7 Ways to Sample Living With Less


“There are two ways to be rich: One is by acquiring much, and the other is by desiring little.” —Jackie French Koller

From the moment we’re born, we’re told to pursue more. Advertisements from every television, radio, newspaper, magazine, billboard, and website scream to us on a daily basis that more is better. As a result, we work hard hours so that we can spend countless dollars purchasing the biggest homes, fanciest cars, trendiest fashions, most popular toys, and coolest technologies.

But we all know it’s not true. We all know, deep-down, that happiness can not be bought at a department store—more is not necessarily better. We’ve just been told the lie so many times we begin to believe it.

But what if, in reality, there is actually more joy in owning less? 

That truth would change almost everything about us. It would change the way we spend our hours, our energy, and our money. It would change where we focus our attention and our minds. It would change the very foundation of our lives. And if it were true, it would free us up to pursue the things in life that we most value. In other words, it would be a life-changing and life-giving realization.

Unfortunately, for some, the idea of intentionally living life with fewer possessions is just too counter-intuitive. It’s an approach to life they have never been introduced to or have never been invited to explore. The benefits have never been articulated. As a result, it’s too far a leap… too long a stretch… and jumping in with both feet is just not going to happen.

But maybe there’s an easier way than jumping in with both feet.. maybe the lifestyle can just be sampled for a bit. Oh, one may not experience all the benefits that are afforded to those who jump in with both feet, but they just may taste enough to continue along the journey.

To that end, allow me to offer 7 areas of life where living with less can be sampled. They are designed to be picked one-by-one, risk-free. Conducting each experiment for 3-4 weeks will give a good feel for the practical benefits, but hey, it’s your experiment. You decide the length.

7 Ways to Sample Living With Less

1. Clothes. According to statistics, we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. That means that many of us have closets full of clothes that we no longer like or no longer fit us correctly. They are just taking up space. The simple exercise of going through your closet and removing all unused clothing leaves your closet lighter, your mornings less stressful, and your wardrobe full of things you love. Give your lighter wardrobe 30 days to work its magic… you’ll never miss those unused clothes.

2. Decorations. Many of the decorations in our homes hold no personal value to our lives. They just simply happened to match the color of the carpet or be on sale when we walked into the store. Unfortunately, they are distracting you and your guests from the decorations in your home that share your story and highlight your values. Take a moment to walk through your home with a discerning eye. Leave only the decorations that are the most meaningful and the most beautiful. Your home will begin to share your story in a beautiful way. And your old decorations will likely end up on sale at your next garage sale.

3. Toys. Too often, we fall into the line of thinking that says more is better… and so do our kids. We begin to purchase and collect far too many toys for our children. As a result, our children have no need to learn how to be creative, helpful, careful, or sharing. In that regard, fewer toys may benefit your kids in numerous ways. Although you may want to consult your children before you relocate their unused toys, there’s a pretty good chance that after only a few weeks the old, unused toys will be forgotten (except by whomever used to pick them all up).

4. Cooking Utensils. There never seems to be enough storage space in our kitchens. Yet most of our grandmothers cooked far more often, far more elaborately, and far better than many of us today… in much smaller kitchens. The truth is that when it comes to cooking, simple is almost always better. We need far less cooking utensils than we currently own. As a result, our drawers, cabinets, and countertops can be far better organized and useful if we simply owned less. To give this experiment a shot, check out this article from the New York Times: A No Frills Kitchen Still Cooks. Then, store all your unnecessary utensils in a plastic bin, put them away out of sight, and see if you just enjoy cooking a little bit more in your new, clutter-free environment.

5.  Televisions. According to Nielsen, the average person watches 4 hours, 35 minutes of television each day. And the average American home now has more television sets than people. That threshold was crossed within the past two years. There are 2.73 TV sets in the typical home and 2.55 people. In the average American home, a television set is turned on for more than a third of the day — 8 hours, 14 minutes to be exact. We are literally sitting on the couch while life passes us by. Experiment with owning less televisions. As a result, you will watch less. And when you do, you will be more apt to do it together as a family.

