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August 1, 2012 / Wendy Joan

Living with Less

For the last few years I’ve has a consistent and reoccuring bad dream. I’m always in a hotel room or guest house of some sort, surrounded by piles and piles of clothes and other things to pack. I know the items will never fit in my traveler’s backpack, and I know every minute spent packing I come closer to missing my flight. But I keep packing, anyway.

I didn’t realize an apartment full of things was a problem until I started reading about minimalism, and the advantages of living more fully with less stuff. I recently devoured Leo Babauta’s book, Focus, even though the free pdf version has lived unopened on my desktop for nearly two years. Focus is a quick, great read and full of do-able tips for simplifying, as well as moving away from distraction and toward concentration. “Single tasking” is now on my daily challenge list (more on time tracking in a future post), and I’m working on fully committing to four or five essential projects.

Stuff is part of the equation. Like the piles of papers on my desk and unopened mail. Hand-me-down books and kitchen utensils I never asked for in the first place. Little items add up and steal too much physical space in our one bedroom apartment, and space in my brain that should be thinking about my master’s thesis.

So I’m decluttering, slowly, and it feels good. Sorting through clothes that are too big, too worn or just not me. I brought one of three teapots I own to the office–it can live here now. Throwing away dull knives and accepting the fact I have no need for a fancy cheese slicer.

I know this is the easy part. In The Joy of Less, Francine Jay writes stuff is either useful, beautiful or emotional. Emotional decluttering will be tough–what to do with old birthday cards, term papers and sentimental odds and ends? But, Jay writes:

“We have to remember that our memories, dreams and ambitions are contained in these objects; they’re contained in ourselves. We are not what we own; we are what we think and who we love. By eliminating the remnants of unloved pastimes, uncompleted endeavors and unrealized fantasies, we make room for new (and real) possibilities.”

This is a topic definitely to be continued …

If you want read more, from Babauta or Jay, see Zen Habits and Miss Minimalist.

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Leave a Comment
  1. Trina / Aug 2 2012 10:42 am

    Minimalism, yes! Anyone who wants a crash course might consider a move to Manhattan where even people earning six figures, or COUPLES each earning six figures, are found living in studio apartments. Key word here . . . LIVING.

    How many people who live in McMansions drive home from work, park the car, and shut the door to be alone with their stuff? Or have all those extra bedrooms and no over night guests? Or formal dining rooms and no dinner parties?

    Beware budding minimalists . . . if you linger too long near an object when among friends, they might mistake your admiration for desire and present you with a well-intended gift.

  2. Heidi / Sep 3 2012 8:57 pm

    I agree with Trina 100 percent. There’s something beautiful and empowering about living with less. And Wendy, it looks like you and I are operating on the same wavelength. In a recent Lance post I addressed the art of SKIMPING, which I realize stems from frugality, but it’s all the same thing. I can’t stand spending money on STUFF because it sucks up money that could otherwise be spent on EXPERIENCES and I can’t stand to have it take up space in my busy home and busy mind.

    Thanks for the book recommendations!

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