A client recently asked me, “What’s the right amount of _______? When is enough enough?”
The question spurred a trail of thoughts a mile long. Every person is going to have a different answer for every area of life. The avid cyclist will have more accessories that I can count, while the once-a-year cyclist may just have the bike. The answer to the question lies in your love, need for, and use of all the things available within a given category. No matter the level of enthusiasm, there is wisdom in establishing healthy limits.
Here are your top 3 guidelines to help you discover when your enough is enough:
Each item in your home is used at least once a year.
This may sound like a tall order, but it’s easy to achieve if you give yourself the time to tackle each category and make decisions. Clothing is the best category to begin with and laundry is your easiest way to measure frequency of use. Runners who run 7 days a week and only do laundry once will require 7 outfits. Employees who work in an office (with no uniform) or teachers will most likely do laundry at least once a week, but may require 10 outfits so that they don’t feel like they’re repeating themselves every week. Instead, 10 outfits allow for a potential repeat only once every two weeks. Some folks like to have even MORE variety in their wardrobes. (I highly caution more than 3 weeks’ worth of outfits.) The Pareto Principle attests that we’re only using 20% of our stuff 80% of the time, so to help you identify what you’re actually wearing (all the time AND at least once a year), try this little experiment.
- Pick a date.
- The day before this date, make sure ALL of your clothing is laundered and/or dry cleaned.
- On your set date, turn everything backwards: hangers in closets, folded shirts facing the opposite direction, underwear on the other side of the drawer (use a divider like an empty shoebox if necessary).
- For the next 12 months (or less if you can finish the experiment before that), whenever you use an item of clothing, store it forwards (or the way it used to be before your start date).
- At the end of 12 months (or less), whatever you see you aren’t using needs to be edited. These items may be donated, tossed, or recycled. You might even sell them on Facebook, Craigslist, or Ebay. BUT THEY CAN’T STAY in your drawers or closets.
- This practice also works with other categories in your home. Simply turn the item (hammer, towel, serving platters, etc.) toward a different direction or angle to easily identify which things you have and haven’t used. There are a few tools that sometimes do not pass the twelve-month test, but may pass a two-year test. The point is to pare down your belongings to get to the point where you have enough. There are always exceptions, but exceptions are only exceptions by definition if they are RARE
Dust is at a minimum.
When you are actively using everything in your home, those items will be touched, moved, or laundered on a regular basis. Have you ever seen a pair of shoes tucked in the back of your closet covered in dust? You know why they’re dusty and your other shoes aren’t? I bet it’s NOT because you only dusted the other pairs. Who dusts shoes?! No, that one pair is dusty because they haven’t been moved in months. But what about snow boots? Well of course, those will probably get dusty --- that’s an expected casualty of the seasons. Don’t play hardball --- you know exactly which shoes I’m talking about --- the ones that you know won’t pass the “worn in a year” test. The point is, when the things in our home have a purpose, less dust will settle. You’ll still need to vacuum, mop, and dust, but your work will be cut in half because ….. (wait for it…..)
Your closets, drawers, cabinets, and other storage areas are at least 25% empty.
The emptiness not only creates ease of accessibility, but it also allows the air to flow properly through your house. Proper air flow equals less dust. If your storage areas are always jammed full, then you’ve simply got to ask yourself if all the items within them passed the first test. If they did and you’re still overflowing, then you might be one of the VERY few people in the world who NEED more space. Just a warning, parenting during the infant stage will create a very FULL home. There are a TON of things you need for such a small person, that the hoard is almost laughable. But take heart --- you won’t need all these things for more than each little person’s first year of life. You might feel the need to store and reuse for the next child (thus “breaking” the Twelve Month Use Rule), and that’s normal. Choose an area that is out of the way and not easily accessible like an attic, basement, or someone else’s extra storage space during the “waiting for baby” period.
Ready to find out if you have enough already? I bet you are and I bet you do. When you follow these three guidelines, the items that are more than enough can be released to make way for space, freedom, and even newer/more useful things. Some clients realize at the end of their edits that there are items missing; items not previously owned but needed. Clothing staples and capsule wardrobes provide great examples of how to purchase more after eliminating the excess.
Share your experience below!!!