Living with Less: Start Small {Series}


You have made a trip to buy bins, baskets, or boxes since Christmas. You have organized the same closet more times than you can count. You park one (or two) cars in your driveway despite having a garage. You have run out of hangers. You can never find your favorite ______.

If any of the above are true about you, it’s possible that you have too much stuff. In fact, let’s save us both some time and acknowledge that you do have too much stuff. I do too! We all do, and I’m tired of it. I’m tired of organizing. I’m tired of trying to find bins that match all the other bins. I’m tired of having a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear.

I’m going to choose to live with less. 

I’m not talking about bare bones, no-extra-sheets-for-my-bed kind of “less”, I’m talking about the “less” that allows me to breathe – the kind of less that makes my closet more useful, my bathroom less cluttered, and my kitchen more functional. It also happens to make my family more grateful and my life much simpler.

About a year ago I started my initial ascent toward this goal of living with less. I researched, read a great book, and got to work. I made significant progress, but have hit a plateau, and after some reflection I have figured out why. Now that I know, I’m going to dig in (or dig out!) again, and avoid the same mistakes the second time around. And I’m going to share the process with you – pictures and all (Gasp! Yes, I’m going to show it like it really is, no filter). As I write, I’ll share with you what I’m choosing to live without, what I’m keeping, and why.

So, let’s get started. And speaking of starting, please start small. DO NOT start with your closet, because you’ll quit – trust me. Don’t even start with your dresser; start with a drawer, because you will likely be surprised at the brain shift that has to occur to live with less. Almost anyone can throw away junk or organize, but the reason so many of us are drowning in our stuff is because we think we might need it. So we justify, we excuse, we explain.  No more! Magazines

The contents of my magazine basket. Why did I choose this basket? Because I haven’t touched it except to add to it in over a year. So why do I keep them? 

1. I intend to read them on our next long road trip, flight, or leisurely Sunday afternoon when there’s no football, NASCAR, or golf to watch (yes, I do watch – and enjoy – all of those things).
2. I intend to go through them and pull out inspirational meal ideas, décor, and organizational tips.
3. We get most of them for free.
4. I enjoy reading up on our city, being in the loop about what’s going on, who’s doing what, and (if I’m being totally honest) it makes me feel grown-up.

Those reasons are (on the surface) perfectly fine, but let’s take a look at what’s really going on:

1. I’m storing them to be used at a later time, which means I am not using them now. This is okay if I have the space to keep them and the desire to maintain them. But what happens when the basket gets too full? Should I get another? And another? Then maybe a bin? (See what’s happening here?!?).
2. I intend to do a lot of things with them, but they simply aren’t things that have made it onto my priority list in this season of life. Truth is, what I see in those magazines will give me a couple good ideas, but mostly it will make me feel bad about the things I think I should be doing. I’ll go through one of those and create a list (you know, like Pinterest, but on paper) of all the things I want to do, which will keep me up at night. For me, it just breeds dissatisfaction with what I have and lays the groundwork for me to compare myself to the unattainable staged images in a magazine.
3. I have adopted the phrase “if it’s free it’s for me!” from my in-laws because I think it’s cute. Trouble is, saying it and using it as a life principle are two different things. Just because something is free (or inexpensive) doesn’t mean you will use it. (Much more on this particular learning in future posts).
4. It’s fun to be in the loop, especially about our awesome city. It’s nice to have a little casual reading material to enjoy. I really really look forward to receiving and reading this magazine.

Now that I have really thought about why I am keeping all of those, here’s what’s next:

Reduce the volume. I am not getting rid of every magazine, just most of them. I eliminated the magazines that contained information I could most certainly find online, and recipes are more easily accessible for me on my phone anyway.

Reduce the guilt. Don’t keep stuff that reminds you of everything you think you should be or are intending to do.  I eliminated magazines that I know have a tendency to foster discontent with my lifestyle. I know how to decorate, and how to organize – and it starts with having less stuff.

Keep what you love. I am keeping the magazines that I really look forward to reading, that I get excited about. And here’s the kicker – once I have read them I will not keep them any longer. I will not re-read a magazine (seriously, there are not enough hours in the day!), so there’s no sense in keeping it. I will take pictures of pages that have information I want to keep, and recycle the rest.

Now, insert your item of choice where I had magazines. I am not getting rid of every collectible plate, just most of them. I am eliminating the paperwork I can scan and store online. I am giving away the clothes that remind me of the body I had before my precious babies made me a mama – if and when I get there again I’ll celebrate with tailoring and a couple new items. I am keeping the special occasion shoes that I really look forward to wearing, even if it’s only once a year.

You decide where to begin your journey. A basket, a drawer, the console in your car – you choose. This is the just the beginning of a life free from the shackles of stuff and full of things that matter.

I’d love to know if you are doing something similar, where you’ve gotten stuck, and what success you have had!



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