Learn to Live with Less: My 365 Experiment

We moved into our new house one year ago today. It was only two blocks away from our old house, so the move was easy. But we learned something as we were moving all of our things. It seemed like we were moving lots of junk. Now we’ve always been pretty organized, but we’d been keeping and organizing our masses. And it wasn’t working.

As we were loading our things into our new house, my husband and I came to the same realization: “What if we just had less?” It sounded like a great idea, but we needed to figure out what that really meant. Here’s what I’ve learned in our year of living with less, follow these simple strategies and you can do the same.

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Life is easier with less. As I put things away when we first moved in, I assessed everything we owned. By answering these questions I was able to sort our things efficiently:

  • Did we love it?
  • Did we use it all of the time?
  • Did it still work well?
  • Was it duplicated with something else?
  • Could we do without it?

If the item didn’t suit our needs anymore: I donated, recycled it or trashed it. It was a little hard at first. After all, I really liked our things, but I don’t remember today what I got rid of a year ago, so I don’t think I really miss anything that much. Make it a priority as you’re going through your daily routine to assess your items. A good starter goal is to remove 10% of unnecessary items from your life.

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You’re less stressed with less. Overflowing cabinets? Nope. No place to put excess items? Not here. Stressed out? Not about our stuff (really, not stressed at all). Sure, we run a pretty tight ship here in our house, but we’re not wading through piles of stuff to make this happen. We’ve eliminated non-essentials and have organized our essentials into active storage zones. Now when we come home from work or are tired (or both), even if we have work to do, it usually takes 15 minutes to get the house back in order.

When you have tons of stuff, you think about tons of stuff. All the time. Whether you mean to or not. And it will stress you out. With less stuff, you have less to clean, less to manage, and less to stress about. A good starter goal is to think about the area that stresses you out the most and make a plan to clean it once and for all. I’d suggest 15 minutes per day (we’ve all got time for that) to tackle small pieces of the project until you are done, done, done!

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You’ve got more free time with less. I noticed the more we owned, the more I had to pick up and the more I had to clean–especially in the kids’ room. For a while, I felt like this was all I was doing day in and day out. Now, I can go about two weeks without cleaning anything and it looks pretty much the same. I’ve got more time to do the things I want and I don’t have to worry about cleaning my stuff. Why? When you have less stuff, you have to deal with less stuff and it’s easier to manage. Give yourself the free time you deserve and make it a priority to own less stuff! A good starter goal is to plan a 15 minute “living with less” project each day and reward yourself with free time (even 15 minutes of free time is nice!)

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You’ve got more money for what you want with less. Our car? 13 years old. Our couches? 12 years old. Our slow cooker? 12 years old. Our bed? 6 years old. There have been many times that we want to purchase new items for these and many other things. But we’ve made it a priority to remember: “If the current one still works, we’re using it until it doesn’t anymore.” It’s hard to resist the urge to buy new, fancy things. I want a new couch, I want new kitchen supplies and I want lots of other new things. But we’re paying off our student loans, saving for purchases when we NEED them and focused on things that really matter. A good starter goal is to make a list of items you want and when you’ll purchase the replacement–don’t just rush out and buy new things, make sure you have a reason for the need.

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You get to be more creative with less. I read an article recently that said the more stuff kids have, the less creative they are. Think about how many things you have and your kids have. Remember how much fun it was to try to think of an ingenious solution for something?! And another article I read was about a family who didn’t purchase ANYTHING for a year. Nothing! When they talked about how they made it happen, they all worked to repurpose items they already owned to use in place of the items they needed. Many of the solutions were wacky, but worth it. A good starter goal is to pretend you can’t buy anything for a month (or however long) and figure out how to make your needs work with what you already own. I promise this is much easier than you think. Much easier than you think.

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Your Pinterest addiction makes more sense with less. Have you noticed the difference between your favorite magazine and Pinterest yet? Your magazine gives you great ideas and shows you what to buy to make your life easier. Pinterest helps you reimagine things you already own to make your life easier. Now, I use magazines to save ideas for how to use items I already own and I NEVER save something I like if I only like it because I want to buy it. A good starter goal is to shift your focus to a Pinterest-style mindset. When you see a suggestion somewhere, think about what you already own and how you can make it work.

You can keep living with less when you make it a priority. I’ve spent my year living with less and it’s been great, refreshing, relaxing and double great. We have gone through everything we own and reduced it down to what we need, what we like and what we use. That’s it. When we need to buy new things now, it’s to replace a worn out item. A good starter goal is to pick one room in your house and start there. Get it down to maximum efficiency and keep it there. As you feel comfortable increasing your goals, add other spaces until you’ve accomplished everything.

Your life will be easier when you live with less. Do yourself a favor and start today, next year, you’ll thank yourself.

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23 thoughts on “Learn to Live with Less: My 365 Experiment

  1. I was just signing in to WordPress to post my first post re: minimalism/cleaning up my act and this post popped up on my newsfeed! You are my guru and your words couldn’t have come at a better time!
    We planned on having a yard sale this weekend to rid ourselves of as much as possible with money in exchange. That didn’t happen (thank you Noah’s flood) but my resolve stands. I’ve weeded the stuff we don’t use daily…now, it’s on to those things we just plain don’t need. My focus is simplicity of daily routine. Less stuff = less work to maintain.

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