6. Counter-tops. Clutter is a form of distraction. It pulls at our attention and redirects our thoughts – even for just an instant. Everything sitting out on your countertops competes for your attention. Unfortunately, we have become so accustomed to these distractions that we don’t even notice them anymore… until they are removed. Experiment, even for just 7 days, with keeping your countertops completely clear. Store things in drawers, cabinets, pantries, or temporary storage boxes. After one week, you’ll likely return some of it for the sake of convenience, but I’d bet my bottom dollar that you won’t return all of it.

7. Furniture. It may require some heavy-lifting, but if you’re up for the challenge, removing excess furniture from your rooms will immediately open up significant space and airflow in your home. The rarely-used pieces of furniture in your home are quickly recognizable and taking up more space than you realize. Oh sure, this experiment requires a place to store your furniture during the trial period, but it’s a quick and easy way to remove some of the largest clutter from your home.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

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

Follow on TwitterLike on Facebook


  1. says

    Great list! We’ve already done most of the list– barely any decorations, 1 old TV, only clothes we love and wear frequently, toys are slowly leaving, kitchen recently gone through, furniture pared down, and counter tops reduced. Yet, there’s always more!

    Such a great list for those starting out and those who feel like they’ve done it all :)

  2. says

    I like #4, Cooking Utensils. So true. We seem to have a gadget for everything and anything. Things we end up using once or twice a year and yet still eats up a good chunk of space on our shelves. I’m pretty sure I own two crock pots. And I don’t even use crock pots!

    • j dan says

      Got a laugh from this as I am down to one crockpot and wish my big one had not broken in our last move. I use mine at least a couple of times a week, sometimes more. They free up time to spend with my family rather than slaving away over the stove for an hour or more. (depends on the meal) But moving every year has been good for keeping the kitchen gadgets down to the bare minimum.

      Want to trade a set of casserole dishes for a crockpot?

  3. Nicole says

    Thanks for the reminder. Your post made me think of our kitchen – I need to go through the utensil drawer again. Right now we have a clear kitchen bench top except for the dish drying rack. Our dining/kitchen table has only a fruit bowl however I am starting to desire a clean table top there too – where else is the next best place to store bananas – inside the pantry? Not the fridge I guess as noone wants to eat a cold banana:)
    P.S. Sorry Joshua I know this is not a cooking blog :)

    • says

      Actually, the fridge is a great place to put bananas once they start to ripen…it will keep them from over-ripening. They will turn black on the outside, but stay great inside. Plus, i love a cold banana!

  4. sharle kinnear says

    I don’t know how kitchen widgets multiply so fast! I swear I could clean out those drawers weekly and always find something to toss! Currently, I am thinning out my huge book collection, re-homing any books I can get free on my new Kindle reader. The result so far has been that the book piles on the floors have disappeared. I’m working on all those seldom-read coffee table books. Thanks for your always-inspiring help, Josh.

  5. keishua says

    Great list. i have gradually become more of minimalist. For some reason, I have double and triples of many items. I have been gradually getting rid of things because my place and budget are smaller and it has been freeing. Thanks for the tips and congrats on the book.

  6. says

    There are stats to say that an average UK household throws away £600 worth of food a year. One thing I’ve achieved is to live with less waste. This means less food – sound tough? It’s not!… It’s not when estimated 10% a week is thrown away, so just reduce by 10% and try it.

  7. says

    Great list. I will be moving to a smaller space soon and need to downsize my wardrobe and kitchen stuff big time still. I went through and threw away/donated quite a bit during my first round of de-cluttering but now I have even more motive to get rid of things as I hate moving. Plan to get round of another 2 bags of clothes hopefully, lots of extra dishes and utensils, and I am going to be selling my bedroom furniture. Thanks for the reminder and inspiration to keep it simple!

