Monday, August 13, 2012

Getting Rid of "The Gimmees"

You know all about "the gimmees" don't you?  Sure you do!  Usually we associate this phenomenon with a toddler who sees a toy or a treat and exclaims, "Gimme!"  Unfortunately, while social convention dictates that we outgrow our inclination to shout "Gimme!" whenever we see something we want, most of us continue to suffer from a severe case of the gimmees throughout our life.

Shopping is the national pass-time in America.  It starts in our youth where we are told that we must have the latest toy or fast-food kid's meal to be happy.  According to A.C. Nielson, the average child sees 20,000 30-second TV commercials in a year.  As we get older, we start to hang out at the mall with our friends. We buy magazines designed to convince us that the stuff we have is not good enough and tell us that we need the newest, latest fashions or gadgets to be complete.  We grow up and get a place of our own which we feel we must fill with stuff.  And then we get a bigger place so we can have even more stuff.  So it goes, always obtaining and never satisfied.  And that is the saddest part of all:  we are never satisfied, never content.  It's not ever enough.  The thing we bought last week to bring us happiness often ends up stuffed in a closet, a drawer, or the garage by next week as we move on to the thrill of pursuing and obtaining the next big thing.  We end up with kitchens full of gadgets we hardly ever use, closets full of clothes we never wear,  attics stuffed to capacity with things we don't use, and enough hobby supplies to open our own craft store! And even while we are being slowly suffocated by our stuff, we still have the gimmees.  We pore over catalogs that come in the mail.  We shop on line with gusto.  We wish for shinier cars and bigger houses.

So, how do we change this?  How do we change ourselves?  Well, the first step is seeing the problem for what it is.  A person can organize and declutter all they want, but until the reset button is hit and we truly get cured of the gimmees, decluttering will only be a temporary solution. It is necessary to realize that the practice of constantly seeking and wanting more things is toxic and does not really bring happiness.  It is relatively easy to acknowledge this truth intellectually, but changing our heart and our habits is much harder!

One way to overcome the gimmees is to assess what you already own.  I started with my wardrobe, culling all the clothes I never wore or didn't like.  Then I began going through the attic, drawers, cupboards and closets, pulling out things we didn't use or need and setting it free.  With each bag or box of stuff that went out of my house, I began to feel lighter and freer.  Somewhere, during all this process, my heart began to change.  I began to see things as just that -- THINGS, inanimate objects.  I'd ask myself, "Do I use this?  Do I love this?  Does it bring me joy?"  It was amazing how many things were not in any of those categories!  So why was I keeping it?  As it became easier to let go of so much stuff, the desire to obtain more stuff began to decrease.  Let me repeat that, because I think it's very important:  As it became easier to let go of so much stuff, the desire to obtain more stuff began to decrease.  I am beginning to enjoy the space I have created.  My home is starting to feel more peaceful.  I am getting closer and closer to owning what I love and loving what I own.  Now I laugh at advertisements and billboards. I avoid the mall like the plague. Catalogs go straight into the recycling.  I do not shop the internet for household items or crafting supplies.  I want to enjoy what I already have.  I am happy to say I believe my case of the gimmees is currently in remission and I hope to keep it that way!

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

How to Let Go of Stuff

As I travel this journey of gradually reducing my possessions down to only the things I use and love, I have found that the physical act of sorting, packing up, and hauling away is the easy part.  The hard part is the Letting Go.  So I thought I would share what I have been learning as I let go of my stuff.
The first step is to realize that it is all just STUFF.  Stuff is not not people.  It does not have feelings.  I do not have any obligation to any of this Stuff.  Letting go hurts nobody.  In fact, selling it or giving it away to someone who can use it is a good thing.  Each item that goes out of our home is something we no longer have to maintain, clean around, and shuffle here or there; plus it is put in the hands of someone else who really wants or needs it.  It's a win-win situation!

The next emotional stumbling block is the sentimental attachments we put on things.  Try to look at that item objectively.  Do you actually like that lamp shaped like a shepherdess, or are you just keeping it because it belonged to Great Grandma' Esther?  Remember, the thing is NOT the person.  Getting rid of the thing does not negate your fond memories and the love you have for that person it represents. Don't keep something just because it was loved by someone else!  The question is:  Do YOU love it?

Which brings us to tough one--the family heirlooms.  I have several things in my home I consider beloved family heirlooms.  Some of these things will be very hard for me to part with, and I know would break my mother's heart if I sold or gave to Goodwill.  While I may be ready to let go, I can't change my mom's attachment to these items.  However, since she now lives in a retirement facility, returning them to her is not an option.  On the other hand, I can not allow myself to be emotionally blackmailed into keeping a larger home (or renting storage) just to hold on to furniture I no longer need because I don't want to hurt my mother's feelings.  Here is my solution:  when I find I need to let go of an item I consider an heirloom, I will offer it to anyone else in the family.  If no one in the family wants it, I will have to dispose of it in a proper manner, which may mean giving it to someone else who will treasure it or selling it to an antiques dealer.  And then I will hope and pray that Mom does not ask me about it.  But to be honest, if it gets down to that, I may consider telling her a "white lie" to spare her feelings.  I do not believe in lying and I am quite bad at it, but honestly, there is no need to make a sick old lady sad.

Another big psychological hurdle to be jumped is the I-might-need-this-someday justification for keeping stuff.  To help me over this obstacle, these are the questions I ask myself: 

--Have I used this recently?

--Will I need this in the near future?

--Is this a specialty item which only does one job, and do I own another multitasking item that can do the same job?

--If I were to get rid of this item, but then found I needed it in the future, could I purchase or borrow another to replace it?

--What am I afraid of?  Will something bad happen or will my life be less happy if I get rid of this thing?

If you are still reticent to toss something because you "might need it," then pack it away for a designated time.  If, after that predetermined period (week, month, quarter, or year,) you have not unpacked it, then obviously you don't need it!  So let it go!

If you need more motivation, play a few mind games or thought experiments with yourself.  Ask yourself, "What if we had to move next week into a home that is less than half the size of what we have now?  What would I take?"  Then walk around your house and truly pretend you have to move.  This helped clarify what is really important to me.

Another mental image I use is imagining all my stuff on chains attached to my ankles.  If I am sitting in one spot these shackles may not be a big deal, but if I want to get up and move, all that dead weight is dragging behind.  The more I let go, the lighter my burden and the freer I will be to easily pick up and go wherever life takes us!

Remember, the less you own, the less you have to care for and worry about.  Think of all the extra time and space you will have to breathe.  Think about how much easier it will be to keep your home clean.  Look forward to the freedom and joy that will be yours when your home contains only the things that you love and find useful. I know that's what I'm doing, and even though it is hard to let go, each step closer to that final goal feels great!


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