When Less is Really More

Do we own our stuff, or does our stuff own us? I’ve gone through my possessions multiple times in the last year, trying to purge my home of things that aren’t used enough or valued enough to keep. But it seems like excess and materialism keep rearing their ugly heads, filling up spaces with unnecessary things time and time again. Whenever I turn my back, I give them margin by neglecting the act of intentionally curating my belongings.

When you have less, you appreciate the things you do have more. Consequently, when you value having less, you crave things less, lending yourself more to generosity. Living life in pursuit of owning fewer material possessions frees you to focus on experiences and allows you to invest in more than temporary things that will never satisfy you.

Having too many things creates unnecessary clutter– both physically and emotionally. I know I can’t focus when my workspace is cluttered; seeing unorganized spaces actually stresses me out. In college, I would take study breaks to clean my room because I just could not focus on my school work in the midst of a messy room. On the flip side, having a place for everything is soothing. And it’s much easier to find a place for everything when we only keep what is useful or beloved.

When considering new purchases, I weigh the cost. If I don’t really like it or know I will use it, I put it back. The same line of thinking ought to apply when I turn to the things I have previously purchased. Instead of acting on autopilot, stashing away everything that comes my direction, I’ve realized that I must take a more careful, intentional approach to sorting through the things that cross my threshold. I should question whether something will actually get used enough to take up valuable space, if it is worth the monetary cost, and how much I truly like it.

Maybe it’s spring cleaning fever, or perhaps I’ve been bitten by the minimalism bug, but whatever it is, I am feeling compelled to once again take a good, hard look at what things I’m filling my home with. I think my possessions are a reflection of my priorities and values. If someone were to take a look around my apartment, I want them to have an accurate picture of who I am.

As I sort through trinkets, papers, clothes, shoes, and craft supplies– just to name a few areas of weakness and subconscious accumulation of clutter– I’m aiming for keeping things that are truly useful or particularly meaningful to me. I’ve come to notice that buying one new thing (be it a kitchen tool, pair of shoes, or book) makes me want to buy more because getting new things is exciting. But I don’t want to continually accumulate things simply because of the rush of adrenaline I get, and I don’t want to feel discontent with what I have. So I will take time instead to appreciate what I have and let go of what is no longer valuable to me. Knowing that everything I keep is truly important and carefully chosen will ideally keep me from buying extra things on impulse and filling my life with unnecessary purchases that will inevitably sit in the back of the closet until my next round of cleaning.

While this truly is proving to be an on-going process and really more of a lifestyle and attitude change, my goal in this season is to create a place for everything, curating a collection of things that I’ve purposely chosen to keep. Instead of looking at my belongings and asking what I should get rid of (my default approach), I’m trying to rewire my thinking to ask what I would like to keep and why. If I can’t come up with a good reason to keep something in my home and my life, it doesn’t deserve to stay. Someone else might get greater pleasure or more use out of it, and it’s taking up valuable space in the meantime.

Now I must bid you all adieu and dig into my closets, drawers, and cabinets to see what things will get a place in my home and which will get the chance to begin again in someone else’s. Wish me luck!

Project Purge

willliam-morris-quote-via-pinterestAs I have been reading more and more about simplifying, I have felt compelled to begin getting rid of the clutter in my life. I began with one of the more obvious ways: sorting through my personal belongings.

Like many people, I have far more than I need or even want. I have clothes in my closet that I don’t wear often enough to keep, books I know I won’t reread, and tons of papers I will never look at again.

One of the tips that I found to be the most positive and encouraging was to not look at decluttering from the perspective of choosing what to get rid of, but choosing what to keep. When you focus on the reasons you want to keep the things you really like and cherish, other things seem far less important and necessary.

I didn’t begin with a defined five-step program, but I did look at others’ guidelines to give me some general direction as I went.