  8. says

    I simply love these ways to sample living with less!
    I appreciate this approach. Jumping in or diving in is amazing indeed but taking small deliberate steps can be just as affective over the long term. I jumped right in with both feet for some of the ways on the list but for others, I need to take it slow and sample.
    Thank you for the encouragement!
    Much love,

  9. Sara says

    This article is fantastic! Last June my husband and I decided to downsize so I could take a job with a non-profit and so we could get out of our massive student loan debt. We decided to move to a 330 sq.foot studio and this blog has helped me tremendously with living simpler and paring down my crap. I’m still working on one last box but we have unloaded 3/4 of our earthly possessions and we feel freer than ever before! We even opted for a smaller fridge and as a result my husband and I walk everyday to the grocery store and get exercise and get to catch up on our day. We saved so much money that are going to start making double student loan payments so we can get out of debt even faster! Thank you!!!

    • Anna says

      hi – love this comment. I’m about to move into a 300 square foot studio – from a 650 square foot one! I’m decluttering and simplifying every day.

      If you any more tips re: moving into a very small space – and how to make it work best – I’d appreciate it.

  10. Tucker says


    I am interested in your thoughts on food itself. Have you and your family pared down, streamlined what you put on your table? I find that I have become overwhelmed by the number of choices at the grocery store and on menus when eating out. I appreciate being able to get exactly what I want, but feel disappointed that I cannot be content with fewer choices. The American “bigger and more” mindset has warped our brains. I bought smaller dinner plates to encourage smaller portions. My current quest is to declutter my food cupboards and meals.

    • says

      Tucker – may I interject? Food is the one area I have successfully minimized… other areas I am still working on. My main piece of advice is to meal plan. Only buy what you need for 7 days if at all possible, and use the lot up. We don’t live in a world of scarcity, so unless there is a very valid reason to hold food stocks (such as being at threat of being isolated due to extreme weather – or something similar) then you can manage with a ‘lean’ supply in the cupboard, fridge and freezer. I’ve been doing this week in week out for 12 months, and not only have I reduced my grocery budget by 50% at 37 years old I believe I may be in the best shape of my life… p.s – tiny fridges work well to keep you on track!

      • says

        I’ve recently dramatically downsized in living arrangements, including the kitchen. And while I think it is a great idea to have a weeks worth of working food items, the idea of going without a back up smacks of irresponsibility. Yes, we live in a world of abundance, BUT we are at the whims of companies to provide this. During normal day to day life, the stores have enough food and other items that we need not worry about finding the basics. However, during pending disasters… this is NOT the case.

        During the Katrina/Rita hurricane disaster, my medium sized city was under direct threat of being hit by the storm (despite being hundreds of miles inland). Within a DAY the store shelves were totally empty. The gas stations drained and there was not a flashlight or battery to be had in the city. Those of us who had a decent stash of canned goods and emergency items were never worried,

        As disasters like this can often not be predicted (earth quakes, wild fires, tornadoes…) the prudent person keeps on hand a 2 week stash of food for the family, batteries, water, toilet paper, medicines, pet food… This can certainly be kept in a storage box someplace else, but please have it. And, once a year, rotate out the batteries and food so that your stash stays fresh. Emergency services are not capable of providing for everyone when the sky falls!

        This is certainly within minimalist ideas – you minimize the need to get assistance from others when the sky does fall. As one who has recently gone through a massive disaster… well, be prepared for the worst and hope for the best.

  11. says

    Hi Joshua, I have just discovered your site (via Daily Health Boost) and I am loving what you are doing here! I’m putting you on my blogroll and look forward to promoting you blog in the near future. (I’ll let you know when I do.) My blog promotes ‘making do’, repurposing, living a simple life… I love how you provide concrete ways that people can start living with less right now. Take care! Delena

  12. says

    Before my husband and I moved to Costa Rica, we really pared down our belongings in preparation for a minimalist move. We loved it so much that we wouldn’t wait to get on with the move so that we could get rid of nearly everything! Even if we hadn’t moved to Costa Rica, we still would have gone in the direction of minimalism. Getting rid of stuff was about as addicting as the process of accumulation, but better. :-)

  13. Erica says

    Thank you for posting the article about the kitchen. I know we are definitely fond of gadgets, but after we moved across the country (also to AZ, from NY) we learned to give up most of them. We do utilize our convection oven, rice cooker and crock pot a great deal though, we have found that they not only use less electricity than the ancient oven we have, but they don’t heat up the house either.

