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Less Is Best: Minimal Living For An Uncluttered Mind

Updated on June 26, 2008

Cleaning Up Your Life

Americans, by nature, are a gluttonous people. You can find our hoggishness on our bellies and in the piles of “stuff” that fill our homes. But all this stuff isn’t doing anything for our us. In fact, some studies show Europeans are significantly happier than Americans, but live in smaller homes, drive smaller and fewer cars and produce less waste. Many of the material items we have lying around our houses represent broken promises with ourselves. Normally, if an item is sitting around unused, it’s because when you bought it, you didn’t really need it, you had intentions of changing your current lifestyle and saw that item as being a part of it (exercise equipment, Books for Dummies on assorted topics, acrylic paints, etc.). A minimalist is someone who understands the value of each possession, and refrains from buying anything unless there is an immediate need. Simplifying your material world will help you simplify other areas of your life as well.

Minimalism helps you see what is most important to you, so you have a clearer focus on those things that make you happy.

Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind

Getting rid of stuff can be an arduous and emotional task. People have a tendency to assign emotional value to objects they connect with certain memories. I’m certainly not suggesting you throw away the special stuffed bear your grandma gave you for your baptism that you slept with every night until you went to college, but most items can be donated, and once they’re out of sight, will also be out of mind. Clutter ties you down in more ways than one. It ties you to the past and makes it difficult for you to focus on the present and the future, and it makes you less mobile. It is much easier to pick up and move to a better house/city/country if you don’t have dozens of boxes to fill with junk. Minimalism offers freedom in life.

Don't Get Overwhelmed

The key to a successful and permanent clutter free life is to start small. Don’t feel like you have to spend an entire weekend packing Goodwill boxes full of stuff you don’t use. Start with your wardrobe, go through each item and ask yourself when the last time was you wore the piece. If it has been hanging in the closet untouched for more than 2 months, chances are you won’t be wearing it soon. If you have a large shoe collection, start by totaling up the number you have, and then deciding by how much you want to reduce the entire collection. If you have 10 pairs, perhaps you want to reduce by 50%. You can start by choosing the 7 you like best and then eliminating the 2 pairs you feel you could live without. One mistake people make is setting stuff aside for storage, but as mentioned earlier in the post, once stuff is out of sight, it is always out of mind, so you will likely forget about it until you come across it on your next cleaning rampage.

If you want to be really efficient cleaning a specific area, take every single object out, and only replace the things you know you absolutely need. You will be more likely to get rid of stuff knowing you are going to have to reorganize it, rather than just sifting through things.

What Do I Do With All This Unwanted Stuff?

To make the back end of this process easier, have an organizing system in place while you’re sorting through your stuff. Put your stuff into 2 piles: donation & trash. If you’re really ambitious and want to try to sell your stuff, you can add a third pile for consignment or garage sale. However, make sure whatever you don’t sell at the consignment shop or the garage sale goes straight to the donation center. Your efforts will be for nothing if you end up putting the boxes of junk back in your house. Do not let yourself make a relocate pile. By the time you’re done cleaning that specific area, you’ll have a huge pile that you now have to shove somewhere else. The key to minimalism is to relocate the things you don’t need to somewhere else besides your house.

Expected Benefits Form Living A Minimalist Lifestyle

  • Less Stressful-just looking at a cluttered area can raise your blood pressure. Walking into a clean, uncluttered area will allow you to focus on those things that really matter, instead of being overwhelmed by piles of stuff

  • Easier To Clean-It is way easier to dust with just a few things on the shelf rather than a ton of knickknacks, and it is easier to straighten up if there are less things to straighten. Also, with less stuff in general, your area will look cleaner even if it isn’t perfectly straight.

  • More Free Time-You’ll spend less time being concerned about messes and looking for stuff that’s buried under piles of junk, leaving you with more free time to do the things you enjoy

  • Less Waste-By buying less, you are also creating less waste. Most consumer goods come heavily packaged in cardboard, plastic, cellophane and twist ties. If you aren’t buying the product, you aren’t throwing that trash away after opening it. Also, minimalism teaches you to buy one item and stick with it, rather than replacing it often with a brand new item.

  • More Money-By really analyzing a purchase before committing, you will start to make wiser purchases rather than shopping on a whim. You will end up spending less money, because you won’t be buying things you won’t use. More money means the ability to invest in something you know you will enjoy, like a memorable vacation, or a high quality sofa.

