A few months ago, I decided to sell some clothes to make some extra cash. I have been working toward paying down my debt and found this great little app on my phone that allowed me to sell my unwanted items. I thought this could be a great way to earn extra income on the side. After a few items sold, I felt a little rush of adrenaline and started rummaging through my closet looking for additional items to sell. I would ask myself, “Do I want this pair of running shoes more than I want to pay off my debt?”. More often than not, I didn’t.
I kept posting and selling over the next few weeks with marginal success, but eventually the thrill began to wear off and the process of packing and shipping each item started to annoy me. I also had to admit to myself that I wasn’t making any money. Between the shipping and supplies, I really didn’t have much to show for my efforts when all was said and done. This wasn’t helping me pay down my debt. So, I took down my listings and decided I was done with it.
When the next weekend rolled around, something interesting happened. I found myself going through my closet again, filling up bags with clothes even though I had no intention of selling anything. I didn’t miss or regret any of the items I had sold. In fact, I felt a great sense of satisfaction each time I sent one of my previously loved items off to its new owner. I loved the idea that somebody else could use these things. So, this time I decided to just bring a few bags of clothes over to the local donation center.
It turns out that this was even better than selling! In addition to the warm-and-fuzzies one gets from supporting a good cause, I also felt like a weight had been lifted off of me as I drove back to my apartment. Why did this make me feel so good? I wasn’t sure but I just kept doing it. Every weekend I would put items out on the curb or pack up some donation boxes. Clothes, dishes, household items, furniture, cosmetics, it was all fair game.
As I’m sure some of you can relate to, I eventually went down the internet rabbit hole and started reading about the idea of minimalism. I found blogs and YouTube channels dedicated to the topic and got pretty excited. There was even a documentary I found on Netflix (“Minimalism”) that really got my wheels turning. Such a simple question, yet it was somehow completely novel to me: Does this stuff add value to my life?
This changed everything. I would sit in my little one-bedroom apartment looking around, trying to draw the line between what I actually valued and what was just clutter. To my surprise, I didn’t value much of it at all. For my whole adult life, I have been shopping the sales on a tight budget. I did not typically purchase things that I really loved, I would try to get the best deal instead. 95% of my wardrobe is either from a thrift store or fast-fashion stores. All of my furniture is from IKEA, a family member or the curb. Yard sales make my knees weak.
As a result, I have acquired a lot of stuff over the years and most of it is truly crap. I can admit that now. These items all must have brought me joy at some point when I purchased them, but now the only emotion I can identify with them is shame. Maybe if I didn’t waste my money on all of this stuff, I wouldn’t even be in debt! The thought of this puts a lump in my throat. I feel like my eyes had been adjusted to the dark for years and the lights just came on.
Not surprisingly, my shopping habits have really changed over the last few months. Impulse purchases and ‘just in case’ items are mostly a thing of the past. Do I really need this? Do I really love this? Just by asking these questions, I am saving a lot of money and paying down more debt each month. I had never realized how much these little purchases add up!
I am still at the beginning of my journey and continue to pack up my donation bags and boxes on the weekends. I have a long way to go, but seeing the progress keeps me motivated. I feel an increasing sense of gratitude and calm as I work to identify the belongings that bring me joy and let the rest go.
It is not a contest. I will never live in a spotless white apartment or fit all of my possessions into a backpack. I don’t want that, it isn’t me. My goal is just to wake up knowing that everything I have is everything I need.