I’ve seen firsthand how owning too many things can drag people down. It often seems that the more expensive the item, the more stress it causes. Take a fancy car, for example – for starters, it’s expensive to buy, maintain and run. You might have to take out a loan to pay for it, or work extra hours. And you’ll likely end up worrying whenever you leave it somewhere – someone might steal the hubcaps or reverse into it. Of course, it won’t be new and fancy forever, so in a couple of years you’ll have to replace it. Cue more money spent and more stress.
Or maybe you own an enormous wardrobe of clothes, and you like to wear a different outfit every day. It’s all well and good until you go on holiday and can’t fit your outfits into one suitcase. Keeping track of your luggage is a nightmare, and every morning you spend ages agonising over what to wear. It’s expensive to replace your clothes every season, and your room is full of clothes you never wear.
Maybe your home is full to bursting with ornaments, appliances, and other clutter. You don’t even use most of it, and cleaning is a nightmare. The attic, spare room and garage are unusable.You may even have to rent a storage unit for all the stuff that won’t fit in your house. Then there’s the furniture needed to store and organise everything. If you decide to move, you’ll need to rent a lorry or two and pay people to move your stuff.
When you take a step back, this all seems pretty absurd. Over the past couple of years, I’ve come to realise the beauty of living a simpler, more minimalist life. You need a whole lot less money, which means less work and more free time. Travelling is easier when you can fit everything you need into a small rucksack. Plus you have a lot more space.
It’s often said that the things we own can end up owning us. I think there’s a lot of truth in that. We live in an age where we can own virtually anything we want, but at what cost? We sacrifice our time and freedom in the pursuit of money, which we can use to buy more things. But this only ever makes us miserable.
I’m still in the process of cutting down what I own. Sometimes I’ll hesitate over something, thinking that I might one day use it again. But after getting rid of it, I inevitably completely forget about it. I’ve yet to truly miss anything.
I used to cling onto old concert tickets, festival wristbands, birthday cards and other mementos, but I never even looked at them. I came to realise that the memories are what’s important, not the physical object. You can always take a photo of things to remember them by.
Having a cluttered living space really stresses me out. In fact, having a messy room has been shown to disrupt your sleep. I feel so much lighter now that I have less stuff, and I’m eager to cut down even more.
Owning things isn’t inherently bad – the key is to only own things which are useful or which enrich your life in some way. If something doesn’t fit into either of these categories, then why bother with it? Living with less is also far more sustainable.
If you do decide to declutter, do it in an environmentally friendly way. Give things to friends and family, donate them, sell them, recycle them or use them to make something new. Only bin things if none of these options are possible. For essays and information on minimalism, visit theminimalists.com.
Have you cut down on the amount you own, or would you like to? I’d love to hear your experiences!