Decluttering: The Joys of Fluid Ownership


Do you cling to possessions? I have in the past, but I’m getting better at letting them go.

Moving house is a great way of shedding the fixation with stuff that so many of us suffer from. This is because you end up forgetting half the things you actually own and it’s a nice surprise when you start opening the boxes at the new place – it’s like opening presents.

My recent move from my shabby old deco flat was so rushed that I ended up giving things away, donating them or just putting them on the hard rubbish pile. There just wasn’t time for a garage sale.

When I got to my new place – a first floor sixties flat in a bayside suburb – I still had too much stuff. Luckily I now have time to downsize at my own pace. I will sell some of these things, and if they don’t sell, I’ll give them away as gifts or donate them.

But my attitude to stuff has changed. I am much more willing to get rid of things I have no room for. I want objects to be functional and if they don’t play their part I will part with them. My huge vintage radio, which has never done a day’s work in its entire time with me, has recently gone to a new owner who may even be able to get it working again.

My thirties standard lamp didn’t survive the move intact, and the other day I put it on the hard rubbish pile outside the flats with hardly a twinge of regret – it’s gone already! I’ll eventually buy a lamp that can be adjusted so that the light is close enough to read by – something I couldn't do with the standard lamp.

This relaxed attitude to things is what the freecycling movement is all about. It’s about embracing an alternative way of looking at goods – ownership isn’t permanent any more. You use something until you simply have no use for it, and then you pass it on to someone else. It’s not so much collective ownership as fluid ownership.

I freecycled my old cream couch before the move and I offered some things for freecycling that didn’t get taken – time was partly the problem. Embracing freecycling completely would probably mean rarely having to make any major purchases – you give stuff away you don’t need, and get stuff for free when you need it (people on my freecycle list post ‘WANTED’ ads as well as offers). But I cannot, at this point, be a complete freecycler. I want to sell some of my old stuff rather than give it away – it took me so long to collect! If it doesn’t sell easily then I’ll gracefully let go of it by other means.

Different ways of freecycling

Sometimes there are things that are just too sentimental to give up completely, even if you have no room for them. One option is to lend them to trusted family members on a long term basis (a written agreement might be helpful here). It’s still fluid ownership, but you know that in a few years’ time you can reclaim your stuff if your circumstances change.

Fluid ownership is a great principle when it comes to clothes. Swap meets are wonderful for getting rid of clothes that are still wearable but that you are simply sick of. We all need novelty and if you are fashion conscious, endless rotation of your existing clothes won’t be enough. At a swap meet everyone comes home with something new, yet no new resources have been used to produce your ‘new’ items.

When it comes to clothes, roommates often practise fluid ownership as second nature. Thrift stores are also a way of practising fluid ownership – we sometimes donate things just because we’re sick of them, and hopefully find things that other people have donated for the same reason.

In whatever form you practise fluid ownership, my belief is that it produces good karma when it comes to stuff. When you give stuff away freely or at a reasonable price, you are more likely to get bargains or freebies back again when you need them.

Do you practise fluid ownership and if so how?

Until next time!

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The Secret Reason We Buy Too Much Stuff

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(Picture: Jerry Bakewell)
There are many reasons why we indulge in retail therapy, but one of them isn’t mentioned very often. It’s so obvious we don’t even think about it.

Sometimes we buy things just because we have the space for them.

This realisation struck me when I moved house recently (when they say it’s the most stressful thing you can do, they’re not kidding!). I moved from a huge art deco apartment to a decent-sized two-bedroom flat with one less room.

I’d already given away a lot of stuff before I moved but was amazed at what I still had.

The most surprising thing was that I had quietly amassed a collection of thrift store pictures over the almost ten years I’d been in the apartment. I had a total of more than thirty pictures altogether! This is without any conscious collecting on my part – just a desire to fill the empty spaces on the large walls.

The irony is that there are very few picture hooks at this new place, and I am reluctant to ask the landlord if I can put them up at this early stage in the tenancy. So the majority of these pictures are going to have to go – I’m intending to sell some of the better ones on eBay.

Having amassed all these pictures has taught me a lesson in restraint. I did get very skilled at picking pictures with future potential – the more kitsch the better – and was proud of the way I arranged them in my apartment. And I will keep some of them at the new place, and rotate them on the few picture hooks I have so I don’t get bored.

But nothing is forever, and I will let the majority go with grace.

I know now there is always a new picture around the corner. Only a week ago I found myself staring longingly at a large, abstract print in an op shop in the inner city suburb of Port Melbourne. I knew I didn’t have room for it. When enough pictures are sold, perhaps I will let myself buy one or two new ones.

So next time you're about to buy some little knick-knack or a piece of furniture it’s worth asking yourself the question: am I buying this just to fill space?

Perhaps there is just one thing you buy too much of, because you’ve started a collection – collections have a tendency to constantly demand that they be added to!

If you tend to do this, next time you could rethink whether you really need the item. If it still ‘calls’ to you, is there something you already have that you could get rid of?

Another question it's worth asking when you’re buying a piece of decor: is there something else the money could be used for, like a great experience or a large savings goal?

Until next time!
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