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.

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  1. AFZAL says

    The concept is brilliant in its simplicity – just love it.
    Now to build up the courage to launch on this route to discovering the inner joy of living with less.

    • Marta from Chicago says

      Tell me you are still going strong and have not reverted to your old ways (what I catch myself doing!)~Signed, Trying to Become an Ex- Paper Hoarder Among Other Things

  2. LORRAINE says

    Minimalist living. This appeals to me. I realize that I have wasted money all my life, and trust me, my father echoes this in my head. I have been blessed to lead a rather wealthy existence. I made good money. But I see that I wasted much of it thinking I needed stuff to surround me. I could probably be a millionaire now if I had held back! I regret it and have tried to de clutter but everytime I do, I find that I miss the things that I have given away! Like clothes for instance. I go throught the closet stuff the give always on garbage bags, drag them to the Salvation Army and then a few weeks later I am looking for a piece that I gave away.

    • Marta from Chicago says

      When it comes to clothes you already have, I’d recommend just get rid of stuff that doesn’t fit or you know darn well you will never repair. Keep the rest since you already have it. Eventuallly as clothes get worn out, discolored, ripped, and/or stained you’ll start using the excess. And don’t buy more. Signed, Learned After the Same Happened to Me.

  3. says

    In 2008, at age 60, I looked at myself in in a mirror in one of the four bathrooms in our 5,000 sq. ft house in Denver and decided that I ‘couldn’t live like this anymore.’ Whatever I couldn’t fit into a 17 ft U-Haul truck or the Jeep it was towing wasn’t going to make the trip to Coeur d’alene Idaho. I took my two bikes and my sea kayak, and the clothes I liked most. I went from a custom 5,000 sq. ft home to a 1,000 sq. ft. apartment located over a Paso Fino horse barn. Three years later I moved to an island on Puget Sound. Whatever I couldn’t fit inside or on top of my Jeep didn’t come with me. The rest I gave away. If you would have asked me ten years ago if I thought I could retire on the amount of money I now live on, I would have laughed and thought you were kidding me. I have never been so happy, or free. I have learned how to dance on the other foot….

    • says

      Hello Steve. Reading your comment nearly brought a tear down my cheek. I’m in my 30s now but that is the life I want for myself when I retire. You have inspired me with your story to work harder to reach that goal. Thanks and God bless.

    • Tamara says

      I absolutely love your story. It spoke to my heart. It’s clear your spirit has been set free. Well done and bless every fresh new day that awaits you!

    • Connie says

      I love this! Approaching 60 and distraught that life is not how I imagined, simplicity and minimalism is calling to me. Instead of spending more time sad and upset at what I don’t have, I am moving toward being blessed by what I do and even paring it down more. Just spent a weekend with a family member in a 5,000+ custom home and of course it is fabulous! but it really got me thinking- that really isn’t what I desire. Long road ahead but perhaps the happiness I seek is really in less!

    • Nilam says

      Steve your reply to this post brought tears in my eyes. You have summed up your reflection in a beautiful and inspiring way which caused an emotional shift for me. Very well said sir and I will continue working towards a similar experience.

    • Gullan from Sweden says

      Sometimes it can take a lifetime to long for happiness and well-being. Sometimes it can be enough to watch a TV spot with Jousha Becker and read a memorable posts by Steve who used his own mirror to self-reflection.
      I will soon turn 63 and live by the philosophy of “less is more” ….

    • Marta from Chicago says

      Oh, and I have to admit that I want to live in a big house for at least ten years to get it out of my system. Signed, Wanting to live Large Because I Know I’ll live Small Later

  4. mother says

    I am having trouble. One set of sheets. But the thing is, we need flannel for winter and cotton for summer.
    And, once a month a cleaning lady comes. There is not time for me to get the kids up and to school, and wash ALL their sheets and dry them, by the time cleaning lady gets here. So we need two sets. But then, that’s 8 sets of extra sheets! My whole closet. :( 6 kids and 2 adults.
    And trust me, having her clean (the scrubbing and stuff that keeps mold away) is essential. Plus, it forces me to keep clutter away or she can’t clean!

    • Cindy Lou says

      Being a minimalist is about making your life easier and more productive. It doesn’t mean giving away things that are useful in your life situation. Relax, DE clutter and don’t worry about having extra sheets that make your life simpler come wash day.

      • Marta from Chicago says

        I agree with Cindy. For example, I have enough underware to wear a fresh pair for three weeks, if not four. That works for me. Yet, I don’t have the same set up for socks & bras. Signed, No Overkill Where Not Necessary

    • Elephile says

      If you really want to reduce the number of sheets you use, have all flat sheets. When you change the bed, put the bottom sheet in the wash, put the top sheet back on the bed as the bottom sheet, then use the clean sheet as the top sheet. This way you only need three sheets for each bed.

