We purchase and collect belongings with the idea that doing so will make us happier. But recent research shows the material items we buy only make us feel happy temporarily; at first they’re exciting to us, but then we adapt to them. Experiences, on the other hand, become ingrained in our identity and therefore produce greater sources of happiness over longer periods of time.
Still, it’s no secret we can become attached to our stuff. “We’re so caught up in the material world and accumulating all of these things,” says Karen Pivnick, owner of Topcat Transition Solutions, a downsizing service serving Newmarket and Aurora.
But when we learn to let go, we feel physically lighter and more flexible. We gain clarity and are able to focus less on our physical surroundings and more on the relationships and experiences we enjoy. We learn to live with less; and we’re happier for it.
“Minimalism means getting rid of all of the things in your life that distract you from doing what you want and being who you want to be,” says Pivnick. “I think that’s something all of us should be considering in our lives.” Spring cleaning brings the perfect opportunity to start making a transition to a simpler, more minimal life. Here are some steps to help you get there:
1. MAKE A PLAN.
The thought of pairing down your belongings may feel overwhelming at first. Like any big goal, it helps to break the project up into smaller and more manageable tasks. Try starting on the second floor of your home and work your way down. Or be even more specific, and tackle one room at a time.
2. SET SOME RULES.
The main objective in this process is to evaluate what is important and productive to keeping you happy and comfortable. Once you’re able to do this, you can remove all of the distractions. Target your weaknesses – shoes, books, movies, clothes – and tackle them head on. Establish some questions to help you through the process.
Copy music, movies and other media to a hard drive to free up more physical space. If you have too many books to fit on your bookshelf, keep only your favourites – the ones you know you will read again – and pass the others on for someone else to enjoy. How many pens, mugs and little black dresses do you really need? Learn to move away from the “just in case” mentality. The future is now. Stop hanging onto the stuff that is not contributing to your life in this moment.
4. SELL OR DONATE UNUSED ITEMS.
If you’re still struggling to let go of certain items, think about how they can benefit others. Consider donating to community members in need, or even selling for some extra cash. There are a number of buy and sell groups on Facebook, as well as Kijiji and VarageSale.com. The Millionaire’s Daughter is another great option for selling your furniture on consignment.
If you’re looking to donate some of your belongings, consider The Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, and the Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness (CCAA). Letting go can help give back. “What is cumbersome and too much for one person, would be a treasure to a woman starting over,” says Ellen Campbell, founder of the CCAA. Taking some time to pair down on your stuff this spring is really a win-win. You’ll feel free of clutter and unnecessary distractions, while your donated items can be re-used to spread joy to those in need.
The Salvation Army, Newmarket
Habitat for Humanity, Newmarket
by CHARLOTTE OTTAWAY