7 Common Problems Solved by Owning Less

“Anything you cannot relinquish when it has outlived its usefulness possesses you, and in this materialistic age a great many of us are possessed by our possessions.” —Peace Pilgrim

Three years ago, we sold, donated, or discarded over 70% of our family’s possessions. We removed clothes, furniture, decorations, cookware, tools, books, toys, plus anything else we could find in our home that was not immediately useful or beautiful. The result has been a completely transformed life and lifestyle. It is a decision we have never regretted.

The intentional choice to live with fewer possessions has brought with it a great number of benefits. It has been the answer to much of the discontent we felt in our lives when we owned more. And the decision holds the potential to do the same for you.

Consider these Seven Common Problems that Can Be Solved by Owning Fewer Possessions:

1. “I don’t have enough money / I’m in debt.” The simplest solution to almost every money problem is “spend less.” In fact, it’s the first step in almost every financial program ever devised. Purposefully deciding to own fewer possessions is an important step in getting your financial house in order – and often times, it’s the only step you really need to take.

2. “There’s just not enough time in the day.” We were immediately surprised at how much extra time we found in our lives after removing our unnecessary possessions. We came to realize, if we aren’t careful, the things we own quickly move from “time-saving” to “time-consuming.” Just think about all the time we waste caring for our possessions: shopping, researching, organizing, picking up, cleaning, repairing, replacing – even earning the money to buy them in the first place. And the reality is, it can be difficult to determine how much time our possessions are actually stealing from us until we actually remove them.

3. “There’s always so much cleaning to do / Even after I clean, my house feels cluttered.” Want to have a cleaner home? Own less stuff. It works every time.

4. “My house is too small / There’s never enough storage around here.” Chances are pretty good that your house isn’t too small – you’ve just put too much stuff inside it. Case in point: according to statistics, the average house size in America has doubled since the 1950′s… yet, many of us still think that we need something bigger. You probably don’t. And removing the unneeded possessions from your home and life will likely provide the opportunity for you to discover that again.

5. “I’m too stressed.” The artist and philanthropist, John Ruskin once said, “”Every increased possession loads us with a new weariness.” Every increased possession weighs down our lives with new things to worry about, care for, and maintain. Our purchases have far surpassed bringing convenience and ease into our lives. In fact, they have begun to do just the opposite – they have brought new forms of stress and anxiety instead.

6. “I can’t decide what to wear / It’s so hard to keep up with the changing fashions.” On the surface, fashion appears to be an ever-evolving game where the rules change with each passing season. As a result, it demands astute attention (and an expansive income). But it does not have to. Instead, carry a beautiful wardrobe filled with a few timeless pieces that you truly love to wear. Once you love everything hanging in your closet, deciding what to wear will be one less problem to deal with in your morning.

7. “I wish I had…” Our culture begs us to own more. Advertisements call us to purchase the latest and the greatest. Our natural tendencies cause us to compare our lives with those around us. And we seem to have a built-in desire to impress others by owning as much as possible. As a result, we spend precious energy wishing we had more. But this constant dreaming, hoping, and envying other’s possessions is stealing from our joy and contentment today. It makes us feel like we are missing something – even though there is so much joy right in front of us.

We made the decision years ago to live with fewer possessions. Sometimes, I get asked, “Do you think you’ll always live with a minimal number of possessions?” My response is always the same, “Oh yeah, I’m never going back. There is just too much joy and freedom on this side.”

And I cherish the opportunity to invite others to experience it as well.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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Comments

  1. says

    Spending less is such a basic advice that oozes common sense and yet very few people seem to pay heed to it. I’m never against investing money but spending on things and not assets, is mostly unnecessary.

