As regular Write Change Grow readers will know, I have adopted a much simpler lifestyle over the last couple of years. To be honest, my interest in minimalism primarily came about by a tight savings budget. I wanted to spend less money. However once I started reading some of the amazing minimalism blogs on offer, I realized the concept of minimalism appealed to me on many different levels.
I don’t for a moment claim to be a hard core minimalist who owns fewer than 100 things. I think a peek into my garage would attest to that. In fact, I have no urge to go in the direction of counting my possessions.
My definition of being a minimalist is living happily with less possessions, adopting a more simple lifestyle and having more purpose and meaning in my life. Extra emphasis on the purpose and meaning.
I am you might say, a work in progress.
Here are six painless (okay almost painless) ways to get started. This post mainly applies to possessions.
Watch what new possessions you bring into your home
The quickest way to get started is closely monitoring what new stuff you bring into your home.
Clearing existing clutter and getting rid of things you already own is great but wouldn’t it be easier not to welcome in the clutter in the first place?
I will give you an example. The biggest cause of clutter in my house is books, magazines and paper. I don’t know what it is, but I seem to be a magnet for paper. I also have a lot of books (which by the way I love). In case you missed it, read my earlier post For the Love of Books.
Consequently, I have been working towards reducing the number of new books (other than library books) I bring into my home. Magazine purchases which I also used to have a thing for, are now few and far between.
Be mindful when choosing new items for your home.
Don’t buy multiple items to do the same task
You don’t need a vacuum cleaner, a handheld mini vacuum, an indoor broom, an upright vacuum with a long handle, a steam mop and a normal mop. Several of these items do the same thing. All of them cost money.
Similarly, you don’t need every electrical kitchen appliance under the sun. You don’t need five different types of blenders to mush your food together.
The point I am trying to make isn’t about appliances. There are a lot of items we essentially double up on. Save money and room in your house, instead of having multiple items that do the same thing.
Spare a thought for the environment
Ultimately everything we buy and consume comes out of our planet. Everything we buy cuts into the world’s resources. It has to come from somewhere before it hits the factory or manufacturing plant.
It also needs to go somewhere once it has outlived its usefulness (or we get bored or upgrade which is often the case).
I mentioned my garage earlier. One of the reasons I haven’t cleared out my garage is because I want to dispose of certain items properly. I don’t want to dump things into landfill. I want to recycle as much as possible.
To be honest, the other reason is because I don’t have a car, which makes transporting heavy items challenging.
Embrace recycling, reusing and giving to charity.
Just a quick note on giving to charity. Every year our local news reports on people dumping their rubbish into charity bins over the Christmas holidays. Removing this rubbish costs charities a considerable amount of money. Hardly what a charity should be spending its money on. Do the right thing and dispose of your rubbish and recycling correctly.
Think of your hard earned cash
I wrote a post The Real Cost of Buying Stuff about this recently.
Sometimes it’s not how much something costs to buy, but how much it costs to run and maintain (particularly if there is electricity, fuel or a power source involved). Give some thought to how much owning an item costs you in the long run.
If you love a particular item (say your mobile phone) and can’t live without it, fair enough. But look at some of the other things you don’t love so much or hardly ever use. Do you really need to continue paying to maintain them or could someone else put them to better use?
While I’m at it, on a slightly different slant, think about how much time you spend cleaning or taking care of a particular item. Maintenance isn’t just about money; it’s also about how much time and energy you need to invest to own certain products.
Be open about your new philosophy
Granted this one isn’t necessarily as easy as it sounds. If you live in a family or have friends who love to shop and are big consumers, trying to explain to them why you are not consuming at a great rate, can get a little tricky.
In a nutshell, some of them won’t understand or care.
If you are happy to keep your plan to simplify your home and lifestyle to yourself, that is just fine.
The problem comes when well meaning and generous family members and friends give you stuff you don’t want or need (I resisted the urge to use the word crap there but let’s face it, sometimes that is exactly what it is). I understand and appreciate they are giving from the heart which makes it even more difficult to explain your new lifestyle choice without hurting their feelings or sounding ungrateful.
Perhaps the best way to handle this is to talk about the changes you are making to your lifestyle in general conversation, not when there is a gift giving process going on.
Embark on a project
Back to my messy garage (or whatever your Achilles heel is when is comes to clutter).
Okay I confess this one might cause some pain. If you have a problem area of your house, make it a mini project. Make up a timeline and an action plan to get the job done.
You might be thinking that’s a little over the top, just get in and clean it up for goodness sake. The truth is it won’t be that simple. It will take more than one attempt (meaning more than one day or weekend) and I will need assistance lifting heavy objects, hence the need for the plan. I need to recruit helpers.
At the moment my garage clean up plan is on the back burner because I have more important things to get done. This is fine by me. Remember, you don’t have to get everything you want done overnight. It isn’t a race to the minimalist finishing line. Putting pressure on yourself will only add to your stress levels, defeating the purpose of creating a simpler life.
That’s my overview on how to get started. I would really like to hear from you though.
Could you embrace having fewer possessions and more free time and energy on your hands? Would you like to spend less time shopping and have more money in your savings account?
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