    I’m going to have to try your countertop thing this week!

  14. indigo lopezi says

    Dear joshua becker,
    So if i western union you the $800 into where ? you minimalism church will help cure
    my sick father i sent the rest of my other money I think my father is a little better it’s amazing you can cure the cancer i can sell my family’s silverware as well or i can send this to you ,did jesus speak to you again?

  15. says

    I love the idea of “trialing” simpler living.

    I have tried this with a whole lot of puzzles that I’d been keeping around because they still use them occasionally and also because my last child hasn’t got to them yet. It felt so great to clean up the shelves and not have to agonise over which to keep and which to get rid of. As it happens, one of the ones I put away has been asked for and come back out. The rest are waiting for me to look in that box and probably retain and few for my 2 year old, and get rid of the rest.

    I am going to talk to my kids about trialling two things – less toys, and less clothes. Where they really struggle with the idea of giving away toys, I think they might be more accepting of putting them in a box for a month and seeing what happens – *and* that way we can get rid of a lot more at once, which will make more of a difference. And I will probably do better with getting rid of clothes this way too! Thanks, great post!

  16. Emily J says

    I’m committing myself to get rid of something everyday for 30 days, and this was perfect to read on day3 of my challenge. It’s getting easier to toss things and helpful when I do just a little at a time. Doesn’t seem as stressful or that it will never get done. I’ve had an end table sitting near my entryway for over 2 years now and was going to sell it. I started piling it with other things I was going to sell, and eventually got rid of those things but never the table. It’s sort of in the way, doesn’t really serve a purpose, and after reading this post I’m completely ok with getting rid of it. Good thing tomorrow is bulk trash pick up day.

  17. Lindy Bean says

    Oh, yes. Gotta get rid of all the stuff magneted to the refigerator. Are you with me there friends? And goodbye to most of those old snapshots, articles, cards, calendars and kiddie “art.” Why should I be tied to the past? often it’s someone else’s past anyhow. (Family “heirloom” stuff is an especially tricky snare.)
    And one more comment: I hate tripping over things, I love space–so what is this junk doing in my life, in my home. This blog has me looking very critically at some of my in-the-way furniture.

  18. SusanFL says

    The only problem with the cleared countertops is I actually use the juicer, the toaster, the mini-blender, the Hot Shot water dispenser, and the coffee maker on a frequent basis. I do not have space to store those items in cupboards. I would like clear counters, but I prefer the convenience of having the appliances ready-to-use.

  19. Teresa Forrester says

    My mother always had a ‘spare’ this or that. Our home was full of do-dads and stuff and more stuff. I have passed this down to my children without even thinking about it. It’s a BURDEN! Since taking on a new mindset and changing my home to clutter-free, and unused items free, my children have come on board and done the same. Their rooms are cleaner, pared down, and easier to maintain. The only problem is they bring their unwanted items to the living room. It’s a challenge to consistantly clear out the living room of unwanted items, but I rejoice that we are on the right track. Eventually, there won’t be so much to keep. Thanks for encouraging me to reteach my children in this area.

  20. Kuwanna says

    After I auctioned off my clothes, getting dressed was a breeze. I’d wear ‘that top’ with ‘those pants’ and ‘those shoes’ because that is what I had and it went together. And I felt as though I could finally see my clothes, see what I owned. And walk into my walk in closet!

    Oh toys…though we have tried to be conservative with how much we bring into our home, we are the victims of generous friends and family. But with two little ones I am about to do to the toybox what I just did to my kitchen counters…see below…and I don’t see my husband protesting as he is the one to pick everything up! I’ve given up.

