Are you storing stuff to ignore it?

When I moved out of my big apartment to downsize to a smaller place back in 2008, I rented a storage unit to temporarily store the stuff that I didn't see myself using on a regular basis.

Since I wanted to sell or give away everything and reduce my possessions, I had originally planned to only keep the storage unit for a few months. I thought that if I made storing my unnecessary possessions a financial burden, I would be more encouraged to get rid of them. I told myself that by paying money every month I would be forcing myself to get my butt moving and sell all the unnecessary stuff.

Well, that didn't happen.

Month after month went by and I found myself in an endless loop of procrastination. I kept telling myself that $120 a month wasn't that much to spend for a safe and secure 10'x8' storage space. I told myself that the stuff inside the storage unit was worth a lot more than I was spending and that I would eventually make all my money back when I got around to selling the stuff.

When I finally committed to changing my lifestyle and becoming a nomadic world traveler last December, I realized that I wouldn't be able to afford the storage unit even if I wanted to. So, I set a deadline for myself to have the storage unit emptied by January 31st.

I pushed hard to sell and give away whatever I could. When the end of January came I packed up what was left and moved it to my parents basement. Now, for the past few weeks, I've been going through the remainder of the stuff and listing what I can on eBay and CraigsList.

By the time I finally emptied the storage unit, I had spent almost $2,000 storing stuff that I never even used! Why did it take me over a year to do what I saw myself doing within weeks of moving stuff into storage?

In retrospect, I was holding on to the stuff because I really wanted absolutely nothing to do with it.

I was so sick of carting it around with me for years that $120 a month subconsciously felt like a sensible price to pay for the peace of mind of not having to deal with it.

As humans, we need very little to survive. There are very few things that we need to store.

Think for a moment about everything you own.

Is there anything you're storing away only because your subconscious doesn't want anything to do with it? Is there stuff you're ignoring because the act of doing so seems easier than getting rid of it?

Do you have things sitting in boxes, stuffed in your closets, or pushed under your bed? Do you have a storage unit or garage full of possessions that you haven't used in months or years? Is the glove compartment in your car littered with things that keep getting pushed to the bottom?

Now, how many of those objects are essential to your wellbeing? How many of them are required for you to live? How many of them do you use on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis?

The old adage "out of sight, out of mind" may be true for some things, but do you really want your life full of things that you don't need and don't use? Are you happy being a contributor to the waste in this world?

Do this: Cleanse your life of one thing this week.

It can be anything, from a paper receipt that you no longer need to a box or bag of clothes that no longer fits you. If you can keep this up for a year, you can rid your life of 52 things that you don't need (and if you can get rid of more than one thing a week, go for it!).

Leave a comment below and tell me what one thing you're going to get rid of this week.

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  1. Well, since I’m in the process of moving, I’ve gotten rid of a lot of stuff. For starters, I’ve donated a lot of my old clothes and I will NEVER ever wear again. Yesterday, I shredded all the junk mail that I kept because it had my info on it. I threw out 4 boxes which I kept just in case I need to put my tv/computer/monitor back in the box. It was highly unnecessary to keep them. By this weekend, I am getting rid of my bed, mattress, and nightstands and whatever else that is in my room that I have no need for. It feels good to get rid of “junk” since I have no use for them.

    • Hey Pholla!

      Wow, I’ll bet it feels fantastic to get rid of all that stuff! I’ve found that moving time is the best time to get rid of unnecessary stuff. It forces you to see everything you own and makes it much easier to decide whether you need it or not.

  2. Great post, but I can confess so much more, we moved to Europe in 95 and kept a large storage unit in Boston for TEN YEARS, finally dealt with it in a horrible but in retrospect amusing 4 days. Not pretty. About to move again and thinking about where I can get a good deal on a storage unit here in France. Story of Stuff, work with all heavy influences; but still you just never know when you might have that very large dinner party and need 40 plates and glasses —

    • Hey Marilyn! Thank you for the comment.

      Wow, ten years… talk about out of sight, out of mind! It’s incredible how easy it is to forget what we have when it’s out of sight. That’s actually one of the reasons I’m such an advocate for minimal living.

      Those 40 plates and glasses you “might” need someday… why couldn’t you just purchase them when the time came? Or perhaps borrow from a friend? Think about how much time, space, and resources are saved by not owning the plates and glasses until you actually need them. If, on the other hand, you had a big family who regularly ate together, then it makes sense. But if there’s rarely more than two or three people eating, why own more than three or four sets of things? 🙂 looks like an awesome organization. I’d be interested in learning if there are any opportunities for me to work there… now that I’m nomadic and location independent, I’m open to learning and doing anything. I love nature and the outdoors!

  3. I’m going to get rid of clothes that I haven’t worn in the last year, even though I think I will need them at some point down the line, or because they are too old to give to a Thrift store, but, I can’t bear to send them to the dump.

    • I’ve been wearing the same pair of shorts during the spring, summer, and autumn, for the past 5 years or so. I have one pair of long pants that I wear in the winter, and a jacket. I have one t-shirt that I wear during the day, and then 1 t-shirt and running shorts that I wear for exercising. That’s it! You really don’t need much to live happy. 🙂

  4. Hi, my husband loved his storage units. We have moved 5 times in the past 10 years & I finally convinced him on this last move that it was just not worth it. He’s a pretty logical guy so I broke it down like this: 1 year of storage was costing us approx $2400 (NYC after all). NOTHING in the unit was even remotely close to 1,000, let alone $2,400… I finally convinced him to let me take a crack at everything & started listing on Craigslist. About $600 later, we were storage unit free and had some extra bucks on us. For me, it was completely liberating. This may sound strange & very few people understand when I’ve explained it….but I felt freedom of not “worrying” about what was in that unit across town. Oh no, what if the building burned down? Oh no, what if someone broke in & stole our random junk? And so on….Now we’re absolved of being attached to it. It hooked me for life on living a super pared down life. I already had, by default, lived a pretty clean/minimal life but this sealed the deal. It’s nice to find others out there w/ a similar mindset. It really does run counter cultural to how we’re all generally raised. Instead of seeking “more”, I seek to complete my satisfaction by not carrying any extra weight through this life that is non essential. Thank you for your blog. xo

    • Dani,

      Thanks so much for sharing a bit of your story here with me. It’s SO nice to hear from others who have made a similar journey and who have come to the same conclusions about the incredible needlessness of all that extra STUFF. I had a very similar feeling as you when I got rid of all my stuff had had just a single backpack on my back–wow! it was such a freeing experience! Now, like you, I feel almost addicted to maintaining as few possessions as possible.


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