As I prepared for this week’s Lenten cleanse, I felt the familiar clinching in my chest as I began to choose items to purge. What if I want to use that again? What if I regret getting rid of this? What if I need this some day?
I hesitated at the initial thought of getting rid of household items- and yet research tells us that less stuff actually brings more joy.
I began to look at statistics on American clutter this weekend, and I realized we all seem to hesitate or struggle to purge. I read a compelling article on becomingminimalist.com by Joshua Becker- who provided some astonishing facts about the issue of consumerism in the U.S..
I learned that the average American home contains 300,000 items (LA Times) and the average size of our homes has tripled in the past 50 years (NPR).
Even with our larger homes, 1 out of 10 of us rent a storage unit for our stuff (New York Times Magazine). In fact, there are over 50,000 storage facilities in the US- five times the number of Starbucks.
We rent storage units because we’ve already filled our homes, and our garages- 25% of us cannot fit cars in our garages due to our stuff and an additional 32% of us can only put one car in our two car garage because of our belongings (U.S. Department of Energy).
In America, we seem to be completely possessed by our possessions. We are only 12% of the global population and yet we use over 60% of the world’s resources. We are pushed into these practices by our culture too.
Did you know that Shopping malls outnumber high schools and 93% of teenage girls rank shopping as their favorite pastime (Affluenza)?
Joshua Becker pointed out that statistics show women will spend more than 8 years of their lives shopping (The Daily Mail).
After learning these facts about our culture, I had new eyes to look in my cupboards and closets. I boxed up underused items over the weekend. I realized, clearing out my shelves allows me to live and love my everyday life, instead of longing for what was or what might be.
Goodbye to the margarita glasses- instead of keeping a set of six stemmed cocktail vessels that I haven’t used since graduate school- I boxed them up- so that my shelves have plenty of room for sippy cups and lunch boxes in the next few years.
Farewell to the party supplies and excess platters I imagined I might use for some elaborate grown up party with the friends I might meet in the next few years- instead, I need enough room to welcome the Christmas plates my children will decorate at school.
This week, I boxed up and hauled out the housewares that represented what might be or what once was- so that I can embrace this beautiful chapter of kid tea parties, close friends over- whispering in our living room after baby bed time, and the simplicity of our life just as it is- not as it might be in the future.
Goodbye: boxes and bags #17-22. Already, I sense the relief of letting go, and the peace that can come with gestures of simplification.