Where's Your Time Going? Stuff vs Living

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sense of freedom

It’s Super Bowl Sunday. I tend to be in Costa Rica during the Super Bowl, and this year is no exception. I did finally watch it a couple years ago when my retreat participants wanted to watch. We found a restaurant across the street who was happy to put the game on, so we watched and enjoyed some pepperoni pizza and a couple beers.

While I’m much more of a soccer fan, I do really enjoy watching the commercials during the Super Bowl. The year I watched here in Costa Rica was the year of the Ewan McGregor “Stuff” commercial. Do you remember that?

The commercial showed McGregor walking through various scenes talking about how he doubts that any of us will look back on our lives and think about how we wish we would have got a sportier vehicle or thinner TV or trendier scent and so forth, with the ultimate question: Do you think any of us will look back on our lives and regret the things we didn’t buy?

That question!! That question alone made that commercial one of my favorite commercials of all time. Then he really sealed the deal when he opened the door, walked outside onto a gorgeous beach and continued by asking: Or the places we didn’t go? Powerful.

It sure makes me think of Bronnie Ware’s book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. (Yes, I reference it often!) Nowhere in the list of the top five regrets does she mention anyone regretting not buying more stuff.

The commercial is for Expedia, so it’s obviously encouraging travel. I love to travel so much that I even have a small tattoo of an airplane on my wrist! I believe that everyone should travel, even if it’s a road trip to a nearby location, or as simple as creating an in-town staycation and experiencing their city from the lens of a traveler. Travel gives us the opportunity to leave the comfort of our routines and perspectives to have completely new experiences.

Travel opens the door to new experiences, people, foods and places, and challenges us to step outside of our comfort zone, live with less, navigate new places and situations, expand our thinking, and so much more. Talk about feeling a sense of freedom and living life fully!

In all of my experiences working with organizing clients for the past 16 years, not once have I come across a client whose goal was to acquire more stuff. In fact, it’s been quite the opposite. My organizing clients always want a greater sense of freedom. They want to stop spending so much time taking care of their stuff so they can have more time to live their lives!

I’ve worked with clients to clear out the excess stuff because it’s a source of tremendous amounts of stress in their lives. It’s never about organize the stuff so that more stuff will fit in here. It’s always a recognition that things aren’t working, and that something needs to change. Changes like purging the excess (the duplicates, unnecessary or unwanted items) and organizing everything that remains in the way that’s most efficient to utilize and maintain, so that they’ll have less stress and more time in their lives.

More often than not, though, the biggest change that happens is becoming much more mindful of what the buying habits have been compared to how the clients want to move forward. With their newfound sense of freedom, they don’t want to go back to the way that they had been living, so they become a lot more mindful when considering buying more stuff.

Yes, of course, we need to have stuff, but it’s the question of quantity that can be difficult to figure out, especially with the influences all around us. Who doesn’t want that thing that can do that thing that will make things so much easier and better for us, right?

There’s no magic formula or carved in stone rule for how to know how much and what’s right for you. Only you know the answer. (And, no, I’m not a fan of those “if you haven’t worn/used it in x months, get rid of it” so-called rules!)

After so many trips to Costa Rica, including several extended trips, I’ve got the packing nailed. I pack approximately the same each time I go, but this time I pared down even more. I packed my usual backpack, carry-on suitcase and checked suitcase (most of which was stuff for my friends.) Not bad for such a long stay, especially considering that included work items and things for mountain and beach climates.

I was unpacked and settled in less than an hour. One of the best things I started packing a while ago are a couple sets of those amazing nylon/cardboard drawer organizers that can fold flat because of the zipper along the bottom. (From a popular furniture store that also sells meatballs.) This was a game-changer because they help me keep everything organized and accessible. There were a few things that I didn’t end up using, but that was really driven by the weather.

It’s incredibly satisfying – and liberating – to have just the right amount of everything. I feel very aware of how I felt about everything I had with me. I felt appreciation every day for what I had and that I wasn’t burdened by having too much.

This is a feeling that I always carry home with me. Yes, I already work on reducing my belongings as a habit, as well as being very mindful of non-consumables that I bring into my house, but returning home after traveling anywhere always gives me that extra dose of resolve to live with less and keep things simple.

When we live with less stuff, we have more time to LIVE LIFE because we spend less time taking care of or stressing about stuff.

The more stuff you have, the more you have to wash, dust, fold, sort, try on, repair, donate, pack, think about, rearrange, move and so on. Personally, that simply doesn’t interest me. Of course, we will always have to maintain things, but it is so much faster and easier with less.

Consider this…

One of the top regrets of the dying is wishing that they hadn’t worked so hard. We often equate work with what we do to make money, but overlook the amount of work we do in terms of our homes. There seems to be a collective agreement that weekends are for chores like shopping, laundry, picking everything up from the week, organizing projects… Like that’s just the way it is.

What if weekends were about living your life and connecting with people and having new adventures? What if the focus of your life was centered on living your life rather than tending to or acquiring stuff?

What’s that thing that you would love to do but keep saying you have no time to do it? Could you finally save enough money to do that thing if you spent less money on buying more stuff? Could you make money selling things online or having a garage sale?

How free would you feel if you were able to spend more time living your life and less time tending to your stuff or stressing about the stuff? Close your eyes for a few minutes and visualize what that would feel like. What would that mean to you?

Here are a few ideas for you to experiment with:

💡 Go on a no-buy month where you only buy food and things like toilet paper, and pay attention to any change in the total amount you spend in that month and how you spent your time when you weren’t shopping or researching (online or in-person.)

💡 Take a trip, being very intentional about what you pack and mindful of what you use during and how it feels to live with less.

💡 Write out a list of what you would want/need if you were packing for a trip or moving into a tiny home or had a cabin to get a better picture of what you may be ready to part with. Approach this from a blank-slate perspective.

💡 Challenge yourself to eliminate at least one thing every day for a month, donating or selling as necessary throughout the month. See how you feel after the month and use all of that momentum to keep it going.

💡 Over the next month, every time you have the urge to buy something online or in a store, take the amount that the item would cost and transfer it into a savings (or investment) account and see how much money you have at the end of the month. (And, no, please don’t go buy all the stuff at the end of the month!)

💡If you have money that’s absolutely burning a hole in your pocket, find an experience to spend it on instead.

We’ve got one shot at this life. Life isn’t about the stuff, it’s about the moments. Let’s liberate ourselves from all the stuff and enjoy more of what is truly important. If you feel like you could use some assistance figuring all of this out, whether it’s dealing with clutter or finding clarity about what you want to do with your time, click right here to get in touch.

Enjoy the journey,

P.S. If you’re ready to get started decluttering, you’re also welcome to grab a copy of my 25 Ways to Declutter in Less Than 10 Minutes list right here. It’s an easy way to start to declutter and bring more calm into your home one bite size step at a time.

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