Americans own homes that are three times larger than they were in the 1950’s. Our homes are fuller than ever, and we still spend 22 billion dollars on storage units to store the stuff that will not fit in our homes. At some point, our excess stuff started to take over more space than our homes allowed. Our stress levels and quality of life actually started to decline. The 100 Thing Challenge is less about counting to 100 and more about increasing your quality of life. It’s about taking back control of the things that matter most and putting your stuff in its place – figuratively and literally!
Joyfully Live with Less
I was introduced to this challenge by a friend of mine who mentioned how getting rid of a lot of stuff changed her life. What interested me most was not what she was getting rid of, but what she was gaining: more time with her kids and less time picking up messes, more time doing crafts and reading books and less time folding laundry, more time for exploring business ventures she had been putting off for years and less time organizing drawers and closets for what felt like the hundredth time. That is what I wanted for our lives as well. I started looking at our days and realized that we were spending a lot of time looking for things, organizing, and picking up stuff.
Rather than thinking about the things we were giving up, we had regular family discussions about what we were gaining in the following three areas:
Time – We have more time to do the things we want our lives to be filled with: taking care of ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually, spending more time outdoors, and fully experiencing each day.
Money – By avoiding the money traps we experienced in the past, we purchased things we truly need without guilt or financial stress. Discussing the effects of financial stress with your kids is a powerful way to remove guilt from not buying them everything they want. We were able to make enough money consigning and recycling to buy ourselves a very nice family gift!
Space – We have room to live now. There are open spaces in our home that bring a sense of peace to everyone. De-cluttering your home can literally add square footage without the need for any construction!
Getting Rid of Stuff
It is very important that everyone in your home is on board with this idea before you get started – that means that you may be ready today or it may take a year for everyone to see the benefits. Explaining what you want to do and why you want to do it is the best way to build excitement and peace about the hard work of letting go of stuff. I’ll list a few tips and ideas that worked for our family, but you will most likely find that you have a unique home and will need to find your own balance to make it work.
· Set a timer for 15 and tackle a drawer, closet, or get started on a room in your house.
· Take an entire Saturday and get everyone involved. Leave enough room at the end of the day to take a load to be donated, consigned, or recycled.
· Give yourself freedom with the “official 100,” but look at every single item in your house and ask yourself “is this worth being on my top 100 list?” For me, it was the having realization that there were a lot of things I will never use.
· Start with one of the items you may find hardest to let go, but know that you need to. Find someone who could really use it and notice how good you feel about giving it to them.
· Take doors or cabinets down to remind yourself just how much stuff you really have.
Pick a Room:
· Pile One: “I love these items. I want to keep them.” Find a permanent place for them. Let everyone else in your home know what belongs where. Label everything if you need to.
· Pile Two: “I want to keep this but I’m not sure why.“ Box these items up and put them away for a month.
· Pile Three: “These items really don’t add any value to my life.” Give away, consign, or recycle these items.
Then go back over that room again in one month. Are there items that you missed the first time or feel less attached to? Without opening the boxes try to remember what is in them and if you really missed those items. If you can’t remember or haven’t missed them, then get rid of them! We found that this was the best motivator for our kids. After a month of having clean and organized rooms (that they didn’t have to clean), they were sold!
Letting Go of Stuff
You will find that giving things away to others will bring you more satisfaction than letting them pile up. Find friends who need something you have or give to a charitable organization (many of them offer tax credits for doing so.)
Here are some suggestions:
Newborns in Need
St. Vincent de Paul
Plan it right and you can organize your items in loads and drop them off at the right spot. Here are our regular consignment drop-off spots:
· Infant, Kids, and Maternity – Lil’ Angels Attic: www.lilangelsattic.org or Kiddos: (270) 843-9815
· Kitchen, Antiques, Artwork, Unique Items – Junkyard Gypsies: (270) 781-5865
· Larger Furniture, Office Supplies, Collectibles – Consignment World: (270) 781-0009
· Adult Clothing – Michelle’s Consignment: michellesconsignmentboutique.com
· Everything Else – Granma’s Attic: (270) 782-5248
We made over $200 by simply removing and recycling metal items from around our house. The City of Bowling Green has a great website with a complete list of recycling options: www.bgky.org/recycling.