    • Linda Hoffecker says

      I am so happy that you put in that quote by ‘Peace Pilgrim’. I was trying to think of her ‘name’ all day and how I was so impressed with her, loved the book and tape. I gave them to my UU church for an idea for a sermon in ’99 but it was never used… I never got the materials back. I also remember that when I sent for the books and VHS from the person who offered them, all of the materials were free. I believe that that woman was killed by a car as she was walking along the road. Is this true? I love your newsletters! Thank you. Linda

  2. Suzanne says

    I agree with all the sentiments you express, Joshua. Over the years I have moved house a number of times. Each time, I have discarded absolutely LOADS of stuff. I still seem to have heaps of stuff, but it gets easier every time I up-stumps to discard those extra items I have collected along the way.

    Some years ago our family of 5 travelled in a caravan for 8 months. We each took 2 sets of clothes each, 2 saucepans, an electric frypan, a plate, bowl,cup and cutlery and we were HAPPY. We didn’t miss a thing.This experience taught me that you don’t need much to enjoy life.

    People laugh at my old TV with the digital set top box and my 7 year old Nokia phone which does all that I want it to do – phone and text. But I think sometimes we up-date, and fill our houses with new stuff just to impress other people with how well we are doing, how much we are earning, how much we are keeping up with the Jones’, etc.

  3. Hashaun Adderley says

    All very true… Owning lots of possessions can easily allow anxiety to creep up. Owning less frees up so much mental space.

  4. Lucy says

    Speaking of spending less: I had a co-worker who used to say all the time how he needed more money and should ask for a raise. I suggested he give himself a raise: stop spending and that’ll put some cash in our pocket!

  5. Natalie says

    I love this article and it really reflects where I am right now. I embraced minimalism a few months ago, when my boyfriend moved into my comfortably-sized home and I started fretting about where to put all my “stuff”. As I went through my stuff, item by item, I realized that I had absolutely no emotional attachment or need for most of them. It hit me like a brick wall as I tried to cram things into my closets: life is not about the things around us, but rather about the people we love and the wonderful experiences we have with those around us. That moment inspired me to purge huge loads of items to Goodwill, thrift stores, Craigslist, the city dump, and my friends. I get just as much of a “high” now from purging items as I used to get from buying them! I wish I could share my newly found happiness with everyone around me, but most still don’t get it. In particular, I have one friend who constantly frets about the amount of debt she is in; however, when I visit her place all I see is rooms full of unnecessary items. She often falls victim to buying something if she feels she may want or need it “someday”. She lives in a huge home that is overfull with clutter, and it’s stressful for me just to stop by. I can’t imagine how she lives with it. I wish I could explain to others how much easier their lives would be if they let go of the extra clutter. I think it’s just something you have to discover for yourself.

    • Lisa says

      I hear you. I’ve managed to unload some stuff that’s been cluttering up the garage, porch, house…and when I got rid of those things, I felt a great weight lifted from my shoulders and that was just scratching the surface. This weekend I’ll be taking a load of clothes and stuff to charity, old towels to the vet and putting a bunch of stuff out front with a free sign on it. I can’t wait. My husband’s not totally on board with it, but I’m working on it. He’s not the one always picking up stuff moving it from one place to another and is pretty oblivious to it.

  6. Christina says

    Having freed myself from a lot of clutter, not all of it as yet,….the next big things are heaps of books….many are gone, but still more need to go, also the ones I am attached to. The dismal weather has a silver lining: I read or scan, no not onto,the computer, but with my eyes, one book after another and make a few notes in an especially designated note book, and then the book goes to the goodwill store….it is a good process. Thanks for the continual and needed inspiration!

  7. katie says

    It took my a single day to realize, I want to stop buying clothes. After discovering minimalism, and what it is all about, I came to this realization. I never shopped much, but I liked to look at clothes online and WANTING to buy them. And when I did, I rarely wore them. Now, I feel like that self of me was crazy. What was I thinking? Why did I want that stuff in the first place?
    I now find myself trying to get rid of a lot of my clothes. I no longer give shopping a single thought in my head. And I do not worry about not having enough money for clothes, because I already have all I want and need.

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