Declaring Independence from Clutter

July4The USA turns 240 today and we’ll mark the occasion as we always do with food, drinks and fireworks. It’s one of the highlights of the summer calendar.

During the Revolutionary War, many colonists saw their homes ransacked, burned to the ground, or otherwise taken over by the British. Those colonists sacrificed everything for freedom, including their lives in some cases. Others were left with only the clothes on their backs.

To look today at our American consumer culture on steroids, it can seem as if we’re celebrating our independence by accumulating as much stuff as possible. To support such a lifestyle, we sacrifice that hard-fought independence by going into debt, working long hours in jobs we don’t especially enjoy, and becoming slaves to fashions, trends, and must-have possessions.

By overeating and drinking, we relinquish independence by creating fat, inefficient bodies that no longer allow us the energy and strength to accomplish our dreams.

Here are four areas where we can create more lasting independence:

DOWNSIZE: You need not wait until the kids are grown to downsize. By going with a smaller home, you can reduce waste and expense and create more time and freedom. After all, a big house sucks time and money. One of this year’s best-selling books is “The More of Less” by minimalist expert Joshua Becker, who has inspired millions to embrace the freedom of living richer lives by owning less stuff.

Boaters know that the second-happiest day of boat ownership is the day they sell the burden. Homeowners know that feeling, too. More really is less.

LEAN OUT: If you’ve done any overnight hiking, you know the relief that comes when you’re able to finally take off that heavy 30- or 40-pound backpack. But many of us willingly choose to carry the equivalent of that pack all the time in the form of extra weight. That burden robs us of energy, makes us more vulnerable to illness and injuries, and keeps us from being more productive.

There’s tremendous freedom that comes from losing the weight. You will look good in anything, especially your birthday suit. Body acceptance is a wonderful thing, of course. But why not feel the freedom that comes from having more energy? Why carry extra weight around?

UNSUBSCRIBE: This July Fourth, declare your independence from e-mail. Unsubscribe to a minimum of 25 things – retail store emails, alerts, newsletters, and groups in which you no longer participate. The latter can be awkward, so include a brief note expressing gratitude for the invites/information but explaining that you’re no longer in a position to appreciate it.

GIVE AWAY: As I’ve given away half my possessions over the last few years, I’ve felt an enormous sense of freedom each time I leave a carload of stuff at Goodwill, deliver something to a Craigslist buyer, or just give stuff away to friends or those who need it.

Less stuff = more time, freedom and money.

That’s really what our Founding Fathers were fighting for when they declared their independence: time, freedom, and money. Thankfully, we only have to fight that battle these days with ourselves.