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What Can’t You Live Without?

What Can’t You Live Without?

Since being interviewed for an article for the Washington Post about living more simply in the aftermath of the floods and fires, I’ve been thinking about our relationship with stuff. I’ve been trying to find a clear answer to the question, what can’t you live without? Many people were forced to evacuate taking only what they could carry. They had no chance to put any thought into what would happen to the rest of their belongings. They were fleeing for their lives.

These devastating experiences helped to clarify for these homeowners what was really important to them: their lives, their families’ lives, their pets’ lives. For most of them, the rest – what was left behind and lost, damaged or destroyed – was just stuff.

So how do you go about determining what “stuff” is important and what is not? How do you decide what you can’t live without?

For most people, it’s a decision clouded by emotion and guilt. We have an emotional attachment to the object. Or, we don’t have an emotional attachment to the object, but feel guilty because we have an emotional attachment to the person who gave it to us. It can make it very difficult to part with the stuff that clutters our lives.

Identifying what is important is a process and it’s ok if it’s not easy. It’s ok if you need help going through the process. It’s even ok if you box stuff up and set it aside to see how well you do without it before you actually get rid of it. Enlist the help of friends, family, or a professional organizer when you’re ready to start organizing and decluttering your home.

Sorting through those emotions to determine what is really important can be challenging. Marie Kondo suggests you keep things only if they spark joy. Joy is a part of it, practicality and functionality play a role, too. But in the end, they key is stop looking around for what you can get rid of. Start looking at everything in terms of answering the question, what can’t you live without? That small shift can make a big difference.

Cris Sgrott

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