Last year around this time I was swimming in large piles of ill-fitting clothes, unused kitchen ware, not-quite-my-style furnishings, and a house one-thousand-square-feet too big. As a brand-new studio apartment at a perfect location for an ideal price became an option for us we began the large process of downsizing. We thew out 3/4ths of our clothes (or more), we got rid of more than half our book collection, we returned all of our borrowed furniture, and we began the journey toward minimalism.
I’ve learned much on this journey. The primary thing being that minimalism looks different for each person. We probably won’t ever be the people who build a tiny house and bike everywhere we go. (Though we considered it.) We need space for a piano, after all, and for a few boats. Besides, my husband’s 6’4” frame would probably find some obstacles in a home where you have to turn sideways to move anywhere. I also don’t foresee us spending our entire life in a studio apartment. However, there are things I have learned and loved about living with less that I will take with me wherever we go.
1. Less decision making
Limitations are actually blessings. I used to stand in front of my closet and agonize over my clothing choice each morning. I probably had 40 choices for tops alone. Life has become much simpler without the vast amount of choices – and this isn’t limited to clothes alone.
2. Less cleaning for a cleaner home
I’ve never been a particularly tidy person, but I have stayed on top of the house cleaning considerably well since downsizing. I can thoroughly clean my entire home in under two hours. Things stay cleaner and I don’t have spaces that get out of control because everything is visible and I don’t have doors that I can close if I don’t want to be reminded of the clutter.
3. Fewer purchases
If I buy an article of clothing or a book or a new decor item it is only because I’ve decided it is meeting a precise need. I don’t buy a new dress simply because it is on sale, nor do I go to the library book sale and come home with dozens of new books because they were only a dollar apiece. Every item that comes into our home has been deliberated about and, often, is a replacement for something rather than addition.
4. Higher quality possessions
When you only need to buy a single couch to furnish the home you can afford to buy a new one. When you only own a few articles of clothing you can buy them at Target instead of Good Will. I have nothing against thrift store shopping and hand-me-downs, but it is nice to pick out exactly what you want rather than settling for the skirt that needs pinning or the couch that doesn’t match your style.
5. Finding things is easier
Where are my keys? Where’s the headlamp? Where’d I put my book? These are still daily questions on the way out the door but everything that lives in our house only has one spot and so the scramble to find what we’re looking for is greatly minimized. Even if it is out of place there’s only so many places it can be.
6. Larger amount of discretionary income
We are both making the same amount as we were last year, but the amount we have to save, invest, vacation, and give has increased greatly. Less space doesn’t just mean cheaper rent, it impacts every aspect of our spending.
7. Greater contentment
I have never had a home I loved as much as the one we are in today. That may be in part because it is brand new, a great price, perfection location, with amazing neighbors. But I think it is mostly because I have learned to live with less. I am not dreaming the next home, and pinning my favorite interior decorating ideas on pinterest. I have all I need, and I have chosen to be happy with it. There are imperfections and inconveniences, but I’m thoroughly content to call this little garage apartment over my employer’s garage my dream home.
It’s worth it, this ‘minimal’ lifestyle. It really is. The accumulation of stuff is a painfully easy habit to find yourself in. I was barely 25 with no children and a low-maintenance husband in a 1600 square foot house filled to the brim and just enough money to house all my things. Who knows where I’d be in another 25 years if this habit had persisted. Minimizing our lifestyle has maximized our living, and not a day goes by that I am not overflowing with gratitude for the life we’ve been given.