Is less more?
Minimalism is a topic I’ve been following in recent years and this is mostly due to the fact that I have been moving around myself from city to city (Oslo, Paris, and Luxembourg in the last 4 years) and you know when you move around this is the time where you go through a decluttering process.
That is when you realize you have so many unused possessions in the form of books, magazines, clothes, unopened DVD boxes, useless gadgets you got at an exhibition, etc. To sum it up, a bunch of useless stuff! We’ve all gone through that, right?
And at first it feels good to get rid of all that stuff but then once you have completed your move and settled in your new home, you buy some more and you are back at square one!
Minimalism: Less is more
Anyway, before we move on further, let’s put a frame around the concept of minimalism: What is it and what does it entail?
Minimalism can take many shapes and in the words of The Minimalists themselves: “Minimalism is a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives. By clearing the clutter from life’s path, we can all make room for the most important aspects of life: Health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution.“
The minimalist (!) version of that definition would be as Joshua Becker puts it: “Minimalism is owning fewer possessions”.
The way I adapt the minimalism concept to myself is to intentionally use more or fewer items and to focus on the items I value. So, no it is not about having a “naked” rack for your clothes instead of a wardrobe, not owning a car, restricting yourself to no more than 2 chairs at the kitchen table, or living in an RV for that matter.
And as counter-intuitive as it may sound, minimalism is also about having more: More time, more freedom, more space and more money to name a few.
My experience with Minimalism
To me this has translated into decluttering and reducing the number of possessions. You can call me nerdy, but sorting out my possessions, selling some and giving some away has been something I really enjoyed actually. And just like personal finance, minimalism is personal too, and will be applied differently to you according to what you value.
This process, especially in the last years, has led me to reduce the amount of stuff quite significantly. Does that make me a minimalist? I do not know but I guess you could call me a “declutterist”.
Here are a few things I have learned so far during my decluttering journey.
- We have more stuff than we think (and we do not do anything about it)
In the brilliant book Scarcity by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir which I highly recommend there is a whole section where the authors explain that in America the storage industry is thriving because people gathered too much stuff which they then put in self-storage facilities. Here is a revealing passage of the book “Some estimate that over 12 billion is spent annually on self-storage, three times as much as is spent on music purchases.” Impressive, right? In Europe the industry is at an earlier stage (3,11 billion USD in 2019) and it is growing as well.
As for me, in 2017 I was living in Oslo, Norway, and was considering a move abroad, so in anticipation I went through a massive decluttering phase. I can’t remember if this was triggered or reinforced by watching Minimalism but what I can say is that this documentary resonated strongly with me.
It is also just around that time that a lady working at a hotel in downtown Oslo wrote on social media that for Christmas, the hotel was organizing a charity for the less fortunate. She asked to bring clothing or items in good condition and wrote that the personnel would turn those into Christmas gifts for the needy. I thought this was a great initiative and immediately started to gather some towels, an extra set of bed sheets, a couple of t-shirts I had not worn in years,… and within a pretty short timespan I found myself carrying a really heavy box all the way to the hotel.
The main takeaway here is that if you make time for decluttering, you will be surprised at how fast you will be able to fill some of those heavy boxes and create more space in your home. And a bonus point here, it made me happy to know that I would make other people happy which makes this an even more worthwhile experience.
- There is always a buyer for whatever you sell
I also sold a few items such as Playstation games, small electronic gadgets, some home decoration items, and so on through the local online marketplace. The funny thing is that whatever you sell, you always have a buyer and you even get some unexpected reactions. I was selling some decoration signs (you know the ones with quotes like “Home Sweet Home”) and did not expect to find eager buyers easily but I couldn’t be further from the truth. As it turned out I found an enthusiastic lady keen to expand her home signs collection! Who would have thought? Well, when you think of it, it makes sense that there is always a buyer: You or someone else bought the item in the first place.
The sales brought me a whopping 250 euros (woohoo!), it did not take too much time nor hassle and the buyers were happy with their bargain. So if you are keen to make some easy cash, go check out your attic or basement, there may be some treasures lying around without you realizing it!
- I changed my approach to presents
This decluttering process also led me to think more about what I offered as presents to friends and family and as well as how I unapologetically (but kindly) refused to receive more stuff.
