How I’m Learning to Live With Less

I have been reading and obsessing about minimalism for months… maybe even years. I constantly daydream about living in a spotless, simple home. But - for some reason - I never have the energy to make it that way. I finally decided that I needed to at least start doing something about it. I feel completely overwhelmed by things, and things to do, and I want to learn how to live with less. Here is how I am using minimalism as a way to make more time for the things that matter most. 

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What Minimalism Means to Me

I decided that minimalism means one key thing: Removing distractions to focus on what really matters to you.

The Warning Signs That I Needed a Change

I spend a lot of time cleaning and organizing. A family friend recently visited and gave me a… pep talk. He basically said that I need to live my life and that cleaning my condo was never going to actually make me happy. He caught me off guard, but that blunt statement was so true and I realized that sometimes I let it run my life.

One thing I know is that I like my time at home and I need my space to feel clean and organized to be able to focus and relax. As much as I may need that, I have started to feel bogged down by things to do and unmotivated to get anything done.

I need minimalism to help me balance spending time on my to-do list of so-called obligations (like cleaning the house) and the things that I actually want to do (like starting - and keeping up with - this blog).

How I Got Here

I know that I have a hard time letting go of stuff. To help understand why - I pinpointed a few of my fears:

  • I don’t want to spend money to replace worn out items and want back-ups in case something breaks or wears out.

  • I feel guilty getting rid of anything that was given to me (and I mean, anything). If I get rid of a gift I feel like I am throwing away someone’s money.

  • I am afraid of being wasteful and will continue to hold onto things hoping I will eventually use it, rather than admitting I should have never purchased it.

  • I take pride in feeling self-sufficient and don’t want to need anything from anyone.

A lot of those fears come down to the fact that I have had to manage a tight budget, even at a young age, and am afraid of being in a situation where I am not financially secure.

How I Started Simplifying

Whenever I go through my things or clean, I try to remind myself why I am doing it.

If I’m not using it, it should be given to someone who needs it

There are plenty of organizations that accept clothing and household donations, but sometimes you forget that your stuff can be put to better use by someone less fortunate. Check out my closet clean out blog for my favourite places to take used items. Even if you don’t donate everything, give your stuff to friends and family members to put to better use. I love it when my friends wear the stuff I give them because it makes me wonder why I let it sit at the back of my closet for so long when it suits or fits them better.

I hate the stress of moving

I try to ask myself, “Would I want to go through the trouble of packing this?” I also ask whether it fits in a room in the house right now. The idea of having fewer things in your living space and only a couple of Rubbermaid tubs in the basement makes it easier to be mobile.

I don't want to go in circles when I clean

When stuff just sits out in your home and doesn’t have a place, it becomes difficult to clean up. When all of your things have a place, cleaning becomes easier and feels more productive.

I want to save for my long-term goals

Although I donate a lot of my unused stuff, I also try to sell as much as I can. Getting money back makes me feel better about the choice to get rid of things and reminds me to think before I buy. If I make $50 selling my clothes, I will immediately put that towards my student loans or my savings account.

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Actions You Can Take to Get Started

The key word here is start. Stop looking at Pinterest to plan how to start and just get in there. Reading 1-2 posts will help you, but reading dozens definitely will not. 

Start with small projects

To help get over the initial overwhelm of starting, I decided to get rid of 20-25 things. It was easy to fill a small box with stuff that I absolutely did not want. That one project made me feel accomplished, helped me earn a few bucks, and made me realize how much needed to go.

Set aside time to do big projects from start to finish

Once you have tackled a few small projects and start to gain momentum, pick the biggest project that you need to tackle. For me, it was my closet. Leaving things half-finished makes you feel even more disorganized and makes it difficult to get into a rhythm.

Sell what you can, and donate the rest to a cause you care about

Having a process for getting rid of things makes it easier to get motivated to live with less. As I go through things that I am going to get rid of I take photos and add them to a note on my iPhone that I can share with a few friends who may want them. I sell what I can to local consignment shops and post to Facebook Marketplace and private buy and sell groups. Once I have sold what I can, I donate the rest to a cause that I care about.

Do it as You Go

Once you have started to purge the main areas in your home, set up a box or bin somewhere out of sight. As you find things that you are ready to donate, you have somewhere to immediately store them until you have enough to drop off.

What I Want to Get Out of This

If you are someone who can easily live in chaos, you won’t have a clue about where I am coming from. You might think, okay… so you’re just going to clean some more!? What I have realized is that I inherently make to-do lists of things that don’t always matter, just because I like to feel like everything is under control.

I know that I will continue to fill my time with projects and activities that keep me busy - so why wouldn’t I want more time to do the things that matter? I hope that bringing minimalist values into my life will give me more time, more money and more energy to do the things that really matter. At a high level this might seem like a post about cleaning, but if you know what it's like to have an easily overwhelmed brain, these little things make a big difference - and I'm already seeing the benefits. 

Why are you drawn to minimalism?