Society often tells us that in order to be successful, we must own a big house, a fancy car and the latest gadgets.
But often that just equals debt, stress and working harder than you want in order to keep up that lifestyle. Perhaps you've looked at a more minimalized approach to life, but have been hesitant to live in a tiny house, own only 33 articles of clothing and get rid of practically everything.
There is a way to find a happy medium between living with nothing and living with excess. Here are some steps you can take to find that place in your own life.
Ask yourself if an item brings value to your life
Once you decide to downsize, you will need to go through your things and minimize. As you sort through things, if there is something you are struggling with getting rid of, ask yourself one question: Does this bring value to my life?
This is vital when choosing if that object goes into the keep or discard pile. Is it something you are holding on to because it was in style four years ago? Or because you were told long ago that you should always keep your checkbook receipts filed away in case something comes up in the future? Probably not. Say goodbye.
You'll find the more you go through, the easier it is to let go, and the more freeing it becomes. If you're really struggling with an item, put it aside for two weeks, then revisit the same question of value.
Consider your finances
Being frugal is a main component of minimalism. Your own finances may benefit from downsizing. As you downsize, try selling things online. Many people make money selling on Ebay and other similar websites. It is pretty simple to do, and you can make extra money while clearing out your home -- win-win.
Question every purchase
As you go to the grocery store, mall or shopping center, before you mindlessly add things to your shopping cart, question it. Will it bring value to your life? Do you really need it, or do you just want it?
I found myself buying clothes for my kids because they were cheap and cute. Pretty soon I had so many clothes that they wouldn't even have time to wear them before outgrowing them. I had to stop going to kids' clothing stores; if I do find myself in one, I really analyze every purchase to decide if they need it, or if I just think it's cute. This has really helped me not only save money, but space in my house as well.
Think about that when you go to the store. That $5 toy your child wants may get played with once before going to the bottom of the toy bin to never be played with again. Is that what you want in your home? Think about it.
We are fortunate to live in a digital era. Think about what takes up the most room in your house. For me, it's DVDs, books, CDs and piano music.
Each of these is available in a digital format. And most of the items I already own could be added to an online storage system, such as iTunes or the cloud, where it will be stored forever (I would recommend backing everything up on an external hard drive as well).
So start downloading, scanning and uploading. Many apps don't cost a thing. Moving forward, stick with digital versions or options to help eliminate physical objects in your house. Try finding recipes online instead of having stacks of cookbooks. Use Quickbooks or another online finance system to track your spending more accurately than that old checkbook ledger. There are so many options -- take advantage of them!
If you really want to keep it, do
A lot of people struggle with letting go of one particular item. Maybe it is a collection that you've spent years adding to; perhaps you love shoes. Whatever it may be, if you have something you really love and can't let go of, keep it. There is no law saying if you want to live a more minimalist lifestyle you have to get rid of everything. If you are really striving to downsize considerably, you'll have more room for that old soda bottle collection anyway!
One part of minimalizing your life is to limit the amount of running around you are doing throughout your week. That means not as many extracurricular activities for your kids, less structured activities, and more time to play and have more free time. This helps kids develop their imagination, spend more time with each other and you, and eliminates that rushing around and strain on your finances.
Whether you want to try all of these ideas, or just a few at first, every little bit helps. Our stuff takes our time and money; by eliminating as much as is feasible for you, you will find yourself much more free and happy.