The concept of living with less has gained obvious mainstream attention in the past few years. Most of us have probably heard about it and its benefits, read an article or seen a documentary about those doing it, or might even know someone that follows this lifestyle.
At its simplest form, living with less means cutting out anything that isn't truly important. Due to the fact that we are so often encouraged to consume mindlessly, and to equate happiness with owning material possessions, the most widely recognized form of minimalism has been related to material possessions.
As such, we see minimalists as those living in white-walled homes with next-to-no possessions. While living with less doesn't limit itself to material possessions, it is a great place to start. At first it may seem radically different to what we've been accustomed to, but I strongly believe that it is this difference that makes it such a liberating undertaking.
After trying and failing to really downsize a handful of times over the past five years, I took a more calculated and significant dive to live with less this year. It was emotionally challenging to let go of some things but also very liberating. And contrary to popular belief, it wasn't a one-time thing that meant getting rid of my clothes. Rather, it is a daily effort focusing on getting rid of a mindset.
Here's are my how-tos on getting started, and a few things we shouldn't hold onto.
I. Stop buying things
Regardless of how much decluttering, organizing or purging we ever get done - if we keep adding to the pile we won't make any real progress or shed any excess weight. Living with less starts with a change in mindset, and our behaviour as consumers is how our life with less will start.
Refusing to make purchases is the first, and most important step to live with less because it is not only turning away a possession, but a lifestyle of consumption. Not only does consuming less save money, it saves time. As our habits shift away from walking into stores to browse or scrolling through online stores, we will be able to invest our time elsewhere.
II. Make a Plan
It's time to act, but let's do so with an action-plan in mind, and a grasp of reality. We need to get this project off the back-burner, but we don't want to be running around mindlessly, or just throwing things away to end up in a landfill. We're looking to being in the sweet spot between unplanned and over-planned, to be productive without halting the project.
When I downsized by about 50% the only questions I asked myself were:
What are my standards, and what do I want to accomplish?
Starting with my closet, I determined that:
I need to have all of my clothes visible, and
I will get rid of anything I haven’t worn in the past two years.
After figuring that out, the next step is to determine
What you will do with anything you set aside, and
What the timeline is to take action.
As a general rule to actually get sh*t done, anything to be donated or disposed of should be taken care of right away, no questions asked. Purge and go. For anything that can be sold, a sale deadline should be set so that, should the item not sell, it can, in turn, be donated.
Giving ourselves anywhere between half an hour and two hours to go through our things while being intentional and critical will allow us to take a first dive and make real, obvious headway. Once that's done, we need to be ready to donate, dispose or sell it.
III. Put things aside often, and always
Ok, so for those of us that might not feel ready/emotionally able to purge (me), or that don't have time, start small. The most daunting aspect of minimalism is looking at where we are, and how far we still have to go.
In the end, a minimalistic life is exactly that, a life, so lived every day. Intentionally and frequently putting things aside to be donated or sold, taking mental note of things that you don’t wear, use or need, and then slowly getting rid of those things is an easy and effective way to embrace minimalism and make a conscious effort to change of our mindset.
IV. Invest, don't duplicate
As a general rule, we should aim for quality over quantity. Instead of investing in multiple items that are similar, or the same, to swap in when the first gives out, we can invest in better pieces that will last, and then, take care of them.
This involves a higher financial investment up front, which can seem daunting, but over time, a one-time cost will (in most cases) be lesser than multiple costs.