The Inputs and Outputs of Stuff
Minimalism is different for each person, I think. I’m not a single person living out of a backpack and coding my way across exotic locales. Many people think that’s what minimalism is. Maybe that’s what it is for you, but that’s not it for me. That’s not what this post is about.
I recently attended a funeral. Naturally it makes one think of their own mortality. The following day, I was ruminating on my commute to work about what would happen if I was no longer among the living.
I was thinking tactically. My family would have to clean up some of my physical objects. The Stuff in the basement, my closet, etc.
Maybe there’s a grieving and healing process that happens when you are responsible for taking care of a departed loved ones stuff. I’m lucky to not have had that happen yet.
I was imagining my family having to open boxes and otherwise examine the stuff we have. Some of it cherished, and worthy of keeping. Much of it not. Things like the old computers, and other electronic devices. Old toys from when my kids were younger, long forgotten. None of that stuff is useful to us at this point. Maybe someone else will value it. Why do we keep these things? I don’t want to fill up landfills any more than I have to, but these things take up physical and mental space.
I’m learning to control inputs and outputs of “stuff”.
The primary goal is to stop in incoming flow of stuff.
Stop buying things I don’t need
There’s a great rule of thumb that I’ve been working with. Once I have the impulse to purchase something new, I stop myself and see if I want it tomorrow or two weeks from now. That time delayed is based on price. A new 3$ pen (tomorrow) versus a new iPad for example (wait a week at least).
I’m also tracking my spending in my notebook this month. Seeing the data does reinforce the habit, in my experience.
Figure out a way to keep junk mail from even entering the house
We don’t have a rigid routine on checking mail in our house. Whomever grabs it brings it in, and lays it in a particular place. The adults in the house sort it frequently and dump more than half of it into the recycle bin. What a waste of paper.
I don’t know how to get off the mailing lists, so I’d like to do that sorting before it comes into the house to completely remove that input.
I’ll have to take on the mail retrieval and sorting or teach my kids to do so. I like the later option. Teach my kids good habits while they’re still young.
This way it’s never in the house to begin with.
What do I do with all this stuff?
Keep, donate, trash
The technique we use is to open a drawer, closet or room, clear it out and place everything into three piles.
- Keep - we want these things
- Donate - someone else could use this
- Trash - these things can be removed as they’re unusable
But I’m looking for another technique as this one is flawed. Many things that wind up in the donate pile need further sorting. General donation or passed on to a specific friend/family member as hand-me-downs. So it’s possible that we end up with multiple “sub-piles”.
Same is true for the trash pile. The sub piles being Shred, Recycle or Trash.
All these layers cause mental overload and makes the task of reducing more stressful. This should be a joyous thing. We’re helping ourselves and perhaps others.
I’d like to commit to a “One Sunday a month jam”. To go through a room or closet and eventually the sleeping giant, the basement.
But first I need to think more of the processes of inputs and outputs. Perhaps a sweep through the space and only look for trash, in its sub piles. Deal with that, then go back through the same space, this time looking for the items to Donate. A more iterative process. An Agile Sparking of Joy?