Free to Fly
When I moved from one house to another
there were many things I had no room for.
What does one do? I rented a storage
space. And filled it. Years passed.
Occasionally I went there and looked in,
but nothing happened, not a single
twinge of the heart... Things!
Burn them, burn them! Make a beautiful
fire! More room in your heart for love,
for the trees! For the birds who who own
nothing – the reason they can fly.
Mary Oliver, "Storage"
Sometimes it seems that the longer I've had something, the harder it is to let go, even if I no longer have a use for it. There are books I haven't read in a long time, and probably won't read again... but they once held a special place in my heart, so there they sit on my shelf. There's art that I bought years ago and probably wouldn't choose today... but it's been on my wall for so long that it seems grown there. It's hard to imagine something new. Music that I once performed, cookbooks that I once consulted, a tea set that I once used quite often. They still sit in my cupboards and closets, even though I've decluttered so much already.
Is it the same for you? Maybe you hang on to clothing, or sports gear, or Grandma's Victorian dining table with 12 chairs (even though you don't have a formal dining room).
The U.S. Department of Energy reports that 25% of Americans with two-car garages have so much stuff in them that they can't park a car. I think that number must be higher in northern California – most of our residential streets are choked with parked cars.
And in spite of clutter in our garages (and attics, basements, and backyard storage sheds), almost 10% of American households rent additional storage space. There are more self-storage facilities than there are high schools in the U.S. There are more self-storage facilities than there are Starbucks, McDonald's, and Subway locations combined. And the self-storage industry has grown by more than 7% every year since 2012.
To cap it off, the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals reports that 80% of the items we own are never used. It's the Pareto Principle showing up in our day-to-day life. But if we use 20% of our stuff 80% of the time, that means that the vast majority of our possessions aren't that special or important. Our lives would probably go on just as well without them.
In fact, neuroscientists at Princeton University have found that physical clutter in our surroundings reduces our ability to focus, making it harder to do well at anything, from work to relationships.
Imagine how our lives would improve if we only kept the things we use! Imagine how much time, energy, and money we might save, and in what other more fulfilling ways we might use those finite resources.
Jesus taught that we should consider the flowers, and pay attention to the birds, who do not plant or reap or spin or sew, and yet are clothed in beauty and provided with food. They are not busy trying to acquire more and more, and they don't worry about things outside of their control (Matthew chapter 6, verses 26-30).
If you feel weighed down with stuff, with tasks, with worries, it's possible to live differently. That's what minimalism is all about.
Minimalism lets you identify what is most valuable to you so that you can prune away what crowds or distracts from it.
It's a golden opportunity to let go and live a bit lighter.
P.S. Thinking about adding some seasonal touches to your home? You don't have to buy any plastic décor. A few large pumpkins are going on my porch today, and I'm using this easy pattern to crochet a couple of spider webs. (This pattern uses U.S. terminology, but there are lots of others online if you look). This post contains a few other ideas for consumable Halloween decorating. Have fun!
Photo by Suzanne D. Williams on Unsplash