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How many things does one small household need?

After two months of living quite happily with just the contents of a back pack and a knapsack, I’m once again reviewing the clutter in my life and wondering how I begin to downsize.

Because the truth is, I loved being  unencumbered with so much stuff. I loved not thinking about everything I have to do to maintain it all. But that sense of expansion and freedom I experienced while traveling is already beginning to fade. It’s natural, I know. I’m back in the everyday world of  lamenting the grimy state of my kitchen cupboards, smacking my head in frustration because the “Service Engine Soon” light just came on in my car, struggling to stock the bank account with funds for the mortgage and myriad other monthly bills, and wondering where all that dust comes from.

On an intellectual level I’ve known for years that “less = more,” and I do pride myself on remaining somewhat vigilant against the constant accumulation of more and more items. And, both on my own and as a family we’ve gone through periodic purging sessions, clearing out house and barn and selling or giving away extraneous items.

But my lower (or is it just greedy) nature continues to prevail, telling me I “need” a new and improved coffee pot, or phone, or desklamp. And sometimes it’s true – because of the lifestyle we’ve chosen these things, if not essential, make daily living a heck of a lot easier.

But now I’m feeling a renewed zeal to change this mentality. Maybe it’s the empty nest, maybe it’s the joyful sense of release I felt during my all-to-brief travel adventure without all that junk my important possessions clamoring for my attention. Maybe it’s just the fact that I know I’ll never have the money to buy and maintain the accoutrements for a truly elegant lifestyle as befits a first-world person of my middle-aged years. Whatever the reason – I’m ready to lighten up.

Books are one of the hardest things to part with. And what about photos?

Yet, the sheer enormity of the project overwhelms. Where to even begin? I know it’s a twist of irony, but I might have to turn to that shelf stacked with dusty books on “organizing your life.” It’s either that or chuck them all into the give-away pile without even a glance.

I’ve chuckled in the past over this concept of “the 100 thing challenge” (Really? Does each sticky note on my desk count? Does each pen? Every toothpick?), but I’m beginning to wonder if I should give it a more serious look.

I feel almost embarrassed to be posting this because none of these ideas are new, not to me nor to anyone who might read this. These concepts have been around since before the New Testament was written. But somehow, even though I know that the American “consume, consume, consume” lifestyle offers nothing in the way of true fulfillment – not to mention being a significant contributor to the destruction of the planet – I still haven’t seen my way clear to break free of it.

So, maybe I’m just creating a little self accountability. A challenge to spend 15 minutes a day on decluttering/downsizing my life. And another to divest of at least one item for every new item that comes into the house – whether it is purchased or given to us. And those purchases! How to phrase that challenge? Maybe I can commit to refraining from any impulse buy until I’ve given it at least an hour of consideration.

But since my inner little brat won’t let me do it just because it’s the right thing to do, I have to add in that carrot at the end: a chance at true freedom.