The 100 Thing Challenge

Some people are setting goals for themselves to help them pare down to the necessities. Blogger David Bruno says he plans on whittling away his stuff until he has only 100 things. While his personal rules for carrying out the challenge aren’t as ambitious as other aspiring minimalists, he is making an honest attempt to stand up to the evils of consumerism, and in most of Americans' cases, overconsumerism. Perhaps you think you’ll be able to get rid of more stuff if you set a definite goal so you can track your progress. The best solution is the one you feel will work best for you.

Maintaining Your Minimalist Lifestyle

Now that you’ve pared your belongings down to the absolute necessary, you need to be sure to maintain the amount of stuff you have. The best way to do this is to have a strict “one in, one out” policy. If you buy a new shirt, you’ll have to decide which one to give away. If you don’t hold yourself to those standards, you’ll be back to a cluttered lifestyle before you know it. Keep in mind that quality over quantity is what you’re striving for. It’s smarter to invest in one thing that you know will last, rather than having several junky things.

A Minimalist Life Is A Happy Life

Minimalism will teach you the value of the things you do have, and you will be able to feel content with what you have, rather than worrying about what you don't have.

If you'd like to explore minimalism and its benefits further, visit these informational websites:

A Blog On A Man's Quest For A Simpler Life

How To Decorate A Minimalist Home

Habits To Make Your Life Peaceful

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    • profile image

      UlrichGanz 

      3 years ago

      Minimalism provides a beautiful and happy life. It has many benefits, We live a happy, stress free and easy life. I agree best technique is uncluttered mind. We have a stress free mind for other works and we have less tendency of mistake.

      http://minimalismus.ch/

    • profile image

      bellanger michel 

      5 years ago

      my mind is the opposite of yours .

      order some thing is a real pleasure, like marry a new woman for example

      after somme years every object I have bought former let me like Christophe Colomb discovering America

    • themovingdiva profile image

      themovingdiva 

      9 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Great tips! I recently moved and regret not getting rid of junk and trash earlier on. I spent so much time sorting through office files and old clothes when I should have packed them up earlier and stored them in file storage boxes and wardrobe boxes.

    • LondonGirl profile image

      LondonGirl 

      9 years ago from London

      I completely agree. Getting rid of stuff and not buying unnecessary crap really improves your quality of life.

      The only exception I'd say to your "not worn for 2 months, get rid" rule is specialist clothes - hiking, ultra-posh, etc.

    • minnow profile image

      minnow 

      9 years ago from Seattle

      Hi Bre--I'm happy to get rid of stuff.  As soon as Tad outgrows something--soccer shoes, pants, hiking boots--I take it over to a friend's house--sometimes right from the dryer.  She has children younger and smaller than Tad and uses most of what I give her.  My goal is not to bring any more stuff into my apartment than I actually need or use.  Great hub--especially the benefits.  It really is easier to vacuum when the floor isn't covered with junk--and the spiders have fewer hiding places.  Hopefully they'll head next door to the neighbors.

    • Bruce Elkin profile image

      Bruce Elkin 

      9 years ago from Victoria, BC Canada

      Great stuff, Bre, especially the bit on benefits. I'm a life coach, specializing in helping folks organize their lives in simple, successful, and sustainable ways (www.BruceElkin.com), and I'll point some of my clients toward this hub, to show them that simple does not mean living in a tent in the woods. Although, when I last had 100 things total, I did live in a tent in the woods during about 5 summers. But I was 30 then, working at an outdoor centre, doing leadership stuff, and environmental education. Things have changed a bit as I get older.

      ONe of my hubs you might enjoy is called The Diderot Effect: Staying Simple In the City.

      THanks again for the great hub. Keep it up!

    • profile image

      JaymiJay 

      10 years ago from Strawroccoli Town, California

      The more stuff I get rid of, the happier I am. And the more I value what I have.

      I use Freecycle - a Yahoo group where you post your stuff and folks who need it come and take it, or, if you need something, you can usually find it for free from fellow Freecyclers.

      Going from a full 3 bedroom house that I never actually needed down to a cozy shared home with only what I most cherish has made me a far happier, more relaxed person.

      This post strengthens my resolve to continue on with Buy Nothing 2008! Thanks B!

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