I have been working to declutter and simplify my home and my life and embrace a minimalist lifestyle for well over 7 years. The longer I embrace a simpler life, the more I learn from simplifying and the power a life with less can have.
In today’s post, I’m sharing 5 lessons I’ve learned from a life with less, and more about what simplifying and minimalism are teaching me.
1. Physical clutter = mental clutter
One of the biggest lessons simplifying has taught me is that the physical clutter in your home translates into mental clutter quickly and easily.
When you are surrounded by clutter, that “stuff” is constantly competing for your attention.
It’s distracting. Not only is it visually distracting, making it hard for your mind to focus and rest in a cluttered environment because there is so much visual stimulation. But it’s also distracting in terms of your time, attention and energy.
Everything you own requires some of your attention, time and energy. Every single thing in your home requires you to take care of it in some way. Whether it’s picking it up, looking for it, cleaning it, organizing it, putting it away again, cleaning around it, maintaining it, reorganizing it, thinking about it, feeling guilty about it, etc.
It only makes sense that the more stuff you own, the more of your time, attention and energy it all takes up.
When you use and love something, the time, attention and energy it takes up are more justified. But when it’s clutter – i.e. things you DON’T use or love – taking up your time, energy and attention, it’s frustrating, to say the least!
Both of these things – both the visual distraction clutter adds to your space, and the time, energy and attention the clutter in your home takes up – lead to unnecessary mental clutter in your life as well.
Clutter can leave you feeling distracted, foggy or just overwhelmed because it’s all too much to take in and take care of.
Life with less: less mental clutter
However, when you clear the clutter from your home, you remove some of the distractions and visual clutter. Making it easier for your mind to focus and rest. As well as feel less distracted or overstimulated, clearing some of the mental clutter.
It’s like giving your mind some breathing room!
Clearing the physical clutter also reduces the amount of stuff you have to take care of, and makes it easier to take care of what’s left.
When taking care of your home and the things you own requires less of your mental capacity in terms of time, energy and attention, it also helps clear mental clutter.
2. You can’t buy happiness
This is something most people rationally know. But at the same time, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking the next thing you buy will bring you happiness and contentment.
But the more I embrace a life with less, the easier it is to see that “things” won’t bring you lasting, fulling happiness. In fact, nothing you can buy will give you true or lasting happiness if you aren’t already happy.
Buying something new might give you a brief “high” or burst of happiness. But soon the novelty of the new thing wears off and you’ll be looking for the next “thing” to buy to make you feel happy again.
And this creates a cycle of consumerism.
Life with less: finding happiness outside of “stuff”
As you embrace life with less, you adjust to having less (and only what you use and love), you start consuming less, and start thinking less about “stuff” in general.
By removing the clutter and excess from your home and life, you start to notice and realize that the stuff you own isn’t what makes you truly happy or matters most in your life.
When this happens, you begin to find and search for happiness in ways that don’t revolve around “stuff”.
It could be in activities you love that bring you joy. Or maybe investing more time and energy in relationships with people you love. Or simply finding more contentment in a slower, simpler life when you aren’t always busy searching for more to fill your life with.
3. Enough is a decision
And speaking of the cycle of consumerism, another wonderful lesson of living a life with less is finding what enough looks like for you.
In our consumer-driven society, if you’re waiting to feel like you have enough “stuff”, you’ll likely never get there. Marketers are experts at making you feel like you don’t have enough. Or that you’ll find contentment and have “enough” by buying their latest product.
How often have you told yourself, once I buy this thing, then I’ll be happy with my wardrobe/my home/my décor/etc.?
But usually, once you get “the thing”, you’re already thinking of the next thing you can buy.
This was my biggest challenge when simplifying my wardrobe, and still is a challenge for me. I often caught myself thinking, “if I get these leggings/this sweater/this jacket/etc. then my wardrobe will be complete.” But a few weeks later, I would see something else I felt my wardrobe “needed”.
Life with less: deciding you have enough
The reality is, you’ll never reach a place of contentment and enough until you decide you’re already there.
If you want to embrace a life with less, a big part of that is finding contentment with what you already have. It means learning the difference between wants and needs, and deciding you have enough.
“Enough is a decision, not an amount.”
~ Alison Faulkner
4. What you own really does own you
The more you embrace a life with less, the clearer it becomes that the things you own, really do end up owning you right back.
Everything you choose to own takes some of your time, space, money, energy, attention, etc.
There is a fine line between owning things that make your life easier, more enjoyable and more convenient, and owning too many things that start making your life more difficult and more complicated instead.
It could be the extra hours you need to work to pay for it all. The debt you accumulate to buy “stuff”. The extra time and energy it takes you to clean, pick up, organize, manage, look for, etc. all the stuff you own. Or the stress and overwhelm the clutter and stuff you own adds to your life.
Life with less: owning what you use and love, letting go of the excess
The goal in pursuing a life with less is to get rid of the excess, the clutter and the distractions so you aren’t spending more time, energy, money or attention on what you own than necessary.
Instead, you focus on keeping what you use and love. All so you can spend less time, energy, money and attention managing the things you own, simply because you own less.
And have more time, energy, money and attention for the things that matter most to you in life.
5. It’s not about your stuff
One of the biggest lessons embracing a life with less has taught me is that minimalism and simplifying aren’t really about your stuff at all.
In the beginning, simplifying may be largely focused on “stuff” for most of us. Especially when you are in the midst of decluttering and removing the excess “stuff” from your home and life.
But ultimately, the goal of simplifying and minimalism is to get to a point where the “stuff” you own isn’t all that important at all.
Life with less: less stuff in order to have more life
As you simplify, you get rid of the clutter and start getting to a place where you only own what you use, need and love. The stuff you own is there to make your life easier, more enjoyable and more comfortable.
But your focus shifts to living your life, instead of focusing on what you own. Over time, “stuff” is no longer the primary focus of your days or your life.
You regain control over and make intentional choices about what takes up your time, space, energy and money.
You choose less “stuff” so you can fill your life with more of what matters most to you. That could be more time and attention for the people you love. More time and energy to pursue your favourite activities. Even more time and space to find peace and relaxation.
Embracing a life with less stuff is ultimately about finding ways to have more life in your days.
Eventually, the stuff you own, no matter how little or how much there is, takes a back seat. It becomes less about what you own, and more about how you live.
Life with less: 5 lessons simplifying and minimalism have taught me
Simplifying and embracing a life with less has definitely been a journey, full of lessons along the way.
Some of these lessons are harder to swallow than others. Like recognizing the times you try to buy happiness by going shopping to lift your spirits!
But the lessons a life with less can teach you are valuable. Learning how to create an intentional home and life, focused less on what you own and more on how you live, is such an amazing thing.
What is the biggest lesson you’re learning from simplifying your home and life? Leave a comment and let me know.