It’s been well over a decade since I discovered minimalism, and while I can’t say I’ve mastered this lifestyle (I’m not even sure what that would look like—my family living in a yurt and sharing one set of utensils?), I continue to strive toward it, mostly because…
Being a minimalist makes my life easier.
Today I’d like to share 3 reasons why. Perhaps this will inspire you to live with less, too. (After all, my kids and I would like some company in that yurt!)
Reason #1: I Know What I Have
“I didn’t even know I had that!” is a phrase I regularly hear from clients and students. Said in a surprised voice often leaning toward bewilderment, this phrase exemplifies what happens when we own lots of stuff: our brains simply can’t keep track of it all. We end up storing the excess in bins and boxes to be “discovered” later. This used to happen to me, too, but now I know most of what I have in my house.
But what about other people’s stuff? I hear you.
For many years, my “I know what I have” mantra did NOT apply to the bins of mystery stuff Josh kept in the attic. He eventually went through those bins, but my avoidance of them—even after my minimalist conversion—reflected my strong commitment to marital harmony and my lack of desire to debate whether or not unopened Star Wars toys were a legitimate tool for financing our kids’ college educations. (Spoiler alert: They’re not. When Josh finally sold his treasures to a vintage shop, he earned a whopping $300.)
Knowing what I have means I know where to find things. For example, I used to keep multiple pairs of nail clippers all over my house. I’m not sure why I felt the need to be prepared for simultaneous hangnail emergencies in my bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen, but I kept them all “just in case.” Now I have just one pair of nail clippers per bathroom. (Yes, I am one wild rebel.)
Silly as it sounds, having one pair of nail clippers makes my life easier because everyone in my house knows exactly where they belong. If they aren’t there, we can track down the last user and make him/her responsible for putting them back. This is much easier than searching for clippers all over the house, and it also teaches everyone to put things in their “home,” as opposed to just dropping items wherever seems convenient.
Reason #2: I Know What I Don’t Have
This is the flip side of Reason #1, but just as important. It is helpful to know what you don’t have, so that you don’t waste time looking for it. I once went to the attic in search of a collaborative book I’d written for a grad school class. Each student had contributed a page to the book, and we bound the pages together at the end. It had a picture of a cartoon beaver on the front, which I wanted use to accentuate a funny story I was telling a friend.
I knew the only place the book could be was in my memorabilia tub, so I opened the tub, spent a minute rifling through, and realized it wasn’t there. I must have decluttered it at some point. I felt a twinge of disappointment that I wouldn’t have the beaver pic for my story, but I also felt glad that I didn’t spend another hour tearing my attic apart in search of it. I knew what I didn’t have.
I was also comforted by the thought that I had kept in touch with several members of the class—who might not be minimalists!—and might have kept a copy of the book. I knew I could track down that beaver pic, if necessary, and you never know, it might just be necessary.
Reason #3: I Have More Time
Becoming a minimalist is the next best thing to going all Back to the Future and inventing your own flux capacitor. (Well, maybe that’s a stretch. Being a minimalist has unfortunately not resulted in a sweet 1980s DeLorean or a crush-worthy 1980s Michael J. Fox showing up in my driveway.) But when I minimized my stuff, I maximized my time.
How so? First of all, as you may have noticed from Reasons #1 and #2, I spend less time looking for things. I know what I have, and I know what I don’t have, so it’s easier to live my day-to-day life. Also, daily tasks like clearing counters, putting away dishes, and doing laundry just take less time.
I tell clients that no room in their house should take more than five minutes to “put to rights.” Most days, this is true in my house. Sometimes it takes a little longer than that, but hey, we’re going for progress not perfection here!
I hope this post has given you some reasons to own less stuff. And if in all your subsequent decluttering you happen to find a picture of a cartoon beaver, please send it my way.