As I looked at my room as a whole, I took inspiration from Simple Life Together:

  1. Determine your needs. What is your end goal? How do you want the space to look? Keeping that in mind will make you keep going when it gets difficult.
  2. Assess your space. What’s working? What’s not working?
  3. Purge/pare down. Pull everything out of a given area, sorting items into piles for trash, recycling, relocating to another room in the house, donating, keeping, and a don’t know pile (to return to later). Move around the room as you finish each area, systematically tackling one room at a time.
  4. Organize. Put like things together, label things, and make sure everything has a home.

When evaluating individual items, I turned to this list from The Art of Simple:

  1. Do I have something else that could serve the same purpose?
  2. Would I ever use all of my multiples at once?
  3. Do I expect to have an immediate need for this?
  4. Do I love this item more than the clutter it might create?
  5. Can I use this keepsake or preserve the memory in another way?

Knowing that this project would take a substantial amount of time and effort, I started with a single defined subtask. I scanned papers I wanted to have record of to my email, recycling the original copies. In all honesty, I probably won’t reference them again, but at least they’re not taking up physical space in my room anymore. It’s a step in the right direction.

I am continually paring down my clothing, proving to myself that this is a journey of progress. Nearly every day, I find myself asking how I can get it down to a more manageable size. I don’t mean just looking at a specific article of clothing and wondering, “Should I get rid of this?” I stare at my closet as a whole, set on finding something to remove. I don’t want to get rid of my favorite pieces or be left wearing the same outfit every day, but I want to be sure that I only keep the things that I really like. I still have more than enough clothes, and think this area might very well be one that I have to often revisit in order to keep it in check.

In examining my bookshelves, I feel an emotional connection to many of the books I own. When trying to get rid of things I don’t need, I continually came back to a few big questions:

  1. Am I going to reread it?
  2. Would I recommend it to a good friend?
  3. Is it worth keeping for potential future children/nieces/nephews?

Getting rid of some of my stuff has allowed me to be better organize the things I have left, leaving me with a cleaner space, which I love. And the feeling of freedom I get when I let go of things I don’t need is addictive. It’s a continual challenge to confront the endlessly accumulating collection of stuff in my life, but it’s truly liberating to realize I can choose what to keep and get rid of the rest, allowing my excess to benefit others instead of sitting unused. And that is what keeps me going in this ongoing project.

May Favorites

I thought it would be fun if I took a moment each month to let you know what things are currently striking my fancy, so here goes the May installment!

Current favorites:

Song: Girl Named Tennessee by Needtobreathe. My friends and I had our own little dance party when this song was played at the concert we went to a few weeks ago. We went crazy rocking out to the upbeat tempo, singing the lyrics at the top of our lungs. It’s just one of those feel-good kind of songs that makes you crank up the volume and dance like nobody’s watching.

Book: Restless: Because You Were Made for More by Jennie Allen. This book prompted me to slow down and take some time reflecting upon my past, my passions, and how God might be using the different parts of my life and personality to point me to a way to spend my life serving Him in a way that gives my life new purpose. I loved how the book coupled encouragement and teaching from Jennie with introspective questions designed to get the reader to really examine his or her own life.

Blog: Minimalist Baker. I have grown to be such a foodie over the last year or two, and I really appreciate recipes that use a short list of ingredients, especially when they’re healthy, too. These recipes always look so delicious, and they motivate me to make good food.

Food: I made the most delicious homemade pizza over the weekend. It was so good that I made it again the next day. I started by cooking red and white onion slices in oil in a skillet, then I added broccoli, tomato, spinach, and avocado to the mix. Once it was all sufficiently cooked, I removed it and set it aside. Then I cooked a tortilla in the same pan, topped it with pizza sauce, a little bit of mozzarella, my sautéed veggies, and some basil, oregano, red pepper flakes, garlic, and parmesan cheese. It was heavenly.

App: Grocery IQ. I like that I can add things to my list of favorite items, which makes generating my weekly grocery list much simpler. I also can customize the aisles of the store to allow my list to appear in the order in which I will find the items in the store, instead of having a haphazard list (which is what happens when I write it on my own). And I can add prices for the items so I can stay within my budget every week without trying to do mental math as I pick things up in the store. The app also syncs with the web version, so you can update your list on your computer or phone.

