My building just had a clothing drive and it made me realize that it is that time of year again…spring cleaning. A recent Time magazine article stated, “In 2013 the self-storage industry raked in $24 billion in revenue, more than twice as much as the NFL. The 48,500 storage facilities nationwide, compared with only 10,000 outside the U.S. – could fill three Manhattans, and they outnumber all the McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger Kings and Starbucks in the U.S. put together.” Yikes!!

So, what gives…why do we accumulate so much stuff?

  1. Consumerism is easier than ever with one-click shopping and same day delivery. Gone are the days of delayed gratification and thus time to truly question our needs. These are the days of instant gratification and satisfying our wants.
  1. And with advances in technology and decreases in manufacturing costs with overseas labor, stuff has become less costly. We have more stuff because we can. We have five disposable $10 t-shirts instead of one quality $50 t-shirt.
  1. There is a belief that accumulating items can lead to happiness and indicates a higher socio-economic status. The American dream is a house with a white-picket fence and lots of stuff to fill it.
  1. Purchasing can diminish anxiety and we are living in an era of heightened anxiety. Have a bad day at work…stop at DSW for a new pair of shoes.
  1. There is also sentimentality to stuff, those things that hold an emotional meaning that we just cannot part with. It is why a divorcing couple can spend $100,000 fighting over a $10,000 ring.

How can you simplify? Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. When was the last time I actually used this item? Did you get a bread-maker for your wedding 5 years ago and have never used it? Let it go. Have you not worn those shoes in 2 years? Let it go. Those college textbooks that you have never reopened…let it go.
  1. Do you really like the item? This is a particularly good question for sentimental items. Do you have your grandmother’s old tea set because it was hers or because you actually like it? If it is the former, let go of the tea set and find another way to honor the memory of your grandmother. Feel guilty for buying that expensive dress that you wore only once…let it go.
  1. Do I need to own this item? Many companies and apps have been developed around the idea of sharing. Do you need to own that leaf-blower or can you and a few neighbors share the cost and co-own? How about that electric sander…unless you do construction regularly, chances are you can rent one from your local hardware store…let it go.
  1. When will I finish (or start) this? Did you try to take up knitting a few years ago and have never finished that first scarf…the yarn must go. Did you purchase a fancy waffle maker because you had dreams of making Sunday morning gourmet waffles for your family…if you have been making waffles, good for you…if not, let it go.
  1. What can I organize? This is where Pinterest can actually be helpful. You can have those old photos taking up boxes in your closet put onto a DVD and then upload to your computer. Take all those shoes out of their boxes and get an organizational system. Scan those important documents and then shred them…just make sure to back up your computer first. And if need be, hire a professional organizer.

“The territorialism and desire to possess things comes directly from the ego, which strives to own and control things. Your spirit already knows you own nothing. It is a matter of realizing that your happiness does not depend on your ownership of things. They help you in your journey but they are not the journey itself.” – Karen Kingston