    I’m the one in the family who tends to clutter the countertops and it drives my husband CRAZY… You are right in saying that clutter is extremely distracting. I feel like I can’t see or think properly in a cluttered room. Last Friday, as a birthday present to myself (and him), I cleaned off the kitchen counters and even wiped them down. And it felt amazing. And yes – I haven’t put anything back out. Everything has a place and that is where it goes from now on!

  21. Kuwanna says

    I feel as though a cluttered counter, desk, closet…these are all indicative of a cluttered mind, at least in my case… :)

  22. Shauna says

    I wish you could all see how far we have come! We are a family of 8 (6 kids) and while there is still work to be done, I am already so pleased with the benefits! One thing about shedding so much “stuff” that I have noticed is that I have much more courage to say no to frivolous things. It was a needed boundary for all of us. Gratitude and attitudes have improved, we are more focused and accomplish much more now that we are not constantly drowning in clutter. The things that remain for the most part( still some left to go) are things we love and use. We met with our realtor ( downsizing the house too!!) and my husband explained that I am a minimalist… It was the first time anyone had actually called ME that and it was the moment I knew we had turned a corner :-) thanks for the blog and the weekend reads. I share them frequently with friends!

  23. Happy Annie says

    This is my favorite blog post of yours to date. I love every single one of these ideas. You honed right into the meat of what is gained by each simplification. I practice simplicity in all of these areas and it absolutely does create a more intentional, productive and calmer life. :)

  24. Melissa says

    He forgot the most important items….go through your cabinets and refrigerator and clean out all of the non plant based foods. Anything that has been processed or contains ingredients that you can’t pronounce get rid of it.

  25. Helen says

    I love to get rid of stuff – problem is my mum is a complete shopaholic and just brings more and more stuff with her each time she visits!

  26. Lisa says

    Being a military family who moves every two or three years, we already do all of these things. We only have one TV with cable. The kids have one to play their Xbox. Most of the houses we have lived in have been small, so we frequently donate things that don’t fit into our home. It’s rather refreshing. :)

  27. Jon says

    If any of you want to de-clutter and minimalize your kitchen of ANYTHING cast iron I will pay for shipping and take it off your hands. Any condition.

  28. Karen says

    As primary caretaker of my mother in law, a lifelong clutterer, I experienced the hazards of this mindset. “But I can’t leave my stuff,” she protested, as I attempted to move her into a more comfortable, medically necessary facility. The mantra I now practice is “I CAN leave my stuff,” and hope my legacy consists of more than a pile of useless goods.

  29. Suzanne says

    Great list! I have done 2: I have cleaned out my clothes so I only have things I actually wear (ok, yes. there is that long dress in the back of the closet). We gave away our TV a few months ago. We follow one show–Castle–and we watch it on the laptop.

  30. Patty Lister says

    You might be interested to know that no the founder of Greek Epicurean philosophy believed this exact thing. His motto was that the ultimate goal in life is pursuit of pleasure, and of course that got twisted into people thinking that meant having crazy parties and over indulging. In fact his basic premise was that if you simplify your wants, you will have everything you need, and that you will be happy. That is the ultimate goal in life. Si his motto is more like “simplify. “

  31. says

    I just stumbled upon you through Facebook and am so grateful I did. As a PO, I help people reclaim their space and their lives through purging, repurposing and organization. I love everything you write. Thank you and keep up the great work!

  32. says

    I like to think mostly about the reallocation of our resources, not just eliminating. Maybe the spending doesn’t just go down, but we also get money freed up to do things we thought we could never afford, like traveling with our kids, build a little art studio, move to a more appealing place, And more. Everybody has their list.

  33. Robin says

    Here is my dilemma – I have things that belonged to my parents that I’m not at all sure what to do with– high school yearbooks, funeral guest books. What do you do with these things and not feel guilty about it? I’ve donated so much stuff and it’s such a freeing experience but am at a loss with these few things. Any thoughts?

    • David P. says

      I know this is rather late and hope you will see this response. I once read a really good book on simplifying your life and one of the suggestions they made was to take pictures of things. I always head on to all my sports awards and jackets and such because it was a big part of my life. I took pictures of everything and saved them in a folder on my computer. Then I got rid of it all, except for one trophy and one medal.

