1,2,3… 50,000?

This weekend you can plan a fun activity that will bring in a fresh whiff of energy into your lives.

It was a remark by a friend that set off a train of thoughts. She said that her mother has just one small bag of belongings which makes it easy for her to move from one daughter’s house to the next, without hassles.

Imagine that! One bag only of all that you can call your things.

Now, are YOU ready for a challenge? Here goes.

Can you count the number of things in your house?  The entire lot — not merely as categories, but each separate item, as big as the fridge and small as the eraser. A survey pegs it at 300,000 items per average house!

Do it in the weekend. It can be a fun task as you will find long-lost memories tucked away inside a book, or a much-needed hacksaw! It will provide you a good opportunity to clear up stuff that has remained unseen and unused for ages. Find someone who needs it or send it to the local organisation that recycles or redistributes stuff.

This is the message of the popular Netflix documentary The Minimalists, Less is Now. Worth a watch if you have an hour to spare from the soaps you are hooked to. 

The movie exposes how the advertising and marketing sectors spend hundreds of billions of dollars annually to find ways to get to each individual, to send home the subtle message – you are not enough. You need X, Y and Z things to make you worthy of love, respect and recognition.  Compulsive consumption is the result. An average youth, and older adult too, begins to believe – I have, therefore I am! Living to buy stuff is anyway a pill of capitalism.

Post-covid the shopping mania has exponentially risen, especially online.  Sales offers drives most people to buy stuff needed and not, often with an idea that it will be useful, some day. Media has exposed people across sections of society to aspirations beyond their pockets. The cars and clothes the celebrities wear, the drinks and parties they attend, the houses and décor, big TV screens, everything has captured eyeballs and imagination.

There is an unspoken achievement standard defined by the things you have. Big houses and bigger ones, often end up being not fully used, with a study showing an average American uses hardly 40 per cent of the big homes they live in. That goes for most anywhere in the world for the way the wealthy live. From one car, the acquirement mania goes to a bigger one and one for each member.

Alongside are the stories of drugs and suicides borne out of a depression and meaninglessness that cannot be cured by all the stuff accumulated. The void just keeps growing, despite all the stuff we drop into it.

Success is NOT equal to happiness. Achievements cannot be measured by the things you buy. Beyond a threshold of money required for basics of food, shelter and clothing, it does not bring happiness. Some introspection is all that you need to see it.

There are more lasting returns in investing in relationships, in things you enjoy to do. Maybe travel, or teach what you know, make contributions to society through your wealth or knowledge, more time with friends and family and less on the phones, where every app is harking for attention and something to sell to you!

Ask yourself how many shower curtains, coasters, jewelry, chairs, bins, utensils and lamp stands you really need? Does ‘your style’ need to be captured only through things? Or, by your interactions, attitude, work style and relationships? Think.

Instead of planning on what to buy next, tomorrow and the day after, why not live in the moment?

A pre-Netflix version of the documentary is available here on youtube.

Simplicity and sustainability are the happy end-results when the race is cured of ‘stuffitis’. Perhaps the human race won’t be cured, but you may be. In the process, the planet can heave a sigh of relief from some averted mining and polluting.

This message of clearing and cleaning is also what pops up in a popular YouTube Japanese video. Organise and clean your spaces, says the Jap minimalist Samurai Matcha. Do it so that you remove one item every day, he advocates. Now, that should be easy.

Among his list of seven habits that will change your life, besides doing away with stuff you do not need, adopting gratitude for what you have and don’t, in life, there is one that may sound gross – clean your toilet every day! The video goes on to note that a study showed a difference of 7000 dollars in annual incomes of homes with clean and dirty toilets! However, to Samurai the cleaning process is one of humbling oneself and he notes all the big Japanese celebrities who do it.

And then there is the KonMari method made popular by another Japanese, Marie. Tidying and clearing clutter takes a leap forward in this philosophy which focuses more on what you want to keep, rather than what you discard!

Marie suggests that one first imagines the ideal lifestyle desired, with the full specifics of how a day starts and how it ends. Having done that, begin the clearing. Start with any category like clothes or books or utensils or sentimental items. Run through the entire lot in every room. For example, clothes and furnishings in every room. See what sparks joy in you. Retain that and let go the rest, with a thanks for the service rendered. Finally, what you own is how you want to live your life, is the KonMari belief.

In this way the joy-sparking items get more space to breathe. Have a fixed place for everything. Do the clearing in one shot, Marie Kondo advocates. Her book, life-changing magic of tidying up, was a New York Times bestseller and sold million copies.

So, don’t wait. Start this weekend. Clear up. Organise. Feel the energy flow in the spaces thrown open. A good life often begins thus.

(If you can bring down the number of items in your house by half, you would have succeeded. Write in to us or send a video and we will feature it here.)

By Jaya