As I’ve grown older, I’ve found there is less of a need for “stuff” in my life. There was a time that I hardly threw anything away and had a bedroom full of crap that usually had the “I could use this someday” reason to keep. For years, I packed and unpacked this stuff from one place to another, a few times never unpacking the box and just moving it more than once in the same box. Most of it had some memory or sentiment attached to it that ended up being meaningless when weighed against the big picture. It wasn’t until I came to the conclusion that this stuff was my way of coping with anger, depression, and loneliness early on that I was able to start purging. And wow, did I purge. I’ve detailed my journey here in the hope that someone else might benefit from my experience and start to adapt to (or adopt) a minimalist lifestyle.
#1 – Simplification
It’s logical to assume that with less clutter and visual distraction, comes a simplified way of thinking. I can attest 100% that this is true, but everyone is different and each individual needs to find that balance. Most people think that simplifying their life is to remove color, visual accents, downsize their home, and keeping only the essential items required to survive. While that may work for some, my personal opinion is that is extreme and removes the warmth that life offers. I simplified my life by removing the clutter that I had been hanging onto for weak reasons. That binder from sophomore Biology class for example. The cardboard boxes of Dilbert desk calendars from 1997-2007 another example. There was no attachment, so many years later, to either of these items. They got pitched. I also simplified my wardrobe and donated all the clothes that I most likely will never wear again. Keeping a plaid shirt that still fit, but was from the late 90’s, no longer held an appeal to me.
#2 – Decreased stress
My view of a cluttered house often was paired with feelings of claustrophobia and dirt. My room growing up was a complete mess of pages ripped out of Rolling Stone (stapled to the walls), multiple desks and book shelves, dressers and a bed. Dust was the companion in this room to me as my time was mainly spent on the computer talking to people rather than being face to face. The stress I felt all the time, now reflecting, caused a lot of my issues over the past few decades that I’m now working through. I favor a much simpler environment that is easy to keep clean and has appealing aesthetics but is not crowded. A living room has a sofa (or couch depending on where you’re from), television with minimal components, a few wall hangings, and a neutral color on the walls. Color is added by a blanket or pillows on the sofa or some flowers. Items such as magazines, books, etc., are hidden in under sofa storage or cleverly organized in a small book case that matches the television stand. Naturally, with a lack of furniture and items, the floor is open and free feeling.
#3 – Less time consuming
A cluttered or disorganized space is time consuming in multiple ways. The act of cleaning is moving some stuff, cleaning that area, moving the stuff back, then cleaning the previous storage area. Constantly having to move around stuff just to clean makes it difficult and most people just stop cleaning regularly. Watch an episode of Hoarders and it all makes sense. The amount of furniture or obstacles in your path to walk also creates adds additional seconds to your daily routine. Add 1 second here for walking around a coffee table and 1 second there for side stepping a poorly placed end table adds up rather quickly to minutes, days or weeks per year. Time that could have been spent doing something more productive or something that made you happier and less stressed (see #2).
#4 – Downsize your home
While this wasn’t the case in my particular instance, as I purchased a slightly larger home, going minimalist in most cases will show you that the “space” you thought you needed was just an illusion. Bedrooms no longer need to be the size of small apartments, family/living rooms no longer need to be expansive open spaces the span the entire back of a home, and the 3-car garage for a family of 2 cars is no longer necessary. So many people I know that have embraced a decluttering mentality have moved in the past few years to smaller homes and have saved a lot of money in the process. In my case, our old house was 1700 sq. ft. and my new house is 1850 sq. ft., however, the footprint is exactly the same, 30′ x 48′. The layout is completely different and therefore, a much more efficient use of space for our current life situation. My daughter has her own space, I have mine, my wife has hers. We are careful not to take these separate spaces as a reason not to interact. My daughter gets an hour of television to herself, my wife reads at night after I go to bed, I use my space to get precious solitude when needed. We do make it a point to all eat dinner together and do something as a family even if its 30 minutes to play a simple game or watch a television show.
#5 – Saves money
Try to follow me here, as this is slightly intangible and sciencey. A home full of clutter will take longer to heat and cool due to the fact that mass will hold energy longer. A room full of books will require much more cooling than an empty room since paper has a much higher mass than air and walls. Removing the items that aren’t needed or necessary from your home will translate to lower heating and cooling bills as you’ve removed mass from the home that released heat in the summer and hold cold in the winter. Take a book from the garage in the winter inside and hours later, open and feel the pages and they’re still cold. In order to warm those pages up, it needs to take heat from the air in turn making the heat run longer.
Once you remove the clutter, you see that you don’t need all those things to live a happy and stress free life. Having what you need when you need it without excess will always save you money because you realize you don’t need to buy all the things you “think” you need or are swayed to a great deal for something you want, but don’t necessarily need. I walked past the great deal on an outdoor chair at the warehouse club over this past weekend because the outdoor patio set I have is more than adequate and still in good shape. I only have one butt, why do I need more than one chair outside to put it in? That was my thought process and I ended up NOT buying the chair.
I’m happy I decided to go down the minimalist path and I’m finding that it’s easier to keep the trend going in all aspects of my life now that I truly understand the underlying benefits. The theme change here is a good example as I no longer need to spend time trying to come up with colors and background images that put my mild OCD for perfection into overdrive. Things are so much simpler now that I no longer have all the excess crap around me. Even my desk at work has benefited as I now only have one picture of the family and a few items from my daughter she made for me. I focus so much more on my work than I used to as well and find distractions that used to make me angry so much less intrusive.
My recommendation is to look around and identify what you “need” to live, what you “like” to live with, and what you “don’t need or want” anymore but haven’t pitched for any number of irrelevant reasons.