Prepare for the Holidays by Purging Your Possessions

by Ian McKenzie on December 5, 2012

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One of the key parts of the holiday season is giving and receiving gifts. How that plays out in your life, depends on the degree of simplicity you embrace. Unless you have decided against gift-giving altogether—and some do—you’ll find yourself with a new load of things. With all the stuff will come the need to find storage. A simple step is to designate some time in the fall to sort through your possessions and get rid of things you now longer need. This will free up space for what you will receive at Christmas.

Reduce the amount of stuff you have by examining each item you own and asking yourself if you really need it. Look at an item you and and ask yourself three questions:

  1. When did it last use this item?
  2. Does this item help me in my life’s goals?
  3. Do I need to own this item?

Depending on the answers, you decide whether to keep or get rid of the item.

The first question is one of relativity.

You may not have worn your winter gloves in six months, but that could be normal for October. However, if you haven’t worn the gloves in two years, they can probably go. Each item has its own usage pattern. If you aren’t sure when an item was last used, put it in a box, label and date and put the box away. See how long before you need to use that item again. If the box sits unused long enough, don’t open it, just get rid of it.

The second question is one of priorities.

Does owning a collection of every gaming system made further your life’s priorities? Perhaps it shelves full of your university text books. Imagine yourself having achieved a major life goal. Do these items play a role in that goal? Do you see yourself using these items on the journey to your goal? Obviously, there are day-today items which don’t further your goals, per se, but are an essential part of life. Your vacuum cleaner isn’t going to further your goal of owning your own software company, but can be necessary to an organized life.

The third question is one of hoarding.

Are you hanging on to things just because you think you might need it some day? A carpet steam cleaner might be nice, but you can rent one a couple of times a year. Get rid of those things you can borrow, rent, or buy used if you need. Don’t rid of anything you genuinely want—it will cost time and energy to replace it. You may have sentimental attachment to an item that you can’t part with, like photographs of you children growing up. Don’t get rid of these items; they serve a purpose in your life.

At the very least, if you don’t want to go through the effort of the above process, use the one-in, one-out rule to keep your possessions under control. This is where you make a commitment to purge one item every time you bring a new one into a space. If you buy a new shirt, purge an old one. If you buy a new pair of shoes, donate a pair you no longer wear.

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