“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.