- Personal Finance
How To Live a Minimalist, do it yourself, classy Life with help from Folding Chairs and Gold Stars!
Why Minimalism is Right For Everyone!
Minimalist living is a lifestyle choice to reduce the over-reliance on consumer goods, and to be intelligent about household management. Being a minimalist doesn't mean owning a single chair and a bed and nothing else. It means owning only the things you regularly use, and clearing out the clutter that is only used because it is there, or because it retains some old emotional value that's caused you to hold something long past its use.
95% of the world's resources go to 5% of the population. That means that if you live in America, you are over-consuming the limited resources of this planet. You are responsible for global warming because every little piece of plastic junk you buy had to be pumped out of the ground as oil, and converted into a consumable hunk by coal-powered factories in near-slavery conditions somewhere in the developing world. Stop buying junk! Look around you and ask yourself if you actually need all the things that crowd your living space! Do you need the latest kitchen gadget? Do you need the latest technological device? How do you go about turning your cluttered, confusing life into something clean, stream-lined, and organized?
Having lots of stuff hinders your career, because you can't just stand up and go where the work is. You have to be concerned about moving your stuff there. It increases your stress, because you have to worry about all your stuff breaking, getting stolen, or just cluttering up your life. Having lots of stuff is expensive. It costs money to buy it, maintain it, and insure it. The less stuff you have, the happier you will be! Stuff pretends to make you happy, but it is lying to you. Having exactly what you need makes you happy, and everything else is just stress!
Here are five simple steps that you can use to turn your disorganized life into an organized one. Things you'll need.
- Gold Star Stickers (this will make sense in a minute!)
- Boxes for your Junk
- A Ruthless, Heartless Practical Attitude
- A List of Charities and Second-Hand Stores, Ready to Take Your Stuff
Ready to start? Okay, let's start!
Did I Use This Today? This Gets a Gold Star!
Make everyone in your household carry around gold star stickers with for one week. Every time you use something, put a gold star on it. If you make coffee every morning, your coffee maker gets seven gold stars. If you sit in a chair, that chair gets a gold star. If you sleep in your bed, it gets a gold star. If you watched TV, that gets a gold star. Use your computer? Gold star.
At the end of the week, you will have an easy marker of exactly what you used, and how often you used it. Look around you for furniture that did not get used. There will be chairs that weren't used, drawers that were never opened, and toys that were never touched by human hand. There will be TVs in spare rooms that were never turned on, and an unbelievable number of kitchen gadgets and tools that were never touched.
Not all of the things you didn't use should be gotten rid of. For instance, fire extinguishers and tools like hammers and screwdrivers and other items that are used for maintenance and safety should remain in your possession. But, how many hammers do you own? Do you really need five Phillip's Head screwdrivers? Take a good, hard look at anything that didn't get at least one gold star, and ask yourself what your life would be like if you didn't have this one thing.
Most of the time, in the case of furniture, the difference is decorative. Most of the time, in the case of toys or kitchen gadgets, the difference is only that you'd have fewer things to sift through to get to what you really use.
Time to Cull the Junk!
Most people have books from college sitting on their bookshelves as reference materials. Most people have bookcases dedicated to those books. Most people have bric-a-brac to decorate the empty places on the bookshelves that exist to hold the old textbooks.
Get rid of it. Sell the books. Sell all the books. Better solutions to this problem exist already, and the accumulation of the books just gives you one more thing to dust. The only situation where you would want to keep any book is if you, yourself, wrote it, or one of your family members wrote it. Everything else must go.
Put all the bric-a-brac you have ornamenting your home into a box. Take this box to a donation spot, like the Salvation Army, and let someone else decorate their space with this accumulated junk. Imagine how beautiful it will be to have a clean, dust-free home, with more space for things you actually use and need.
Get rid of your bookshelves. Get rid of excess furniture. These are tax deductions waiting to be claimed, because you can donate them to charity. Do the same with any extra televisions you've picked up. In fact, I'd recommend culling your televisions down to just one, single unit, if not none. If you live alone, I recommend getting rid of even your television. A single person can do quite well with just a computer and web access!
This is the hardest part, I know. You will lose things that you've had since you were a kid. But, you don't lose the memories just because you lost the junk.
You may also worry about your furniture, because friends might come over and want a place to sit. This is why some very smart people invented folding chairs. Clean, classy folding chairs are available at every price point, and they're light and maneuverable and easy to keep put away when you don't need them. A set of six folding chairs should be enough for every household.
Folding Chairs For Every Budget
Be Ruthless, and ask "Did You Make This Yourself?"
Don't let anyone in your family sway you over the sentimental value of this toy, or that object. If it was not physically made by you, or your family member, then it is clutter consuming the space, resources, and stress that you don't need in your life, or theirs.
Here are the questions to ask, when you are making your decision.
- Is there a gold star on this?
- Did you just put a gold star on this because you want to keep it?
