The amount of possessions you own can actually hinder your freedom. In fact, we have been lured into a false sense of ownership. Your possessions may actually be in charge of you!
With credit cards and financing options in abundance, our purchasing power often seems unlimited.
Having 0% interest rates make it easy for us to buy desired items and avoid paying interest on them.
This better than paying large amounts of interest on purchases, but it is still a dangerous game to play.
The items you pay for in the form of credit card debt are not truly yours until they are owned outright. Even after you finish paying off your items, having a hoard of possessions can prevent you from taking steps toward your ideal lifestyle.
Possessions and a stagnant lifestyle
Over the last year my husband and I have realized that we really want to move to a more remote location. Our reasons for doing this are multiple, but one of these reasons is that we would like to live a simpler, more self-sufficient life.
This desire to move has made us realize that our life is currently not our own. We need to become in charge of our possessions before we can move toward the life we want.
Before making this move we would need to find a new place to live. While it would be easy to find a small apartment for a temporary housing situation, we have found that the amount of possessions we own would require us to rent out a storage unit (and thus pay extra fees!) or make a massive dent in our items before being able to move.
Filling empty spaces
Being owned by one’s possessions does not in any way imply hoarding tendencies, messy homes, or other dysfunction. Consider the rooms you have in your home for a moment. It is very possible that your home looks like mine:
- A master bedroom with a dresser for each spouse;
- A guest room with a bed for overnight visitors;
- A living room with furniture such as a coffee table, end tables, television and couch;
- A family room or other room that functions as a second living room with its own couch, television, or other furniture such as exercise equipment.
As a culture, we tend to fill the spaces we own. While these houses may be tidy and aesthetically pleasing, having this amount of furniture puts a heavy burden on someone wanting to move.
Minimalism has many benefits
In my personal journey, I am moving toward minimalism. This is not a lifestyle for everyone, but everyone can certainly learn something from it.
What is minimalism?
Minimalism is the act of keeping only things which are beautiful and useful.
If you are happy with less you will never want or need more – The Everyday Minimalist’s Train of Thought
For example, instead of having sets of plates for everyday use and other sets of plates for fancy events (guilty!), a minimalism would have functional, durable plates which could be used for all occasions.
Likewise, minimalists have a much easier time getting dressed in the morning than someone with 50 different potential outfits (guilty again!).
By choosing to move toward a minimalist life I am refusing to be owned by my possessions. I want to be free to pack up and move when the opportunity strikes, without worrying about packing up items that I would not miss if they were lost in the moving process.
Minimalism is a flexible lifestyle
You do not have to sell all of your items to be a true minimalist. Regardless as to how far you want to take your minimalism journey, I encourage you to consider some of the benefits to simplifying your life. By reducing the number of possessions you have, you can:
- Create a home that requires less maintenance;
- Free up time that is otherwise wasted on things that are not important;
- Make it easier to jump on opportunities when they arise.
The last bullet point is the one I am the most concerned about in this post. While the other two ideas are certainly important and will lead to a happier life, it is very important to allow yourself the freedom to pursue opportunity.
- When was the last time you felt free to do something you loved?
- Did you fear that failure would lead you to lose all? Or did you have to turn down an uncertain possibility because of other constraints?
If the answer to the last two questions was yes, you are being controlled by your possessions.
Minimalism can work for anyone
The first step in deciding how minimal you’d like to become is to figure out where you want to end up when this journey is finished.
My husband and I are placing great value on having land in our next home purchase. We do need to find a home big enough to allow our large families to visit and stay overnight, but we have found that with fewer possessions we can make room for more family.
We have started a process of elimination to remove excess things from our life, including excess activities that make it difficult to jump at an opportunity. When we simplify things, we open ourselves up to possibility.
Your possessions should be valued
Keep whatever you truly value and love close to you. Family heirlooms might fall into this category. Sentimental gifts should be considered here as well.
For example, I value my sewing machine because I am its third owner. It was my grandmother’s, and was handed down to my mother and then to me. My sewing machine is also useful, because it allows me to make items for my family.
One of the largest items that I own is my treadmill. I do not value this item – it is used sometimes during the winter, but it is very easy to replace it with outdoor walks with my dogs on nice days.
This treadmill will only be a burden to pack up and move, and will likely need to be stored somewhere if we take up a smaller residence before moving into a permanent home. Instead of being weighed down by this large item, we are going to sell it.
Downsize or eliminate many of your possessions
This is a hard one for a consumer-driven society. There are a lot of items that we feel we “need” to have – cell phones, for example. While I would love to throw my cell phone off a cliff, it is necessary due to my family and career.
Our cell phones can hold tremendous power over us, however. Trust me – as a college instructor, I see the effects of cell phone dependency every day.
Students find it hard to sit through my (incredibly engaging) 50 minute classes without checking their cell phones. Couples go to dinner and spend more time scrolling through Facebook than talking to one another. This is a problem.
Can you live with a basic phone? Can you limit your data allowances to prevent the constant desire to refresh Instagram? These are all steps you can take to release yourself from your cell phone’s grip.
Make money selling items you have multiples of
Old computers that no longer work well can be wiped clean and donated. Outdated technology does not need to be saved once replaced.
Do you really need the same shirt in four colors?
There are many ways to downsize the possessions you already have. By eliminating multiples you create a more functional home, ensure that the items you do keep are in use, and you allow yourself the potential to earn money by selling your old items.
Your possessions should have many functions
When my husband and I make our move, we will be investing in pull-out couches. The couch we have is serving its purpose (for now), but is definitely in need of replacing. Having durable couches that will sleep guests makes it easier to stick to minimalist principals.
These are a few of the things my husband and I are considering as we strive to free ourselves from our possessions.
While certain items clearly own their purchasers – cars and houses with loans and mortgages connected to them, for example – other items truly cause us undue stress and make it hard to let go of situations we no longer want to be in.
By releasing those possessions that do not add to your happiness you will allow yourself room to grow and surround yourself with only that which adds value to your life.
Have you ever thought about clearing out your possessions to make some room in your life?
Contribution By: Alexandra is the owner of Real Simple Finances, a personal finance blog that focuses on giving easy finance tips to real people.
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