Less in 2012

I have too much stuff. Not in an excessive way — I’m not a hoarder, nor do I buy stuff that often — I just have a ton of stuff I don’t use and haven’t used in a long time. I’ve concluded it is time to purge it all in 2012!

My basic plan:

  • January through March: anything that I am not going to sell at our summer block sale goes to charity, given away, or in the garbage.
  • April through June: prepare for our block sale. I’m not going to hold back on pricing. Everything on sale must go. Anything left after the sale goes to charity.
  • Entire year: if I buy something for myself that’s not digital or consumable, I will purge two similar items.
  • Any money we make off selling items goes back into the house to improve our living space. (2012 projects: improve the master bedroom and put in a new kitchen floor.)

Memories & Media: Digital, FTW

Anything I can digitize, I will — whether it’s scanning, taking a picture, or converting it to a digital format. Doing that will also mean better, more complete backups of my hard drives. I already use Backblaze and Time Machine for a dual local/off-site backup of my computer — but I also need to do a regular backup of my digital media. For example, I ripped all of my DVDs two summers ago and sold them at a garage sale. Those movies are on a hard drive connected to my Boxee Box and that hard drive hasn’t been backed up recently.

Media is usually easy to digitize, but memories are more of a challenge. When you think about it though: all those things you have from when you were younger help bring back memories, and it’s the memories you love, not the item you are holding. (Especially if it’s in a box collecting dust in the basement.) So I am planning to scan or take a picture of these items and put them into my digital photo collection. Not only will I have less physical stuff, but these memories will actually be easier to get to on my computer, rather than some box buried in the basement.

Just In Case

I know past attempts at de-cluttering have hit a wall when it comes to the dreaded “just in case” reasoning for keeping something. Looking back, most of that stuff is still sitting around and collecting dust.

Leo Babauta’s post on his mnmlist blog, called The Just In Case Syndrome emphasized a great outlook to take when you find yourself stuck using this excuse:

don’t just worry you might need it … find out.

And The Minimalists blog had a great post called, Getting Rid of Just In Case: 20 Dollars, 20 Minutes. Their theory:

Anything we get rid of that we truly need, we can replace for less than $20, in less than 20 minutes from our current location. Thus far, this theory has held true 100% of the time. Although we’ve rarely had to replace a just in case item (less than five times this year for the two of us combined), we’ve never had to pay more than $20 or go more than 20 minutes out of our way to replace the item.

A really great approach to take, right? Add in “or borrow” and I’d bet 100% of the “just in case” could be replaced quickly.

And I recently stumbled on to Sean Bonner’s blog and he is going through the same planning process to close out 2011, although his plan seems more extreme than mine. Anyway, he said something really great about making decisions when purging:

One thing that keeps coming up that I realized last time I went through a major purge is that any single item can be justified. Take a box you have in storage, one that has been there for years untouched. One that you’ve been paying $100+ a month to store. Do you need anything in that box? Without opening it I can tell you that, no, most likely you don’t need anything in that box. You could through it out and chances are for the rest of your life you’ll never miss anything in that box. But! Open it up, and suddenly the stuff in there is oh so important. Stuff that 5 minutes ago you didn’t even remember existed is now precious and worthy of saving. That’s the stuff lying to you. I’ll say it again — on a single item basis, you can justify keeping anything.

I’m pretty sure that the only exception I’m willing to make would be tools for fixing things. Otherwise, I plan on finding out if I need that “just in case” item or not. I’m betting not.

I’m pretty excited about this purge. I get way too stressed out about the clutter in our house! It’s a problem with a solution, though, so all I need to do is make it happen. I will follow up with posts as I make progress in 2012.

Have you done a great purge lately or planning to do one in 2012? Share your story!