You have hundreds of thousands of things in your home. Actually, if you counted them, the number would likely top a quarter of a million.
That’s a bunch of stuff. Add in the storage unit 1 in 10 Americans have and the amount of stuff really starts to sound ridiculous.
Now consider the fact that you likely use fewer than 100 things in a normal day, including intangible things like electricity.
We don’t use 100 new and different things each day, so we must conclude that we’re never going to use most of the things we own.
But you know that. We all know that. Look at the pile of stuff in your garage, or storage unit. When you bought each one of those items, you “needed” it, and thought you were making a good purchase.
Maybe you were. At the time. But more often than not, we’re not intentional about the things we bring into own home, and that creates the clutter.
I’m going to briefly share my family’s story, and then show you how minimalism can save you a bunch of money and time.
Don’t get caught up on the title “minimalist.” You can call it whatever you want. If the idea of downsizing in any way stresses you out, you can declutter slowly. It’s not about being a minimalist, as much as it’s about becoming one.
It’s a journey, not a destination.
→ Related reading: How to Teach Your Kids About Money
Our Journey Towards Minimalism
When I had just received my military orders to Italy, I looked around the storage area in our garage and realized we weren’t going to fit into most Italian homes.
Sure, we have five kids, so we’re going to have a lot of stuff, but why?
We’ll get into why we keep things in a moment, but in that moment, I realized we had to downsize.
We had moved to our Oklahoma home with 9,000 lbs of stuff.
We were now pushing 12,000 lbs.
We went from living in a 2,000 sq ft home to a 1,100 sq ft home, which was only possible with our newfound minimalist lifestyle.
We analyzed everything we owned with intention and purpose. We then preceded to reduce our belongings by around 50%, over the course of the next few months.
I’m sure some of you are thinking that five kids doesn’t sound very minimal. But it’s not about how much you have, it’s about why you keep what you keep.
Why We Keep the Things We Keep
It’s easy to see why we keep the things we don’t need.
We all have the same basic reasons:
- We think we may need it later
- We’re attached for sentimental reasons
- We paid too much for it in the first place and feel like we’re losing money by selling it for much less or by giving it away
We had those reasons and thoughts. You likely have those reasons and thoughts.
But they’re not good reasons to live a life of clutter, and we were definitely living a life of clutter.
Holding onto things we overpaid for doesn’t get that money back. We always think we’ll need things later, yet we almost never do. And in the unlikely event that we do, most things can be replaced for next to nothing.
This is the common American problem: we can’t fit our $30,000 car in the garage because of the $500 worth of stuff in the way.
Then there are the sentimental items – the hardest ones to let go of. This is where minimalism gets psychological. The idea that the memories you had with your grandma are physically tied into that old piece of furniture she left you is a lie.
You have the memories, with or without the items.
If you’re afraid you’ll forget what something looks like, take a picture of it, and then get rid of it. However, if you love that piece of furniture granny gave you, by all means, keep it. That’s intentionality.
That’s what it’s all about: owning what you own for a reason.
Your kids can join in too. Contrary to popular belief, kids are actually happier with fewer toys. Too many toys can be overwhelming for kids. They think they want more toys, but that’s because they’re children. Of course they think that.
If you give into the idea of always needing more, you’re going to be throwing a lot of money at this imaginary “needing more” thing.
How Minimalism Saves You Money
It’s no surprise that owning less can save you money.
When you carefully consider each purchase you make, you’ll spend less, by default. When you shop intentionally, you’ll shop much less.
When you start downsizing, you’ll have a great opportunity to make some cash by selling the valuable things. Don’t focus on how little you’re earning, compared to what you paid for the item; focus on earning any money at all.
It beats throwing it in the dumpster.
You could take minimalism to the extreme, like we did, and move into a house half the size of your current home. We were forced to downsize by doing so. It was a sort of forced minimalism that we actually welcomed.
Sometimes we have to get uncomfortable before we can take the steps to make big changes. But these changes can positively impact the rest of our lives.
Think about instilling this mindset into your kids. If they leave home understanding material possessions themselves have little value—and instead they value experiences, people, relationships—how happy and successful will they be?
The potential is unlimited.
How to Start a Minimalist Lifestyle
It’s easy to get started with minimalism. You just have to keep going – that’s the tricky part.
Go slowly. Start so easy you barely notice it.
You’ll get a motivation boost in the beginning, but be watchful of burnout.
Here are 5 steps to get started:
- Start with the easiest stuff – Drop the storage unit first. How long has it been since you’ve been in there? It’s likely been even longer since you actually used that stuff.
- Continue to the in-home excess – Your book shelf has some candidates for donation. If you’re going to read the book again, keep it. Otherwise, get rid of it. Continue the process into your kitchen, living room, and bedrooms.
- Look at each item – I’m not going to get into KonMari here, but it’s important to pick up each item individually and evaluate whether or not you’ll use it. We overlook things if we don’t pick up every single item.
- Use simple methods – There are minimalism strategies, games, and challenges. Start with the simplest. Get five boxes: keep, sell, donate, trash, unsure. Start sorting. When you get into the harder decisions, down the road, find a strategy or a challenge, but for now, just get five boxes.
- Carry this over into the rest of life – Minimize your distractions, like social media, Netflix, and phone usage. Delete the apps you don’t use. Delete the folders on your computer you don’t use. Get rid of the clutter everywhere – physical and digital.
→ Related reading: 40 Fantastic Stay-at-Home Date Ideas
Minimalism isn’t as difficult as it may feel at first. It seems overwhelming, but if you take it one step at a time, over a long period of time, it’s totally doable. And totally worth it.
The idea is intentional-ownership. I prefer to use that term, but it’s not recognized as easily as minimalism.
If you’re intentional about each thing you own, and each new purchase you bring into your home, you’re going to be happier. You’ll also save some cash.
Life is easier with less. You could say life is more with less… but I think that phrase is a little worn out.
Call it what you will, just work towards simplifying every area of your life.
You just have to start with five boxes.