In years gone by our stuff was limited to a large degree by the availability and cost of most items.  Goods were generally produced locally and in a relatively labour-intensive manner.  Disposable incomes were less and stuff cost more when compared to incomes.  Global manufacturing and transport, cheap labour and distribution have meant that there is a seemingly endless supply of stuff for you to purchase at your local shopping mall.

Since the natural limits of accessibility and affordability have been removed, it is up to us to take control or we will end up drowning in our stuff.  The ultimate limit is the size of your home; you can fit a lot more in a 2 storey, 4 bedroom family home than a studio apartment.  However, even this does not deter some people as evidenced by the burgeoning industry of off-site storage facilities.

You can easily apply limits to things like your books by simply choosing not to have the shelves overflowing.  As you buy or acquire new books, make space for them by moving others along.  We all have books that we are not sure why we are keeping them.  Will you read them again?  No?  Time to go.  This way you will eventually end up with a selection of books that you really love and are proud to have on your shelves.

Perhaps you can choose an arbitrary number such as 20 DVDs, 10 t-shirts or 6 champagne flutes.  Make sure that you don’t simply choose a number that allows you to maintain the status quo.  It needs to be challenging yet achievable as well as pertinent to your unique situation.

No matter what the item, you need to ask yourself the question, “Do I really need x of this item?”  Nothing needs to be immune from this process – lipsticks, plates, socks, CDs, towels, candles and cookbooks are all fair game.

Linen cupboard
Once you set limits on your stuff and force yourself to choose, you will naturally choose ‘the best’.  How you make that choice is a personal decision but making the choice means that you consider the merit of each piece carefully and you will appreciate its worth to you and your life.  The stuff that makes the cut will have an opportunity to shine in the decluttered environment.

It is not only physical stuff that you can set limits on.  You can set limits on your participation in events.  For example, you may decide that you will only spend one night a week playing sport, therefore you will choose the one you enjoy most.  This may give you a chance to excel rather than putting in a mediocre performance in 3 different sports on 3 different nights of the week.  You may choose to limit your association with people who do not enhance your life.

Limits can be seen as restrictive but the limits you set on your stuff will actually be liberating as you are the one making the choices.  Don’t let your stuff rule you and your life.

5 thoughts on “STREAMLINE – Limits

  1. Love all your advice on decluttering, my DH & self have just retired and spent the last month going through our house(stuff) incredibable we were putting new robes, carpets so this meant a full pull out of our stuff your words are so true.

    • Welcome, Robyn! Thanks for your comment.

      Sounds like some changes happening at your place. New wardrobes is a great opportunity to declutter your clothes rather than just stashing them all back in the new space.

      Retirement is a major lifestyle change and an excellent time to look critically at your stuff. You definitely won’t need stuff that was associated with work such as business clothes. If you have work attire that you no longer require you could consider donating to if there is a group near you.

  2. Hi Fairy, I’m really enjoying catching up on your posts since I’ve been back online after a short break. I really enjoyed Francine’s book too and gained so much from reading it. Limits are a great idea and as you say they are ironically quite freeing because they put you in charge of your stuff not the other way around. I must go around my house again and make sure nothing is overflowing its limits!

  3. Thanks, Kim and welcome back. Keeping the stuff in check and enforcing the limits is ongoing isn’t it? That is the topic for the last in this series – in a few days time.

  4. Totally in agreement with this step! Just back from a week in Vietnam, where there’s endless stuff to buy too! I resisted so much, but I did buy a tiny dish for salt – not really one in one out, as we don’t have one now. Otherwise, I bought some metal cup measures (I know, right, hardly the souvenir one would imagine), but I would like to keep the old plastic set for when I do wet & dry measures of the same – but I understand that this might be how CLUTTER happens!!

    I’m definitely in limits mode on linens and towels. Not so much in the kitchen though (with cloths, ok with the ceramics and glasses). Clothing I could work on – I just bought some new items, so I should eliminate a few – and I’ve been pondering which to let go of actually.

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