“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 pursue minimalist living and owning less 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 Less Stuff:
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 be a minimalist?” 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.
Loved this article…in fact, I read it outloud to my hubby…as it’s one of our goals to eliminate a lot of unnecessary items and clutter in our house.
I’m only just starting to realize how little of my stuff I actually need. I have all kinds of excuses for myself as to why I should hang onto things. I’m now actively working on reevaluating and cutting back. I’m doing it gradually, daily, trying to make the constant reevaluation of my physical space something that I do automatically. I’d like to replace my “just keep it for now” response into “wait, do I really need this?”
Thanks for sharing these seven things — it’s good positive reinforcement for me to see that plenty of people are living very well with less!
Diane Balch says
All the bulk buyer I know are constantly complaining that their houses are too small, not enough storage space etc… I don’t understand why do you need to keep 12 bottles of ketchup that you only saved 10 cents each one??? It’s a scam… you are never going to use it in a year and the company made money because they got you to purchase something you wouldn’t have bought.
I totally agree with you. And so many of these folks who are trying saving money by buying in large bulk quantities rarely take into consideration how much a square foot of space in their house/apt costs them in mortgage or rent payments. People get bigger houses and apartments – even spending an extra $1000+ per year – to hold that case of ketchup that was $1.20/case, or that huge crate of Kraft Dinner that was $10 cheaper than individually buying 72 boxes one at a time.
Well, yes and no. If you are paying for that square footage just so you have room to store cases of bulk goods, yes. We bought a 4 BR 3 BA house to accommodate ourselves and guests/family visitors. So in that sense, no. Those bulk purchases go in the garage, which is already there to accommodate our cars and has the storage space as well. I don’t buy cases of ketchup and the like, but I do buy larger quantities of things I use a lot, especially if they are expensive, where there is a substantial savings and I can use the items before they expire, or where they are not perishable at all (paper products, etc.). I once read a book where a man calculated sq ft house cost and talked about how much it costs to store things. Well, we are NOT paying for square footage to store things. We did not buy a house to accommodate our possessions; in fact, they did not fill it up (and still do not). So THAT is snake oil to me, to say we are paying so much per sq ft to store what we have. We are paying that much to LIVE here! I am the only one who can decide whether it is wise to buy something in bulk. Likewise, I am the only one who can decide how much furniture I need, how many books I need, etc. But I do agree with the basic premise of the article, that most of us have too much and that it does exact a toll on us emotionally if not financially.
I’d like to boast about what I got rid of – but that seems like “look at me and what I did”.
Get rid of your stuff and be done with it.
Thank you for sharing these blessings of simplicity!
Mike | Homeless On Wheels says
Great list, Joshua! Here’s another quote for you collection, quite apropos to number 7:
“We don’t need to increase our goods nearly as much as we need to scale down our wants. Not wanting something is as good as possessing it.” –Donald Horban
Shirley Trevor says
Nice quote, thanks for sharing.
Mike, checked out your blog, good stuff! Bookmarking to read more!
Megyn @MinimalistMommi says
While I think some of this can be true, I often find posts like this akin to snake oil. Follow these rules, and you’re life will be better! As someone who has lived a minimalist lifestyle for most of her 26 years, I can rightfully attest that having less does not equate to all of the above. I still struggle with all of the above, except #4. If a stranger came to my house today, he would instantly ask if we were moving, where all of our stuff is, and how can we not have any money?! The truth is, living with less can help, but is not a cure all for all.
Stepping off my soap box now… ;)
Amy @ Finer Things says
I think some of this depends on where you’re coming from in the first place. If you’re the “MinimalistMommi” already, you’ll definitely have a different perspective than someone who is completely overwhelmed with STUFF and the managing of STUFF in their life right now. I think “those people” ;) will see immediate benefits to paring down a bit.
Tony Pracy says
Megyn, You seem to be placing too much importance in what other people think – If you live a minimalist lifestyle, it will follow that people who live with extra possessions will judge you simply because they don’t understand you – Personally, If I found myself faced with the questions you mentioned, I would be completely honest and explain in a calm and kind way how my lifestyle choices include living with less possessions –
Some people equate material gain with the quality of an individuals character – These people have been brainwashed to believe that you are not a ‘good’ person until you have a wide screen TV a Mac laptop and a house cluttered with so called ‘status’ symbols – It is an illusion these people choose to believe – But it is not a reflection on your character when people ask odd questions – They are simply revealing their values –
Megyn, I know what you mean about about the minimalist living and still not having any money.
Lorilee @ Loving Simple Living.com says
Love less cleaning time. I would add “less time searching the house for that thing you know you had but can’t remember where you put” Now, I either have it and know where it is, or I know I don’t have it and don’t spend the time looking.
Time is my big one – I have loved the extra time we have gotten since cutting back last year.
Frugal Portland says
I have found this to be so true. Cleaning is a snap now.
The problem might be that the things you buy are your life. Maybe there is no life without the stuff, nothing to spend time on anyway. It could be a rude awakening for some.
Agreed. Maybe the point of this is to learn how to spend the “stuff” time on more important things like visiting family, being in nature/outside, etc. It’s definitely an adjustment not everyone is wanting to make. But, if you like freedom, this sounds like the ticket.
I thing we ought to go for Quality over quantity.
Becoming a minimalist is something I really want and need to do and for a long time now but I have not been able to achieve this goal . I am still hopeful that this will come to be for me. Thank you I truly enjoy your post and information.
patrea curry says
how about spending time with people who love you instead of shopping? a few years ago, i downsized so much i no longer own any type of telephone, cant afford it. sad? theres always email, letters to write, and cards to send.. or you could actually go to their house and visit them, hows that? plus i pay mostly all the bills i get on my computer. easier and you save on postage that way too.