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Melissa Schmalenberger, Published August 26 2012

Schmalenberger: Don’t let possessions rule your life

Many wealthy people are little more than janitors of their possessions.

– Frank Lloyd Wright, architect (1867-1959)

A good friend sent me the above quote recently. And it truly could not have come at a better time in my life. I think there are two types of wealthy people out there. Ones that are owned by their possessions and status and ones that aren’t owned by their possessions and status.

I am blessed to have friends who are janitors and those that are not. I am allowed a sneak peek into what is working for them and what is not working for them. The ones that are janitors are miserable.

But I know a secret; they don’t have to be janitors. All they have to do is stop buying and start living. I for one do not want to be a janitor.

As a family we have made a choice to only have two cars (with four drivers). I am teased that I won’t let my husband buy a new car.

Believe me I would love for him to have a new car so that I am no longer teased. It is as simple as, he doesn’t want a car. He says he gets exercise in the summer when the weather is nice and in the winter I drop him off and pick him up in a warm car. What is not to love? We had three cars, but one was always getting fixed and we were tired of putting money into it. Problem solved when we got rid of the car and are no longer a janitor of it.

As my son leaves for college next week, he begins the process of packing up his room. His brother is moving into his room and I am going to finally get an office. We bought two large clear plastic bins and he thinks he doesn’t even need two. He believes he can fit everything he is not taking to college into one. I was amazed at that observation and knowing him, he will get everything into one.

How freeing life would be if we could go back in time before we started to accumulate “things.” He is on the path of not becoming a janitor.

So As we went shopping for things for his dorm last night I asked him questions like, do you really need a stapler? Knowing that this one stapler he buys he will likely own for years to come.

And also thinking he will probably not even use the stapler in the first place. And then of course he needs extra staples…. and then he will need a place to store his staples. Honestly, I think I still have the same set of staples that I bought when I started college. I did offer him one of our staplers as I know I own two. Maybe if we all were asked the questions in we really needed something before we made that purchase and brought something new, our houses and lives wouldn’t nearly be as full?

So I remind you, don’t become a janitor of your stuff. Because as a friend reminded me, everything you own is calling to you:

“Read me. Wear me. Mend me. Fix me. Dust me. Relax with me. Watch me. Wash me. Find a place for me.”

I am someone who doesn’t want to be a janitor. I want to be someone who is spending time with my friends and family laughing and making memories. I don’t want to be the person who is at home waiting for the repairman to come to fix something in my house. Because, guess what? With less stuff you have fewer things to clean and maintain.

And I ask you, how many bins would it take to put all of your possessions in?

Melissa Schmalenberger is a professional organizer. She blogs at mssimplicity.areavoices.com.