a lot. I had a perceived value of the stuff that was much higher than its actual value.
I don’t know what it was about leaving my last job but suddenly I knew it was time to let go of stuff.
I wrote down the two questions that I needed to ask myself and stuck them on a wall, and as I went through the boxes I noticed that I was looking at my stuff very differently. There were things like my Physics exams from Year 11 and 12, and notes that I took in Uni, that I had looked at in the past and then repacked in another box. None of this brought any value to my life and I certainly didn’t need it, so it all went in the bin.
The process was overwhelming as I realised just how much stuff I had, but after six weeks I had thrown out almost 8 wheelie-bins worth of stuff. I went through my wardrobe and got rid of over 3/4 of my clothes and filled over seven Salvos bins with clothes, shoes and nick-nacks. I sold over $1,000 worth of stuff that I had lying around, and at no point was I tempted to keep anything that was marked for donation or selling.
When it was time to leave for my three month trip I armed myself with one suitcase and one backpack which included everything I needed on the road. I didn’t give much thought to what I had left behind until I returned to Perth for a few weeks in June. This time I had to pack all of my remaining belongings into boxes so I was forced to go through it all again. I couldn’t believe the amount of stuff that I’d left behind in February that I thought I would still want in June. After two more weeks of going through my possessions I donated more clothes to the Salvos, threw out even more rubbish, and sold more gear on Gumtree. It turns out that being on the road for so long helped shift my mindset from hoarding to being able to let go.
It’s an incredible feeling to no longer be attached to so many possessions after holding on for so long. Only having one suitcase with me meant I couldn’t just buy things on the road because I wanted them. I had to limit myself to only buying things that I actually needed and in doing so I changed the way I looked at possessions. I’ve undergone a transformation as I have gone from being someone who always bought things for the sake of buying things, to now being someone who only buys things that are actually needed. I still have moments where I will keep something that I think is meaningful, but often it ends up being donated or thrown away.
Letting go is liberating. It can be hard to do at times, but when you finally make that shift in mindset it will free your life.