Where Do You Draw the Line?

For $1 million would you give up everything you own, sleep naked on a bare floor, and run au naturel through the streets to carry on with your day?  $2 million? 

Have you seen the new Bravo TV series "Stripped"? 

If you haven't, it's a unique social and psychological experiment based upon a popular Scandinavian show "Undressed."  The premise is designed to gauge how participants will cope and ultimately challenge their core beliefs about what is crucial for their survival.  Everything, yes just about everything except their homes (and pet supplies if they own a pet) is stripped away.  Clothing, food, furniture gone.  They are expected to maintain their routines, jobs, errands, relationships for 21 days without necessities and trivialities. 

Each day they are permitted to retrieve one item from a storage crate a few miles from their home as they navigate the LA streets on foot naked or covered by trash bags, large leafed tree limbs, or any other concealments they discover along the route.

Having absolutely nothing, how will they prioritize what item will make their next 24 hours more palatable?  Will grueling nights sleeping naked on hard floors without bed linens and slogging through dull days without the benefit of electronics or other devices to pass the time result in a transformative shift in what they think is important?

Naked?  I Think Not

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A few days ago, I embarked on my spring cleaning.  As I walked room by room, my mind was churning with scenes of "Stripped" while pondering Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.  If you are not familiar with Maslow's Hierarchy or pyramid, he theorized that without the fulfillment of basic level needs which reside at the bottom of the pyramid (air, food, water, sleep, clothing, shelter), humans will not have the motivation to strive for attaining the elements residing in the social and personal growth tiers further up the chain.  The characteristics of the ensuing levels are personal safety, health and well-being, financial security, social interaction, self-esteem, self-actualization, altruism, and spirituality.  Despite some critical evaluations of his theory, it does provide a basis upon which to reflect on what incentivizes us and what is truly important to our thriving existence. 

Let's be honest here, I would NEVER consider appearing on "Stripped" nor voluntarily sleep on a hard floor naked on TV!  I don't care how much money and fame you offered.  To be doubly clear, I will not venture through my neighborhood baring it all to fetch one personal item stored miles away for 21 days in a row.  I have better and more comfortable ways to reflect on my priorities.  So fully clothed in the comfort of my warm home, I began thinking if I could only select 20 items among my possessions after my basic Maslow physiological needs of food, clothing, and shelter were met (and hopefully my utilities), what would they be?

Why Was I Contemplating This?

My husband and I are at a time in our lives where I have been helping my mom downsize and guide the decision-making of items to keep and release.  We are also mindful that as we age, we do not want to over burden our children with an outrageous amount of stuff with which to contend upon our passing.

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You know, when we start out as young adults, we typically have few possessions.  Over time, we buy things, we inherit things, and we are gifted things.  As our homes up-size, our belongings up-size to fill the home.  In fact, we have so much stuff that the US has a $23-$24 BILLION rental storage industry to house our excess.

Then one day, by choice or circumstance we face the inevitable downsizing.  We might be destined for senior living facilities that cannot fit all of our stuff.  The questions then become:

  • What happens to our stuff?
  • Where does it go?
  • Who is going to deal with it?
  • How are they going to manage it?
  • Will this all become a burden to our children?  Our grandchildren?

From what I have observed, Millennials and Gen-Z'ers don't want our china, silver, and tchotchkes.  They are eco and economic-minded, mobile minimalists.  So if you are saving things for them, check in with them because you may be in for a surprise.

Like body weight, household excess can weigh us down and drain us.   Do you find yourself saying things like:

AM NOT LOVING MY HOME!  When I walk into my home, I immediately tense up.  It’s driving me crazy!! It’s driving others crazy!  I can never find what I need. It takes me twice as long as it should to complete simple tasks.  My husband and I fight constantly about all this stuff! I'm too embarrassed to have guests over! I avoid some rooms in my home!

When things are out of control, our progress is slowed, time is wasted, relationships suffer, and the stress can take a physical and emotional toll.  Just think about how good it feels to be lighter and trimmer.  You move quicker which allows you to accomplish more, your mood may be uplifted, the freedom is exhilarating.  Clearing out the excess opens up space for new opportunities and clearer paths to your goals.

Try this little experiment.  Close your eyes, take a few breaths, then imagine walking up to your front door.  Step into your home and slowly make your way room to room.  Notice if you experience any physical or emotional charges in any of the spaces.  Tension may indicate that it is time for action. 

Now visualize how you would like your spaces to look.  A complete renovation might not be within your budget, but some tweaks here and there to make your rooms more comfortable and facilitate productivity is much less expensive.

Lighten The Load with One Simple Question

So how do we lighten the load?  Have you ever heard organizers ask these questions?

Do you love it?  Do you need it?  Do you use it? 

I like to boil that down to one question, "Why is it important"?   That's it.  In fact, that one question is so useful when you are at the mall or any store when you are trying to decide if you should buy something.  Well, why is it important?  Will it enhance your life in some way?  Make things easier for you?  Make your space beautiful?  Allow you to accomplish a chore quickly?  These are all legitimate reasons, and if it is within your budget and you have the space, go for it. 

You can ask yourself the same question as you begin your spring cleaning.  As you work your way from room to room taking stock of what is occupying valuable real estate, why is this item important?  Maybe someone you adored gave it to you, maybe it belongs to someone else in your household, perhaps it is a legal, financial, or home improvement document that you need to keep.   However, if it is unimportant, it is time to chuck it responsibly (for a list of donation, recycling, consignment resources, click here).  Call before you go to any of the listed centers.  Websites are often outdated and accepted goods change frequently.  In fact, the store or organization may no longer be in business.  Save yourself the time, hassle, and gas.

Don't know where to begin?  Again, think about what is important.  Will you entertain in the near future?  Then the rooms where you will host along with powder rooms should take precedence.  Is there a room where you cannot relax?  Then direct your attention there.  If no room stands out?  Then either go with the easiest to tackle if you like to quickly cross tasks off your list.  Or start with a more challenging room, but pick one area and begin there as not to overwhelm yourself.  Plan to spend a few days on highly cluttered spaces. 

Enlist the help of others if you can for support and a fun distraction.  Pump up the music or select a soothing orchestral piece to keep your pulse and blood pressure steady.  Be sure that you are well nourished before you begin and take frequent water and snack breaks to keep your stamina up.

Need a Neutral Perspective?

If you still need assistance working through what to keep, a neutral perspective is useful.  For assistance in walking through the process, contact ThePracticalSort.com.

So what 20 possessions would be important for you?  Here is what I would want at this moment in no particular order:

  1. Bedding
  2. Toilet paper
  3. Tissues
  4. Soap
  5. Shampoo
  6. Towel
  7. Furnace
  8. Hot water heater
  9. Cooking pot and/or pan
  10. Eating utensils
  11. Phone (inc.charger)
  12. Car
  13. Photo albums
  14. Blender
  15. NYT Crossword Puzzles
  16. Computer
  17. Stove
  18. Dishwasher
  19. Washing machine
  20. Lights

Tomorrow I might feel differently.

Feel free to share with me your absolutely must-haves.  In the meantime, have a super practical day.