- Did you make this yourself? We can keep it if you made it, yourself.
- Did someone we love make it? (We don't need to be throwing out grandma's handmade quilt!)
- Is this an emergency-use item, like a fire extinguisher or a roadside flare?
- If this is an emergency-use item, how many of these do we need and do we already have enough of them?
Your child's school projects, report cards, and craft projects are not junk. Your grandmother's handmade quilt is definitely not junk. Encouraging your family to make things for themselves is an important part of the minimalist lifestyle, because you aren't consuming mindlessly, but creating intentionally!
Unless it is an emergency-use item, it must go. Fire extinguishers, hammers, plumbing tools, etc., exist in the hope that you don't need them. These sorts of things can be spared the culling, but question the quantity you own. Many people own far more screwdrivers than they actually need. Having a single screwdriver kept exactly in the place where it belongs in an organized, minimalist tool kit is better than owning seven or eight different screwdrivers scattered through junk-filled drawers.
It's easier to organize your tools and gadgets when you have less of them. It's easier to keep them organized when there's less of them. The less you own, the better!
Be Ruthless! Don't let anyone dissuade you from clearing out the junk in your life!
One Man's Clutter is Another Man's Salvation!
There are consigment stores, charities, and used book stores that would love to take your junk off your hands.
Clothing can be a real challenge, because it's hard to gauge exactly what you need. Remember, though, that every article of clothing that doesn't fit you could fit someone else right now. Every article of clothing you rarely wear could be someone else's daily wardrobe. Clothes are also some of the easiest things to give away. Plenty of charities exist to take old clothes in good condition. They often have bins and donation centers in convenient locations, and all you have to do is drive by and drop off a bag of clothes.
Furniture can be more difficult to give away, but the Salvation Army runs many excellent second-hand shops to fund their amazing work helping the homeless find shelter, and a path off the streets. Call your local Salvation Army to see about having someone come by and pick up your excess furniture. They should be able to give you the documentation you need to take your charitable donation off your tax burden at the end of the year. Not only are you clearing the clutter out of your life, you're doing a good deed for a great organization of people with an important mission, and you're getting a tax break!
Used book shops often pay cash for books, magazines, DVDs, and CDs. It may hurt, at first, to hand away years of accumulated media that you've turned to for entertainment all your life, but technology makes your physical artifact redundant!
Let's talk about technology...
Technology Makes Your Stuff Obsolete!
Do you have a computer? Obviously, you do, or you wouldn't be reading this. You can convert all of your CDs and DVDs to digital media, and store them on-line at places like DropBox or Box.net. Back them up on portable hard-drives to keep large quantities of media with you, everywhere you go.
For books, invest in an eBook reader, like a Kindle, a Nook, a Kobo, or something simple like a Sony eReader. eReaders are inexpensive, and can carry whole libraries in your pocket with nothing but a WiFi connection. Imagine all the books you've ever read on one device that weighs less than a pound! For people who do most of their reading at night, an iPad is probably the best of the bunch, with access to the Nook and the Kindle through apps. The iPad also doubles as a portable media interface, with excellent games, web-browsing, and cloud-based TV and movies.
Instead of having a TV in every room, have one TV, and an iPad. Anyone who wants to watch something else can watch TV through the iTunes store, Hulu, or Netflix on the iPad.
If you are an avid reader, and read more books than you do watch movies, the Kindle or the Nook are probably better than an iPad, for you. The allure of the dedicated eBook reader is the superior screen technology, designed specifically for reading, with eInk and a long battery life.
Look around you. How much of the things you own could be replaced with an iPad and a Kindle and some extra data storage? Technology makes your CDs and DVDs obsolete.
For years, now, my "stereo system" has been my laptop. I can take it to any room I want, and I can plug it in to portable speakers if I need a larger sound at a higher quality. I recently went to a wedding where the "DJ" was a family-member with iTunes on a computer, and large speakers.
Never before has it been easier to contain large amounts of media on much smaller devices! You can clear the clutter in your life, and in your living space, and you can still have access to all your favorite music and movies!
Now That You've Cleared the Junk...
Once you've cleared out your junk, be sure not to let yourself fall into old habits of consumption. When birthdays and holidays roll around, ask your friends to give you gift cards for food or drinks, or to make charitable donations in your name. Make sure everyone knows your new lifestyle credo: reduce, reduce, reduce!
Also be sure not to let yourself buy into the noise that suggests your life will be better if you just engage in retail therapy. Instead of buying lots of little things, try to buy things you need, and try to buy a high-quality version of that thing, that will not break down or become easily obsolete. Being frugal doesn't mean being cheap. It means being smart about what you allow into your life and space.
Don't throw out those gold stars, though! Use them again, every year. Make it a spring cleaning ritual in your household, to clear out the clutter and the accumulating junk of modern life! I'd be surprised if you didn't find out that there are things that survived your first culling that don't survive the second!