[This post is by Staff writer Stefanie O’Connell.]
Sometimes I think about the possibility of my bag getting permanently lost while traveling, or my apartment burning down before I’m able to salvage any possessions, and the relative cost of everything that would be lost in such an occasion. Other than the fact that it’s a totally morbid past time, it’s an interesting exercise for putting your “stuff” in perspective.
While I probably paid several hundred dollars for all the clothing, toiletries, and accessories that I pack away in my checked luggage and thousands for the technology, furniture, and day to day items that live in my apartment, the actual present day value of those things would not be very much at all. If I tried to sell everything I own, I think I would have trouble seeing it amount to more than a couple thousand dollars, if that. Not because I don’t have a lot of stuff, but simply because “stuff” loses value so quickly.
A friend of mine gave me a pair of adorable, designer Elie Tahari shoes about a year and a half ago when she was clearing out her closet. Unfortunately, they didn’t fit me, so I tried listing them on eBay. Considering the shoes were in great condition and would retail close to $200, I thought $60 was a fair list price. At the end of two weeks, I didn’t have a single offer, so I dropped the price to $40, still nothing. $30? Nothing. I tried taking them to my local Buffalo Exchange (a popular consignment store), but they wouldn’t buy them from me either. I was practically giving away the shoes and still, no one would take them! That experience illustrated, quite literally, how suddenly worthless something becomes the moment it leaves the intoxicating environment of retail.
And thus began my minimalism kick. I started to wonder, how many of the things in my apartment could I not give away if I tried? For years, I had been struggling to make room for more and more “stuff” in the confines of my small piece of Manhattan real estate- spending time, energy, and money on things that would only provide temporary happiness before collecting dust under my bed or in the back corner of my storage space.
Not only did all those things require space; they necessitated time, energy, and money to maintain, clean, repair, insure, protect, etc. As I started to purge, I found something far more than space- freedom. Not only freedom from the efforts that had gone into my essentially worthless pile of “stuff”, but freedom from a material based mindset. With fewer demands on my time and money, I had more freedom to pursue work, activities, and experiences that fulfilled me.
With my new minimalistic mindset, I found myself refocusing my priorities on things that fulfill my life rather than possessions that simply fill the space. In doing so, I discovered a practice that not only made financial sense, but one that satisfied a far greater goal, the pursuit of happiness.
About the Author: Stefanie O’Connell is a New York City based actress and freelance writer. She chronicles her struggle to “live the dream” on a starving artists’ budget at thebrokeandbeautifullife.com.
P.s. Brent here. I’m in the process of purging my closet and with every item I remove from my closest (yes, closets) I feel a small weight lifted off my shoulders.