When offering a present nowadays, I try to give something consumable like fancy food, a bottle of fine wine, beauty products, or in the form of an experience (a voucher for dinner, a travel voucher,…). The only exception here, would be books which I am glad to offer and happy to receive as well.
My parents regularly propose to give me some stuff they do not use anymore and I have unapologetically turned their offers down most of the time. An example is the waffle maker which my mother wanted to give. My thinking was, well sure I do like waffles (I am Belgian after all) but I cannot see that I will use the waffle maker more than twice a year so it would be a waste of space and just one more item to take with me in case of moving again. And if you are wondering, everything is fine with my parents, they understand I do not want to accumulate stuff that adds no value to my life 😉.
- Maintenance is often overlooked
One other major item that has bothered me is the waste of time used for maintenance. You see, the more stuff you own, the more you are likely to need batteries, repairs, or to go shopping for replacements. Have you ever had a technician come 2 or 3 times to your home for fixing a computer, the TV, or had to go yourself to the shop for a repair? One recent example of mine is that I went to the shoe repair 3 times for the same pair of shoes: The first time to bring them, the week after because they were going to be repaired, and a third time because the guy was behind schedule the second time I went. So, all in all I have spent between 2 and 3 hours and 80 euros to get my shoes fixed. I combined these trips with other activities but still you see how simple maintenance or repairs can suck your time and money. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy that those shoes have been granted with an extended lifetime but if you do that for every single item, the time and money spent will not be worth it.
- The “Buy and Hold” strategy
As for investing I use the buy and hold strategy as much as possible with regards to my material possessions. I try to buy quality goods that offer a good value for their price and that will last long. I am even willing to pay a high price on stuff I really enjoy like my Sonos speakers for example because I know they are of high quality and they will stick with me for many more years. In the long-run buying quality products that stand the test of time will save me both money and time.
Read more: Dress to Impress with No Budget Stress
- Other benefits of minimalism
There are plenty of other benefits related to minimalism such as more focus, flexibility, peace of mind, money saved, less ecological waste, a less cluttered life, and so on, I just wanted to focus on the items that have stuck with me the most.
Your guide to minimalism
If you see that minimalism could be worth it for you, here are my tips to help you get started on your journey as well.
- Watch the documentary Minimalism on Netflix.
- Make the time to go through your stuff, allocate 2-3 hours per room you wish to declutter. The important thing is to set a dedicated time for it.
- For clothing: If you have not worn it in 2 years, you will probably not wear it in the coming two years so give/sell/throw it away. If you are hesitating, give yourself 6 months and 6 months later, if you still have not worn it, get rid of it. (This applies to stuff you have not used in a long period of time as well)
- Once you have your pile of stuff, make 3 groups: items you can sell, items you can give, and items you can throw.
- Sell your items on your local online marketplace/Facebook Marketplace, advertise you are giving your stuff away to friends or make it fun with a lottery or something, and for the rest, go to your local container park.
- Here are my friend Jacob’s tips when considering a new purchase:
- Are you willing to pay for it?
- Are you willing to use that item?
- Will you be able to store it?
- Are you prepared to maintain that item?
- Are you ultimately ready to sell it or give it away?
- And the extra question you can ask yourself: Are you willing to transport it with you when you move?
- A great resource I also recommend following is Matt D’Avella’s Youtube Channel. I think this was the first video I saw from him, and I mostly remember it for the part from 0:45 to 1:00. Check it out 😉!
- I could as well mention Marie Kondo’s series on Netflix or her book, and while some of her tidying up tips make sense and are helpful, I have not dug up in her material that much.
- The last step after you found out what worked for you: Enjoy your less cluttered space and let me know how you feel 😀.
Wrapping it up
Decluttering my home and my stuff has brought me more than I have lost in terms of time, finances, and mostly peace of mind. It is a continuous process, so I am regularly going through it.
I just appreciate the benefits it brings in terms of better time management, decluttered space, and simplification. I highly recommend you give it a go and can only see it bringing positives to your daily life. And here is a bonus: The simple fact of getting started with this process could also spark a chain of positive actions in other areas of your life as well. You see, when you start something new and repeat it often, new paths are being created in your thinking process, your brains adapt and do wonderful things 😀!
And now I am curious to hear about your experience with minimalism or decluttering. Have you tried to reduce the number of possessions? Are you intentionally trying to live with fewer items? If you have read it, did Marie Kondo’s book actually sparked joy for you?