When to get rid of things

July 23, 2013 by Joshua
in Blog, Freedom

I’ve written before about getting rid of stuff and the challenges of getting rid of things you once wanted to keep. You feel like if you once valued something and now don’t you’ll lose something important. Maybe you should examine your values and how they changed.

Slow-going apartment renovations have led me to live with a lot of my stuff in storage following living in Shanghai without much stuff for most of a year. I’ve enjoyed the freedom of living with less. While I got rid of a lot of junk when I put things into storage, I kept a lot I wasn’t sure about. Choosing is hard.

Now I look forward to getting things out of storage so I can get rid of a lot more things I thought I needed but, now that I’ve lived without them for over a year, I can free myself of.

In the process I changed my views about why I should keep or get rid of things. My main criterion used to be what memories something connected me to. For some things I still use that reason. But I’m moving more toward a more aggressive criterion:

Will I miss it if it’s gone?

Using this criterion will get rid of many things you’d otherwise keep. While you might think you’d regret losing access to some memories, you don’t because either you remember those things anyway without the tools or you don’t, in which case you don’t regret losing them. In any case, you move from living in the past to living in the present and constructing your future.

Extra stuff holds you back from the present and future. Having it doesn’t give you more life. It shifts your focus from one area to another. Time and again I find living in the moment improves my life over living in the past.

I have plenty of things in storage I considered essential that now I can’t even think of. From clothing I never wear to … I don’t even know what.

As much as I dreaded packing before, I’m looking forward to pruning when I get my stuff back out of storage. I should note I have found limits for myself by getting rid of things I later regretted getting rid of. For example, in one zealous moment I got rid of four of my five medals for finishing marathons. I figured the value of the marathon was running it, not showing off to others that I did it. It’s not like I won the races or anything. I came in around ten-thousandth place. Now I wish I’d kept them. Still, their loss doesn’t pain me that much. If that’s the worst that happens, I can handle getting rid of things more aggressively.

Living in my place for thirteen years led to a lot of accumulation, even as I tried to avoid accumulation. Moving worked as an impetus to prune, but I didn’t need it. One can prune any time.

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