Sunday May 22, 2011, 10:40 , by Giselle Borg Olivier
Most people own a lot of stuff – more stuff than they really need or even realise they have. Yet somehow it’s accumulated over time and has taken up residence in that corner of the room, or under the bed, or up there on those high shelves that are never really touched.
And it’s because this stuff has found a home and blended into the background of our lives that we don’t realise the sheer amount of what we hold and hoard.
Afflicted with the mentality of “I won’t throw it away because I might need that shoelace/rusty nail/single toy car wheel one day”, we place things in drawers and boxes assuring ourselves that we’ll remember where everything is when the need arises. Naturally this rarely, if ever, happens – neither the need nor the remembering. Yet we keep adding to our hoard of stuff, always buying more and never throwing anything away. Until one day, something happens to force us to deal with the clutter: whether redecorating or moving house.
Shopping, and spending money, brings a certain satisfaction to people (although the worthiness of that satisfaction is often questioned) and when we see something we like, it’s instinctive to want to own it; however, owning too much stuff can tie you down, leaving you with a cluttered house and cluttered lifestyle, often finding yourself a slave to material items.
Owning many items means you have more to clean, to be responsible for, to worry about – leaving you with less time to spend on yourself.
The recent economic crisis has led people to rethink their lifestyle and spending habits, paving the way for a more minimalist and low- maintenance style of living.
To be clear about the terminology used, low maintenance doesn’t mean not owning items that are useful, so your kitchen will still be equipped with a kettle, toaster and microwave – but do you really need that bread maker?
Owning too much stuff can tie you down, leaving you with a cluttered house and cluttered lifestyle.
Sure, it seemed like a great idea at the time and the salesperson made a very convincing argument about how baking your own bread is a very satisfying process, but did they also mention the overall time and cost involved? There are certain ‘luxuries’ which we don’t need and which do not lead to a better lifestyle, especially if they are money drainers. Certain items may not cost much to purchase but end up costing a lot to run.
Even your basic house structure could be wasting you money. If you’ve got a large property with high-maintenance fees and which costs even more to furnish, you’ve just lumbered yourself with a money drainer.
Living in a more compact, yet comfortable, house means you have saved twofold: you have more money to put away and you have more time that isn’t spent on the maintenance and upkeep of the property.
There are many benefits to low-maintenance living. By clearing out the visual distraction of clutter, you’re clearing out visual stress, leading to a more calming and peaceful atmosphere. Spring cleaning is often seen as a therapeutic process because you’re getting rid of the old and the unnecessary, leaving behind clean, fresh space.
Clearing out the distraction of clutter also allows for your more important items in the house to have greater appeal. Whether it’s a beautiful piece of furniture, a painting or decorations, giving them their own space will make you appreciate them more, as they’re not competing with inferior items for your attention.
Some characteristics of low-maintenance living would include select pieces of necessary furniture, clear surfaces and select decorations. A house without any items would be boring, so a vase of fresh flowers would be a good idea, but a shelf full of knick-knacks would definitely not conform.
Low-maintenance living is about quality over quantity and choosing what you need over a long period of time, rather than what a salesperson has persuaded you is the latest must-have item.
Tackle a room at a time, keeping just the essentials. Move furniture around if need be and find new homes for certain pieces that deserve their own space. Once you’ve simplified your house, see whether anything is lacking or needs to be changed. De- cluttering doesn’t mean you won’t be buying any more items; it’s a matter of picking choice items that will enhance the room rather than engulf it.
A low-maintenance lifestyle does not mean that you’re poor or cannot afford luxuries; it means you’re frugal and are aware of the value of money and time, choosing to spend them on more important aspects of your life than merely stuff.