5 April 2012

Are your possessions slowing you down?

Top blogger Leo Babauta of Zen Habits was my interview subject for this month’s GettingAGrip Inner Circle audio programme. He blogs in a really interesting and very practical way about a number of the things I also focus on. Time magazine listed it in their Top 25 blogs for 2009 and it’s now read by more than 240,000 subscribers.

Leo has inspired me to be more regular with my own posts. So, following the pathway that got him started on blogging, I’m making a commitment to you, my lovely readers, to share more of my day-to-day learnings. Even after 23 years of intense study of this topic of time and productivity and many associated areas of self-improvement, I still learn new things every day.

Many posts will be personal reflections triggered by my own life experiences, mistakes and observations. Some will be very short. And in others I’ll share some background to give you context, as I’m doing this time.

What do we really need?

I’ve been rearranging my accommodation lately. In the process it’s been great to re-assess just how much ‘stuff’ I really need.

Here’s how it began. I’ve got a lovely beach side home about 45 minutes outside Auckland, New Zealand. But there’s just me in it these days and much of my time is spent away – work (mainly around New Zealand and Australia but some travel further afield); after-hours interests in Auckland city such as learning French, friends, theatre, music, films and lots of sailing in the summer. Then there’s my five children and 16 grandchildren spread around the North Island …. I’m sure you get the picture.

Bottom line – I’m away from home a lot and the house is a lovely asset that often sits empty. So, in February I had a brain-wave. Why didn’t I rent the house out furnished for short-term rentals and move full-time into a flat in town, at least for a while? Gives the best of both worlds – my family and I can also book it out for ourselves when we want.

The time was right: from inspiration to application was rapid. Just over 3 weeks later it was all done and the first tenants were in.

This meant sorting everything I own into one of six categories.

  • To stay in the house
  • Lock-up storage at the beach
  • Non-secure storage at the beach (garage or garage loft)
  • Must-have and regularly used office equipment and files (with me)
  • Less-used but necessary office gear – stored nearby (a friend’s storage)
  • Precious/sentimental but seldom-used items (aunt’s empty garage 30 minutes away).

The core decision, given that I now occupy one room in my friend Angela’s house, was not ‘what do I need?’ but rather ‘what can I do without?’

It’s been a great exercise in reduction. And any time I felt a little overwhelmed with the size of the job I thought of people who live on boats or spend months at a time in caravans and motor-homes. I’d then get back to the task re-invigorated.

Even though I’m a tidy and organized person, ‘stuff’ had still magically accrued. As I began to filter my possessions I realised I was only using a tiny portion of them. So, for a while these posts will share some of the learnings and observations, in hopes that my experiences and learnings might help others who also want to simplify their lives.

Let’s leave today with two questions for you:
Which area of your life (or home or workspace) feels cluttered right now? And what can you do about it?

Follow the feelings and the energy – they’ll give you a clue as to where to put your focus. For example, if you walk into a room and feel heavy and overwhelmed, look around. How would a stranger see that space?

If you’re reading this when I post it – Happy Easter. With less ‘stuff’ to think about and maintain I’ve got a lot of fun activities lined up.

Back to you next week.

Robyn


2 thoughts on “Are your possessions slowing you down?”

  1. There isn’t a give-away or throw away category?

  2. Katie Barden says:

    This is very similar to one section in Gretchen Rubin’s ‘The Happiness Project’ – a very interesting read if you want to look at prioritising those things that make you and your loved ones happy, and eliminating things that bring disruption, clutter and unhappiness in your life!

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