One of the most common questions I hear when I describe minimalism or the 100 thing challenge is, “What if I need [random item] someday?”
And, I admit, when I first began my own journey toward simplifying my life and possessions, that thought occurred to me about many of the things that I had accumulated over the years.
But the honest truth is, we assign more value and significance to our possessions than they actually deserve.
I’ve said it before and I will continue to say it: Possessions are not what is important in life.
I don’t look back longingly at the time I spent playing Xbox in college, I think about all the fun I had with my friends. Out of all the birthdays and holidays in my life, I barely remember any gifts I’ve received, but I cherish the happy memories of time spent with my wife and family. I imagine these statements hold true for others as well.
So why do we hang on to items that have lost any real purpose in our lives?
Here are some ways to kill the “What if I need it someday?” excuse for keeping unnecessary possessions.
- Remember that the random item in question is almost always something that is a relatively new invention or product. Television has been around for a tiny fraction of humanity’s existence and cable programming even less, and yet a large portion of society is completely unable to imagine living without them. Not only do we have TVs in our living rooms, but our bedrooms, kitchens and even automobiles. Realize how long mankind has thrived without all the “conveniences” of our modern lives and ask yourself if the item you are evaluating is truly adding value and happiness to your life.
- Minimalism teaches self-reliance, not dependence. Do you really want to rely on your possessions for everything or do you want to have the confidence and independence to be able to tackle any problem that arises on your own? Put your trust in yourself and not your possessions.
- What if worst-case scenario happens and you actually end up needing something you’ve gotten rid of? Ask friends or family. There will always be friends, family members or neighbors who have all the appliances, tools, electronics, etc that you could ever possibly need. In my own life, I’ve held on to countless books because I thought I would need to reference them “someday.” Of course, Google is always just a click away, not to mention the local library.
- Is the item just functioning as a security blanket or status symbol? By freeing ourselves from certain possessions we are asserting our own independence and individuality. Continuing my book example, the truth is I kept them around to comfort myself or to look intelligent to house guests. (Everyone knows someone with a bookshelf full of books that have never been read and are only there to impress others). If you are keeping certain possessions around just as status symbols, do you really want to be friends with the people who value that sort of thing instead of who you truly are as a person?
- There are few things in our life that are truly irreplaceable. Looking at my possessions, there is next to nothing that couldn’t be replaced if it was lost or destroyed. Even living with less than 100 personal items, there are very few things on my list than have any real meaning to me. Most are just utilitarian, kept around as tools for certain activities like running or backpacking.
I picked an image of Linus and his blanket for this post, because so many of us use our possessions as security blankets in our own lives. If you let it, minimalism can teach you the self-reliance to let go of your security blanket and trust in yourself.