  34. Lois says

    Nothing ‘minimalist’ about this website. Lots of stuff to pick from to find out how to have less stuff and be happy because of it.
    Will anyone see this comment or care about it? I will wait and see. Hoping to hear all comments are considered.

  35. Jeannie says

    I agree that once you get onto this… It is as addictive as “accumulating” because one you feel the freedom of things starting to leave I just want to keep going!! Sometime I have stayed up late at night to clean out a drawer or cupboard and looked at it the next day and felt Great!! Yes a big Thank you to you Joshua for posting all these Wonderful encouraging tips… they all help and I am planning on looking forward to see the end result.. eventually!! :)

  36. Siddhartha Shankar Dey says

    The way I have reduced my wardrobe

    I created a matrix of seasons and occasions
    primary seasons – summer/winter/rainy
    occasions – formal/formal occasion (e.g. office party)/informal/informal occasion(e.g. going out with friends)/festive/home/sports. Also my job demands me to travel from extremely hot place to extremely cold country.
    I realized I can manage with by mixing and matching
    1. Three pairs formal trousers
    2. Three pairs of informal trousers
    3. Two pairs of sports trousers (with zipper to make them shorts :))
    4. Three formal shirts
    5. Three informal shirts
    6. Three sports T-shirt
    7. Two swimming shorts
    8. Three pairs of night suit
    9. Two V neck sweaters
    10. Two blazers
    11. Two two-layer jackets (inner layer can be used independently)
    12. Three pairs of foundation layer clothing
    13. Two sweat jackets

  37. says

    This is great! I already dove (dived?) in head first, but this gave me some great ideas of places I overlooked. It surprises me that I’ve already done most of these, but it still feels like I have SO much. I got rid of my only TV, donated/sold 60% of my books and 60% of my wardrobe, majorly decluttered my kitchen but I wanna do more. :) each round I think I’ve given away as much as I possibly can, and then I find more I can give away.

  38. Diane says

    Last year we had to make the move from our 2,800sq.ft. house to live with relatives until we got back on tract after a financial disaster. We basically took over 2 bedrooms, one our bedroom and the other a TV room. The only 2 rooms with our belongings. After getting rid of maybe 1/3 of our belongings before we moved, we put the rest of our things in storage. I have always been a big collector of many things, added to that I’ve been in the interior decorating business. Things always had to be current in our house. I must say it has not been easy but I’ve learned one big thing, So much of my things are not needed. The relatives that we are staying with are minimalists. We are looking to move again into a place of our own and I will be downsizing again. This time I will have a much better sense of what I will put in our new house. No more saving things for our grown children, they don’t want it, they want their own. No more, I’ll wear it someday. Life styles change as we age. We don’t need all the jewelry, or the dresses. I am looking forward to a less cluttered life. Freeing my time and money so that I can spend more time with family and friends…in the end, that’s all that matters.

  39. Nancy Evans says

    We got rid of our microwave years ago, I have a very small kitchen, and all it was doing was taking up a lot of what little counter space I have, the only thing we used it for was to heat up coffee, so out it went…..

  40. says

    What a great list. Thanks for the reminder. When my daughter was little we used to use the first of December to mark the start of the Christmas season. We’d put up the tree and also sort through all of her toys and decide what she would give away to charity for other children whose parents couldn’t afford presents. I think it helped that ‘Santa’ was only a dressed up delivery guy and parents were the source of all presents.
    The benefits of this tradition were many, but most noticeable is my daughter’s generous spirit as an adult and her ability to sort and shed excess anything with ease.

  41. says

    I recently got rid of some coffee mugs because, really, do 2 people require 16 mugs?! It’s now a joy to open the cupboard and pull out 2 of 4. Next up: 3 sets of eating utensils!

Sites That Link to this Post

  1. Simplify - Frugal Portland | December 6, 2011
  2. charlie girl: fact. | July 23, 2013
  3. Have Less | Butternut B | September 9, 2014

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *