Today marks a month since I began working on my New Year’s resolution to get rid of at least one personal possession each day.
As I mentioned in a column about my resolution last month, my inspiration came from clearing the house of Christmas things and feeling happy about the extra space it created. I wondered if I’d be even happier if more stuff left our house.
While I don’t fit the profile of a classic hoarder, I find that I have many more things than I need. The responses I’ve gotten from readers tell me that quite a few others feel the same way.
But does getting rid of one belonging each day seem like an extreme solution? That would be 365 things leaving the house by year’s end, quite a feat of paring down.
The thought gave my oldest brother pause when he learned about my New Year’s resolution, but then he thought about his own closet, full of clothes he no longer wears. If he got rid of the shirts he doesn’t use, or so he figured, he could probably give away at least 30 — a month’s worth on my one-a-day plan.
I really don’t know if I’ll find 365 items I don’t need this year — and the fact that I don’t know says something about how we’ve come to live in 2015. The simple fact of the matter is that few of us can quickly and accurately count how much stuff we own. Just think of it: national prosperity so commonplace that even modest middle-class households like mine can bulge with a seemingly limitless variety of objects. Such wealth brings many blessings, but complications, too.
“Houses today are, on average, twice as large per person as they were 40 years ago,” Sarah van Gelder writes in a new book, “Sustainable Happiness.” “The burden of debt for those extra rooms and deluxe finishes lasts for decades.”
During a recent interview about my resolution on Wisconsin Public Radio, I was asked if I expected my yearlong purge to get more challenging as the months progress, and my choices about what to give away grow narrower.
Maybe so. In this first month, as you might have predicted, I’ve gone for low-hanging fruit. Most of my giveaways have been books, which accumulate especially quickly at my house since I use so many of them in my work.
But I’ve gotten rid of clothing items and some other odd stuff, too, like the axle of a wheelbarrow that bit the dust years ago. Taking a cue from a dietician who once advised me to write down everything I eat as a way to make my diet more real, I’m also recording what I give away each day — as well as any new things I acquire.
My goal is a simpler life in 2015. I’ll continue to keep you posted from time to time on my progress, and if you’d like to follow this resolution yourself, I invite you to join along — and maybe drop me a line, at my email address above, about your own experiences.
Danny Heitman is on Twitter, @Danny_Heitman.