A Guide to Living With Less
How to eliminate excess and declutter your life.
Ours is a world of excess. We have hundreds of cable channels. Super-sized meals and buffets abound. We even have stores dedicated to selling things in large quantities. If there is anything our society is addicted to, it’s more.
But a growing number of people are starting to question whether we need more and more electronics, clothes, shoes and everything else that fills our homes. People are rejecting the notion that wholeness and happiness can be bought at this weekend’s big sale. People are simplifying their lives and finding freedom in owing fewer possessions. All over the world, people are embracing simplicity as a way of life.
Living with less is not about going without. It’s about having only what is essential and eliminating the excess. A simple life is one with fewer material possessions and, often, more meaning.
So how can a person simplify? Embracing simplicity will require that we make changes to our physical environment. It will also require that we change some old habits and thought patterns.
Disconnect From Consumerism
Simplicity isn’t just about owning less, it’s about wanting less. It is impossible to simplify if you keep bringing things into your house and into your life. You must stop the influx.
In our commercialized society it can be hard to disconnect from consumerism. However, there are some things you can do to root out consumerism. Stay out of the store. Avoid shopping online. Unsubscribe from store emails. Try to limit exposure to ads on television and in printed media. Companies spend billions of dollars to persuade us to buy what we do not need. Simplicity is about realizing that what you have is enough.
Conquer the Clutter
Take an honest look at what you have and ask, “Is this really essential?” Look at your wardrobe. Do you really need eight pairs of blue jeans? If not, the next step is to purge. Go through closets, drawers and purses to determine the essentials. If it hasn’t been worn in a year toss it, donate it or sell it. Determine what’s worth keeping for sentimental value—old family heirlooms might be, but the dress you wore to your junior prom probably isn’t.
Since it can be overwhelming to purge everything at one time. Some find it helpful to do a mini-purge, where you focus on one area, such as a drawer or a closet. It takes longer, but slow progress is better than no progress.
Do you have several containers with only a small amount of product in them? Use it or toss it. Focus on one product at a time and use it completely. Instead of having several bottles of shampoo, pick one and use finish the bottle. If a product is unfinished because you dislike it then throw the rest away. Fewer containers will help to eliminate clutter.
Why seven pairs of boots when you only have two feet? Sometimes one coat, backpack, or tube of chapstick will do just fine. Having just one will force you to be mindful of where your things are and how you care for them.
Focus on Quality Not Quantity
More isn’t always better—and likewise, cheaper isn’t necessarily better. Companies with inexpensive products make it easier to buy more, but their products are usually more cheaply made and won’t last. It makes no sense to have more of an inferior product. One pair of good shoes is worth more than two pairs of bad shoes. Higher quality items sometimes cost a little more, which means that you may not be able to buy as much. That’s OK. A quality product will serve you well and will most likely outlast a cheaper alternative.
Here’s a fun challenge: try to pare down your wardrobe to just 30 items and wear only those items for the next 30 days. This will force you to evaluate what is truly essential. At the end of your challenge you may find that you don’t need as many clothes as you once thought.
Take a close look around the rooms in your home. Minimizing decorations is a way to eliminate clutter and create a simpler, more streamlined look. Start by removing one item per surface and see how things look. Take away a vase, picture frame, clock or figurine. Then take another. Often we allow things to clutter our shelves and surface space, simply gathering dust and taking up space. Remove anything that is not useful or adding to the feel of the room. You may like the streamlined version better. If so, donate or store the removed decorations.
Simplicity is really about being mindful of the things you allow in your life. It’s about focusing on the things that matter to you. Life is far too precious to be spent chasing possessions and pursuing what others have defined as success. Life is meant to be spent pursing the things that matter.
Living a simpler life can help us to lead more meaningful lives. It is about realizing that happiness and security aren’t found in possessions. Living the simpler life is about finding freedom in living with less.