      Better still, change 4 beds at a time; the 4 bottom sheets will be washed and when they’re dry they will become the clean sheets for the OTHER 4 beds. This way you will also need only 4 beds’-worth of pillow cases spare because you’ll be changing them at the same time as the sheets. This means at most you would have 4 sheets (not sets) and 4-6 pillowcases in your closet. (duplicate the numbers for cotton/flannel)

      Fitted sheets always wear out quickly, then your whole set is ruined. It is NOT hard or slow to put a flat sheet on a bed and do hospital corners. And a flat sheet always fits after it’s shrunk, unlike “fitted” sheets which get tight from shrinkage and rip if your toenail so much as brushes against them.

      I much prefer flat sheets. We have a standard size bed and I put king size sheets on to give us more coverage. This is possible because of using all flat sheets.

    • Kelly says

      Minimalism to me is having what I need and use. That’s it. We have temperature ranges from -40C to 40C so I understand needing a variety :) I store off-season sheets & blankets in plastic bins in our basement. I store the guest bed sheets in the same room as the guest bed. Maybe try storing the clean 2nd set of sheets in each child’s room (under the bed perhaps or up on the top closet shelf).

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  7. Alice Ann Hengesbach says

    My kitchen counter tops are absolutely clear and I love it. Gave away the microwave to the crew at the Dollar Store for their backroom and haven’t missed it a jot. Going to give the closets and the kitchen another pass. Television is on “vacation pause” as I do more with online. Have lived without tv in the past and I like it (except for missing sports). I have been paring down for 12 years. Getting to the bare bones is really fun and satisfying … I was laid off from a $55K/year+benefits job in 2008 … and it is hard to imagine that in 2015 (income about $15K) my life is richer,, simpler. I’ve found that when a challenge comes up … if I slow down, think and persevere I can meet it. I am more creative when life can’t be fixed by just writing a check. Love your blog, Joshua!

    • Marta from Chicago says

      I like what you are saying. Being all-around healthy is what I’ve learned (living @$15K to begin with) is what’s important as a foundation. Healthy in terms of finances, health-including mental, and a active family life that only includes family members who promote loving, respectful relationships.

  8. Christy says

    Love reading your blog. Your thoughts are such an inspiration. I am a divorced mom raising 12 year old twin boys all by myself. I have been paring down for about the last 6 months and I am loving my life so much more. Even my boys are happier with less. We moved into a smaller apt and have seen big savings on the light bill among other things. Making our life simpler has allowed me to work way less and go back to school to do something I will enjoy. My poor coworkers work their butts off, are constantly worn out and I feel bad for them because they just don’t understand my lifestyle and how much more happiness is out there when you get to do more of what you want with life instead of just working it away.

    • Marta from Chicago says

      I’m a hoarder because I hoard. My mom and two of my sisters hoard, too. My hoarding isn’t as bad as them because I don’t own a house and garage like them, but I’m sure if I had the space, I’d fill it. I got sick of criticizing them and looked at myself. I’ve got my hoarding down from 7 rooms to 1. My partner is in shock. Signed, No More Projects & No More Saving It–Just in Case

  9. j says

    Simplifying sounds all well and good. So my question is:

    What could possibly be the (emotional) reasons why a person vehemently resist, even aggressive when paring down or simplifying was suggested? Denial? Lack of motivation? Hiding?

  10. Patricia says

    I appreciated the sentiments of the article, but I think you need to review the correct usage of “less.” If you are referring to items that can be counted, the correct adjective is “fewer.” For example, “Experiment owning fewer televisions.” “We need far fewer cooking utensils…”

  11. Ruwandima says

    Good article.
    I’ve been learning on minimalist living a lot recently and what struck me was how it is essentially one of the core teachings of the Buddhist philosophy. The lesser possessions you have , lesser the worries will be. Lesser the worries , freer the mind will be. Freer the mind , happier a person will be. I’m actually feeling ashamed of myself for not thinking about a more simpler practical application like this of such a fundamental teaching of a philosophy I believe in.
    I made a major purchase a few weeks ago and while it made me ecstatic to possess that thing for a while , I realize that it no longer makes me as happier, as with the most things I have purchased -necessities or otherwise. I took the first step of the long process of letting go with purging my clothes. While it was a very difficult decision to let go of things I have bought with my hard earned money , it was also such a ease of burden on my mind and I’m already looking forward to continuing the process with my other possessions…

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

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