More is not making us happy. We live at a time when people may more stuff, but less economic security. An article on YahooFinance yesterday, suggests that “69% of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings”, from research done by a 2016 GoBankingrates survey. We were in that same boat. When I injured my foot last December, the surgery put a financial strain on us; the injury was not life-altering, but still created immense pressure. I had to be on rest for 3 months without walking, so the ordeal was difficult with a six month old. What I had during that period of my life was time: time to evaluate my life and think what needed to change. I had already began thinking minimalism would be a good idea, but never fully embraced it. I began to realize that a simpler home would have made my injury easier. Savings would have helped buffer that time in our life. Living with less would actually have given us more resources at our time of need. We hadn’t saved and all the excess material things were just creating disorder in our lives.
Soon after my injury, we moved to Ohio, and as we purchased a new, smaller townhome it was the perfect opportunity to fully embrace a life change. We began the process of clearing out clutter. So far, we’ve done about 10 trips to goodwill in a decent size 3 row family car. The amount of stuff is staggering. Below is a picture of how full the car was and Adam’s face after we emptied our biggest load to date, it felt really good. Just to think of how that money could have been better used for charity or life experiences for our family. I can not say anything we owned was atypical either of any average American family.
I would like to share with others what this process has done in our life, so I thought of this challenge. If you want to start making a change here are 5 steps you can take to begin:
- Get rid of things you never use. Start easy. Clear things you haven’t used in years. We began this process as we moved in. It is a great way to see what it feels like to let things go, and a great way to support local charities. As you go remember all the time these material things are taking away from your life. I developed the mantra and asked myself, “helpful or hindrance?” as I went through my things, develop your own phrase that will help you stay focused.
- Stop using credit. We have decided put away our credit cards for a month to see how our spending habits change. What influences our spending? We believe that by paying in cash, we will have a harder time justifying a purchase. The goal of the challenge is to eliminate small charges that add up big on the statement. It provides a clear way to see reoccurring charges and cancel them.
- Eat simply and eliminate food waste. There is research suggesting the way we organize our food environment, can have an impact on our eating habits. We have decided to set a daily food budget. We buy our dinner food each day, or every 2-3 days when a daily trip is not possible. The intention is to stick to the daily budget, which we figured out by dividing out food budget into the 30 day period. This way, if you have to eat out last minute, you don’t waste anything. What I am finding is that I spend less, because I understand what the budget “feels like”, as I develop an internal sense of what I can spend. If you live too far away from a store, try doing a simple meal plan. For this challenge, it is best to find recipes that are easy to follow and are healthy, yet use minimal ingredients.
- Use a resource. We are currently taking the Uncluttered course with Joshua Becker, the author of minimalism books and a webpage called Becoming Minimalist. He has been an excellent resource of inspiration and practical knowledge. Perhaps you can’t take this course, but try to find a book, a website like theminimalists, or a resource catered to your learning style that might help you as you begin this process. I would advise to stick to one resource at a time, so you fully commit.
- Connect. The end result of minimalism is not getting rid of stuff, but creating more room in life for living. As part of this challenge, I encourage you to connect more with yourself or even another person. It could be taking the time to have a conversation with an employee, going on the lunch date you’ve been putting off, or taking some time to figure out a goal you’ve kept on the back burner. If you had more time, what would you focus on ? Where in the world would you like to connect more? Volunteering? Family activities? Career goals? Having a streamlined lifestyle might give more time for these areas. You may discover a new way to seeing things along the way too.
I challenge you to try this and let me know how it goes. I would love to have company on our journey, as it is not always an easy one. Feel free to to post something in the comments if you find discover anything you would like to share in the next 30 days.