Why I’m Happier with Less Stuff

Somehow I still need to explain “voluntary minimalism” to people. They assume I have less because of finances and circumstances. Both of which are, to some degree, true.  We live in a one-bedroom apartment, so we don’t have space for all of the Lego sets Katie would ever want, or all of the dead tree, non-electronic books I desire. At some point in the next couple of years, we’re going to have to move, so even if we had the space now I don’t want to have to move it later. Even if we had the money for stuff, I hate moving. Even thinking about it stresses me out. I’m currently happier with less stuff.

Why I’m Happier with Less Stuff

Once upon a time I worked in the corporate world and made good money. I had a tacky McMansion and a new car. Nevertheless, I was not happy. I did not find the work that I was doing to be meaningful. In fact, on the longest corporate job I did not consider the work I was doing to be ethical. The expense of maintaining the house and the cars made me stressed out. I felt trapped in the jobs because if I quit, how could I afford those things?

The pressure to conform was making me ill as well. When I tried to tell people that I hated my job, they told me that I should be grateful to have money and stuff. I had really wanted a small house in an historical neighborhood, something with a cute yard and character. People talked me out of it. I had loved my beater of a Toyota, which had almost 300,000 miles on it but was super-reliable and inexpensive to maintain. So what if the desert sun had bleached the paint off down to bare metal, and the vinyl upholstery was cracked? I got me from point A to point B, comfortably, consistently, and cheaply.

Save Time and Energy

Visual clutter stresses me out. I like a simple room. Knickknacks need to be moved and dusted. I like being able to find what I need easily, because I don’t have to wade through piles and drawers and bins full of stuff I don’t need. All of that takes time and energy. I’m also getting older and slowing down a bit, and I just want to relax as much as possible. I want calm, serene spaces. I want to sit down, not clean up.

Focus on What’s Important

What do I want from life? I know that I don’t want to feel as if I need to impress people. I want to be comfortable. A place to sit and write, a chair to sit and read or watch TV, a bed to sleep in. A kitchen that laid out well, so there’s a flow to working in it, is a bonus. A bathroom that’s not the size of a broom closet, so I can turn around within banging into the walls, is a joy. And on that point, this apartment beat the hell out of the McMansion. I could throw a party in this bathroom. You’d think that they could have sacrificed some of the square footage in one of the great rooms (plural) to make the master bath a bit roomier in the McMansion.

We need a bigger apartment, mainly because my business has outgrown the kitchen table. I need a proper desk, and an office to put in it. That’s a practical thing. I’m happy with fewer, better-quality things. Some nice clothes. I covet a specific pair of Dr. Martens boots. Rather than acquire stuff, I want to do things. I live in Europe, for God’s sake! I will never run out of restaurants to try. Nor will I run short of museums to visit. Who wants to be at home with stuff when there are so many places to be?

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4 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Yes, If you spend a significant amount managing your stuff rather than using it – you probably have too much. I really need to divest myself of stuff. Way too many electronic files. Too many tools & projects I’ll never get to. It’s very true, I am better off getting out to see & do things than spend time with stuff. But there’s the difficulty of properly divesting yourself – what do you with the stuff you get rid of?

  2. When we left the US, we filtered things in three rounds. Each round created two piles.

    Round 1: Good stuff and garbage.
    “Garbage” was defined as stuff we didn’t want to keep but didn’t think anyone else would want.

    Round 2: Stuff we want and stuff we don’t.
    Stuff we wanted to keep got moved into one room. The rest of the house became a staging area.

    Round 3: Stuff to sell and stuff to give away.
    This actually ended up going into several smaller rounds based on where things could be sold, people we gave things to, and what various organizations accepted donations.

    Currently we have a small staging area for things to get rid of. We donate it all to a local charity’s thrift store. When we get enough stuff to make it worth a trip, we take it and drop it off.

  3. I have to say that using my bullet journal for project planning has helped. I no longer acquire things because I might use them for something someday. I figure out what I’m going to work on, and when, and then only acquire what I’m going to use for the current project and maybe the next one. No more than that. There’s no space for it.

    I also figure out either where things are going to live before I bring them home. How big is it, and where the hell am I going to put it while I’m doing this project? I also figure out what to do with it afterward. If I only need a drill for one project, and won’t likely use it again for years, I will find one to borrow rather than buy one. If there’s something I can’t borrow and have to buy, but know I’ll never use but again, I might sell it on a local second-hand forum or donate it to charity.

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