What would you do if you had to actually use — or at least enjoy — everything you own?
Truth be told, most of us will never live long enough to accomplish such an overwhelming task. Instead we pack it, stack it and pile it away — even pay rent to store it — and keep right on accumulating, acquiring and attaining even more. More doesn't add to our joy the way we thought it would. More stuff only dilutes the quality of our lives.
Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist, "discovered" the 80/20 principle in 1897 when he observed that 80 percent of the land in England (and every country he subsequently studied) was owned by 20 percent of the population. Pareto's theory of predictable imbalance has since been widely proven and applied to almost every aspect of modern life, including the things we own.
So let's think this through: If 80 percent of what we use comes from 20 percent of what we own, 80 percent of the space in our lives is occupied by stuff we never use — it's clutter!
It's difficult to fend off that nauseous feeling when you calculate clutter's actual cost in hard-earned cash. Of course there's that original price tag. But then there's the cost to own it.
One woman who finally had it with all her clutter loaded it up (it filled two pick-up trucks) and headed for the flea market. Excited that she could possibly net $800 to $1,000 for one weekend of selling, she quickly changed her attitude as she realized her prices were about one-tenth of the price she paid.
Her mind went to the time she'd spent earning the money to buy all this stuff, the time spent shopping, lugging it all home and then storing it until moving day. She figured that even if she made $1,000 on this effort, that means she'd spent at least $10,000 (probably more) purchasing it! That day, she vowed to never buy anything again unless it was absolutely necessary.
Ask yourself a series of questions to determine what stays and what goes:
Does it work? So much of the clutter in our homes is made up of broken things we plan to fix someday and clothes that don't fit any more but we hope they might someday.
Do I really need it? The answer will be clear as you imagine the impact of this item disappearing from your life.
Do I enjoy it? If this item brings beauty and joy to your life, it is not clutter. Sentimental belongings should be treated with great care and respect — not forgotten in the attic.
Am I using it now? If it doesn't fall into the 20 percent of things you use on a regular basis, it is suspect.
Once you've earmarked the stuff that needs to go, move it out. Sell it, give it away or throw it out. Of course, one of the best solutions for "good stuff" is to give it to someone who really wants or needs it.
De-cluttering will calm your spirit, clear your mind and increase your ability to enjoy your current situation, your family and relationships — your life!
Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com and author of 24 books, including her 2013 release, "The Smart Woman's Guide to Planning for Retirement." You can email her at [email protected], or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630. To find out more about Mary Hunt and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.