Store: Aldi. The small building may not look impressive, but that’s one of the things I actually like. With very little besides food, I am not tempted to buy things I don’t need (like I do when I go to larger stores that have more to offer besides groceries). Because the store is so small, I also spend far less time wandering the aisles. I go in with a list, which is also helpful, but I am able to find exactly what I’m looking for much faster than I can in larger stores. Their prices are also very affordable, which works really well for me. Since switching to Aldi, I have cut my grocery budget to about a third of what it used to be. I have come to really like some of their store brands, and their website has some great recipe ideas.

Now it’s your turn. What are some of your favorite things?

Less is More

While this may be a common platitude, it still rings true. If you are involved in fewer things, you get to be more involved with each of them than if you tried to be fully involved in a greater number of activities. If you have a smaller group of close friends, you get to know them better than if you tried to get to know a larger group on a deep level. If you own fewer possessions, you use them more and appreciate them more than if you had an overabundance of things you never use and misplace or forget you even own.

I’m not advocating having less simply for the sake of trying to have the least amount of stuff possible —that is still, at its core, about having pride in what you possess. There’s nothing wrong with owning things, as long as those things don’t end up owning you. We have far more than we need, and even, at times, more than we want. Embracing the idea of “less is more” is really more about choosing which things, activities, and relationships you care about the most, and then being willing to let the others go.

I recently have become a big proponent of simpler living. Not only does it support my desire to be intentional about investing in what really matters to me and not stretch myself too thin by saying yes to too many things, but it also offers small steps to accomplish those things.

Decluttering (or editing,purging, downsizing, or whatever you choose to call it) has become fun for me, as I evaluate the physical possessions I have in light of what I want my life and my home to look like. As a mildly OCD (or not-so-mildly, depending on who you ask) person with a distinct Type A personality, I like things to be clean and organized all the time. With fewer things crowding up my space, it takes far less time to keep things the way I like them. I’m also far less likely to misplace things, since there are fewer things to lose and fewer places to lose them in.

I have begun to let go of my packrat tendencies, saving everything “just in case,” and adopted a more realistic view of the things I own, recognizing that I probably will never again look at all the papers I wrote in high school English or feel the need to wear my graduation gown again. While some things have sentimental value (which is totally fine; we need things that are special to us), I don’t feel the need to save everything anymore, and that’s quite liberating.

Getting rid of unnecessary things is kind of addictive. Once I started, I couldn’t stop thinking of more and more things I no longer use that could be added to the bags accumulating in the hall closet. I just couldn’t get enough of the freedom I found when I let go. Having fewer things makes me more appreciative of the things I choose to keep, and the things that I now will have more time for, like relaxing with friends. My room and my life are starting to have more wiggle room in them, and that’s beautiful to me.

April Favorites

I thought it would be fun if I took a moment each month to let you know what things are currently striking my fancy, so here goes the April installment!

Current favorites:

Song: Brother by Needtobreathe (especially the version with Gavin DeGraw). Really any song by Needtobreathe, if I’m being honest. But this one reminds me that I can’t go through life alone. And then when you throw in Gavin DeGraw’s new bridge in the middle of the song, I can’t focus on anything else. I literally drop everything to listen to the song.

Book: Notes from a Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenreider. I checked this out from the library without really knowing what it was about, but the title intrigued me. What I found was the beginning of my personal journey to simplicity, guided by a book that was divided into topics that I was already passionate about– travel, family, and food, to name a few. I took notes like crazy and re-read it almost immediately.

Blog: The Art of Simple by Tsh Oxenreider. Funny, poignant, honest, inspiring. I stumbled upon it after reading her book, and get really excited when I see there’s a new post for me to read.

Food: hmmm, either broccoli, zucchini, or edamame. Pretty much all the green things.

App: Todoist. For those of you who like to be organized like me, you might want to check this one out. I wanted an app that would allow me to create daily to-do lists because I find them more manageable than one long list. I had still been using paper planners until now because I didn’t like the previous options I’d tried on my phone. But this one also has a website and browser extension, so I can add or check off items on my phone or computer.

Now it’s your turn. What are some of your favorite things?