The Spring Purge. The Life-Changing Magic of Garage Sales
“Clutter. Even the word feels heavy when you say it. We’ve become consumed by stuff and so inundated by things that we almost have nowhere to turn.” ~ Kerri L. Richardson
Contrary to what you’ve been told, it is not robins that herald the arrival of spring. No sir, it’s garage sales. Few things arrive as predictably as the time honored tradition of the spring purge. Homes everywhere, overfed with more and more stuff over the winter are bursting at the seams, ready to explode. Just when a house can’t hold it in anymore, it spews out onto driveways and lawns and garages. The message is so clear. We simply have too much stuff and we’re suffocating under the weight of it.
Are you listening? We don’t need all this stuff!
I ran across a post today by Josh Becker, one of my favorite writers. His blog, becomingminimalist.com is one I follow. Ten years ago Becker was cleaning out his garage when a passing neighbor made an off-hand remark, “you know what they say, the more stuff you own, and the more your stuff owns you.” The realization hit him like a bolt of lightning; he really didn’t need to own all this stuff. His little son had been waiting patiently all day to play ball with dad when the garage cleaning chore was done. It struck something deep inside him and he made a resolution on the spot to change.
More from becomingminimalist
Fast forward to today. Josh’s blog has over 1,000,000 visitors a month. He’s written four books on the subject and is a frequent contributor to many newspapers and magazines. Here are a few startling statistics from one of his most popular posts.
1. There are 300,000 items in the average American home (LA Times).
2. The average size of the American home has nearly tripled in size over the past 50 years (NPR).
3. One out of every 10 Americans rent offsite storage—the fastest growing segment of the commercial real estate industry over the past four decades. (New York Times Magazine).
4. One in four people with two-car garages don’t have room to park cars inside them and 32% only have room for one vehicle. (U.S. Department of Energy).
5. The United States has almost 50,000 storage facilities, more than five times the number of Starbucks. Currently, there is 7.3 square feet of self storage space for every man, woman and child in the nation, enough every American could stand—all at the same time—under the total canopy of self storage roofing. (SSA)
More voices promoting minimalism
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Japanese author Marie Kondo has been purchased by over six million people worldwide and spent 86 weeks on the best seller list. That sends a clear message about the way people are feeling about their possessions. In his now famous book, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell explains that “the tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire”. Indeed, it seems we’ve reached a tipping point where we are collectively horrified to realize we’re drowning in our stuff and panicking about how to get our head back above water.
Way before Josh, Marie and others started writing about it
The ideas that have made them each an icon, while brilliant, aren’t exactly new. The wisdom of simplicity goes back a few centuries before their words went viral. I’m always amazed at the modern vibe that can be found in the philosophy of early thinkers. Humans haven’t really changed that much in 2000 years. Many wise pundits in ancient history made remarks that are just as timely now as when first spoken.
Here’s an excerpt from Yes! magazine by Roman Krznaric, “In the Western tradition of simple living, the place to begin is in ancient Greece, around 500 years before the birth of Christ. Socrates believed that money corrupted our minds and morals, and that we should seek lives of material moderation. When asked about his frugal lifestyle, he replied that he loved visiting the market “to go and see all the things I am happy without.” The philosopher Diogenes, son of a wealthy banker, held similar views, living off alms and making his home in an old wine barrel.”
Wow! Now that is simplifying!
Kondo or Becker would never suggest we go to such lengths but instead urge us to learn just how much freedom is gained when we are less encumbered with belongings. Their message is not one of joyless austerity and doing without. It is living with just enough to satisfy our truest needs. Once we become intentional about it, it’s actually quite surprising just how little “stuff” we actually need.
Pope Francis has created quite a stir by choosing to live in a small guest house instead of the Vatican palace. And, he seems to prefer taking the bus to riding in the papal limo. His humble approach to life despite the fact he could choose to live in opulence has created followers among people of all faiths. The Pope isn’t alone. Simple living is a huge trend in a world of economic uncertainty, extended work hours and record levels of employee disengagement. People all over the world are looking for a life that is simpler, less stressful, and less cluttered.
The biggest bonuses of owning less
Whether we realize it or not, our stuff owns us. When we pare down to what we really need, we free up both time and money. Everything we own requires care and space. We soon realize there’s never a winner in the keep-up-with-the-Joneses game so we quit comparing what we have with others. We become freer to pursue our passions and spend our resources more wisely on experiences instead of possessions. We feel freer and lighter and more connected to people than things.
Have you started thinking about eliminating some excess belongings? What has worked for you? Are you finding that less really is more? How has it made you see life with new eyes? I’d love to hear how you are conquering the issue in your world. Please comment and share. Or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. See you next week!
Love this! The minimalist have an excellent podcast that I listen to as well.
Thanks Molly! Please point me to the podcast. I’m giving serious thought to trying my hand at podcasting!
“Less is More.” Simple Life is a very good life. Loved your words…
What you have done with your life is a daily inspiration to me, my friend. Thank you! Talk soon!
This is inspiring! Thanks for writing about this timely subject!
Thanks Judi! Trying to purge a little every day and it feels amazing. Still, I have a long ways to go!
Recently a friend invited me on a little outing, and I declined because I was in the middle of doing some work on our house. The thought crossed my mind, “Do I own a house, or does a house own me?”
Thanks for a good and timely message.
Ain’t it the truth? I’ve been guilty so often! Best rule ever: People first, stuff second. Winner every time.