In this high consumption society, we are always emotionally misled to buy and possess more things – “I have therefore I am” is the most concise statement I can think of to describe our consumption behaviour. I believe most of us have more than what we require to live optimally, and we have many white elephants lying around in our house. Anyway, for those who do not know, a white elephant is something that is useless, takes up place and yet you have to keep it. Maybe it is not that “you have to keep it”, but it is you who believe you would need it someday and it will come in handy.
Christine Gilbert wrote a fantastic post, “10 Unexpected Costs of Owning Things“. Do read it and you should be able to strike a chord with at least 2 or 3 behaviour she described in relations to hoarding your possessions.
Owning things do have costs, like what Christine suggests. What I can relate the cost to is actually analogous to business management. As a business owner, do you hire a designer full time to help you change your company logo, which you do once in every 10 years (or you may not even use him at all). It does not make economic sense right? If you want to change your company image, you will OUTSOURCE the task to a design company. It does not pay to pay someone salary and only use him once in a long while. You may find me exaggerating but I am just trying to drive a point across. Likewise, owning a thing at home without utilizing it is as good as hiring the designer without actually using him. The latter makes you lose money through the payment of salary, and the former makes you lose money through depreciation due to deterioration over time.
Hence, one important idea I learned from business and adapt to my life is OUTSOURCING. Things that I have no use should be outsourced. I am generalizing the word. For example, I want to watch a show on DVD but I do not want to own it because I am just going to watch it once. I will “outsource” the ownership to the DVD rental shop = I will rent the DVD and return after I have watched. In this way, I do not have to keep the DVD and collect dust in my house. We need to operate like a lean business operation, streamline costs. What are the things you can “outsource” instead of directly owning them?
There are some reasons (excuses) that I believe result in hoarding under utilized items:
1) Duplication – One may need 10 pairs of shoes as each pair serves in different occasion. Or it may be a backup item = just in case one spoils.
2) I like to OWN it – Like Christine, she rarely has guest but she likes to own a furnished guest room. Like me, I like to own books so I buy and keep them.
3) I MAY use it someday – As discussed above. That someday may never come.
4) Someone gave it to me – The emotional attachment to it.
You have to remember the example of hiring the designer as a full time staff, the item you hoard and not use is decreasing in value and you are not getting other intangible benefits from it! In fact, it is costing you a lot of emotional baggage. Think of a traveler who roams the world in 180 days. As he is going to be out of home for 180 days, should he bring along the entire house with him? Obviously, it is not logical and pretty exaggerating but imagine he did. How fast can he moved? He possibly cannot our the world in 180 days. Put it in perspective in your life. If you have too much emotional baggage, how fast can you move on in life?
Having too many items clutters your living area which leads to smaller living space and it is also likely you tend to lose things often. Think of your dwelling as a small rubbish heap where unused items just rot away. The more unused items you have, the larger is your rubbish heap. By getting rid of them, you actually realize the house that you often complained is too small, is rather big enough.
How I suggest to get rid of them? I propose a 5-step system to decide the fate of the item. The system is procedural such that you begin evaluating from no.1
1) Sell them through eBay or Flea markets – if you can unload your items for a fee, why not? At least you can recoup some of your losses.
2) Give to someone you know that needs it - start to think of your friends and who would need this particular item? You may build better relationship with something that you do not need.
3) Donate them to charity – if you cannot sell it or give it away to someone you know, why not do some good deeds and give it to the needy?
4) Dispose them for recycling - if the item has deteriorated, recycle it if possible.
5) Throw them away – this should be the last resort.
Think about it. Do you really need so many things? Start getting rid of them now!