It's been a few years now since we got rid of the majority of our belongings and moved into an RV (and now boat). Becoming a minimalist (and living with less stuff) wasn't a goal at the time – it just naturally happened.
When we sold our house and moved into an RV, we had to give away a ton of our stuff so that we could start living minimally in a smaller space.
We gave a lot of stuff to family members, had neighbors come by and take whatever they wanted, Salvation Army came to our home to do a big pickup, and more. We didn't sell a single thing, instead we gave almost all of it away.
I know some people will think I'm crazy for not selling anything, but that's not really the point of this blog post. The point is that living with less stuff is possible. And, there is already so much waste in the world, and now that we're sailing, we're seeing so much of it in the water – and it is truly disappointing.
Living on a sailboat means living with less stuff or living a minimal lifestyle. Our boat is a little bigger than the RV we used to own, but it has even less storage space – we had to get rid of even more of our stuff when we switched homes.
I know living on sailboat or RV isn’t the norm, but neither is living with less stuff.
When you have a traditional home you are probably used to owning more because you simply have more space to keep things. But, as time has passed, people are living in larger and larger homes and adding even more stuff.
Just think about the average home in 1950, which was less than 1,000 square feet. Fast forward to 2017, the average home size has increased to over 2,400 square feet (according to the U.S. Census Bureau).
We were fairly close to that size when we owned a house. The house we owned in the St. Louis, Missouri area was around 2,500 square feet, if you included our finished basement, and it was just for myself, my husband, and our two dogs. Our home in Colorado was almost as big, at slightly over 2,000 square feet (with no basement).
However, we decided to buck the norm and started living minimally by completely downsizing our life.
Here are some more crazy statistics about how much stuff the average person has:
- The average American throws away around 80 pounds of used clothing each year. HuffPost
- The average home has 300,000 items. NBC News
- Around 10% of the population pays for a separate storage unit. Self Storage
- Of the 10% above, 65% of those people also have a garage, meaning they probably already have the space to store things!
- 12% of Americans think buying brand new items for their kids is important because they don't want to be perceived as poor, and 15% want their kids to be popular and believe having brand names is a part of that. PRNewsWire
This isn't to say that we are perfect, though. I used to keep pretty much everything I came across, and my basement was proof of that. I would always say, “Oh, but I'll use that eventually!”
And then, eventually never came.
All that clutter and the upkeep of owning so much stuff can get overwhelming.
We made the decision to start living with less stuff for many reasons, but the main reason was that traveling nearly full-time added to the stress of owning a home. So, we figured why not just take it a step further and actually travel full-time.
All of the belongings we have are now inside our boat, except for a few childhood items and photo albums that my dad left me after he passed away. Those are all stored at a family member's home (yes, I know that we are lucky to have a family member who is willing to store some of our stuff).
Living minimally has been great, and I've learned a lot by giving away nearly all of my belongings.
Here is what I've learned by living with less stuff.
I haven't rebought anything I've given away.
One fear I had when I first started getting rid of stuff was that I thought I might need to repurchase items again in the future – thereby wasting money all over again!
This is a common excuse I would make, and it's actually one of the top reasons many people make when decluttering and trying to live with less stuff.
I mean, there were so many times when I would keep stuff for so long and tell myself, “but I may use this in the future.”
Looking back, I honestly cannot think of anything that I repurchased because I ended up needing or wanting it again.
I haven't forgotten memories.
Another reason for why I kept some items was because I was afraid that I would forget and lose meaningful life events.
I know this personally because I kept many things, such as clothing, because they were things I held onto after my dad passed away. I kept outfits that I wore the last time I saw him, from his funeral, and so on.
By getting rid of things, I was able to finally let go. Hanging onto those things and looking at them every day wasn’t healthy.
I thought long and hard about whether or not I should get rid of things that had memories attached to them, but I knew I couldn't keep everything. Not only is that probably mentally unhealthy, it's also a lot of clutter and takes up space.
I’ve learned that I can take memories with me without the physical clutter that comes with those memories.
I'm sort of happy with how I got rid of my stuff, but I could've been better.
When I talk about living with less stuff and how we downsized, I receive a ton of emails from new readers who say that I should have sold everything, or just thrown everything away.
Years later, I'm extremely happy that we gave stuff away to people who actually wanted the items. It felt good to give our things a second home and maybe a little more life.
What I’m not happy about is the amount of stuff we actually did throw away.
This was years ago, when I didn't really understand the size of the trash problem we have in today's world.
Like I said, we did throw some stuff away, items that the non-profit wouldn't take as donations and items that we couldn't give away to people. When I look back on that, I really wish I would have tried harder to find more environmentally friendly ways to get rid of our things so we could start living with less stuff.
I have wasted money in the past.
If I was perfect, I wouldn't have bought so many items in the first place, then contributing to the amount of waste we have going on in the world.
But, I've learned now. And, that's the point of this blog post!
While you may have made mistakes in the past, making better choices for the future can help change your life and the world.
This is probably a given, but being able to give away nearly everything I’ve ever bought means that I've probably wasted thousands of dollars in my lifetime.
Knowing this has really helped me understand how to manage my money better.
Now that I realize how much money I wasted as I’m now living with less stuff, it’s easier for me to say “no” at the store when debating whether or not I should get something. I now realize that I don't really need much, and this helps me to only buy what I actually need instead of things that will just create clutter or waste.
I can also walk into a store and only buy exactly what I need, even if that store is Target (I actually haven't been to a Target or any big store like that in a very long time, haha)!
I have so much more control over my spending and that has saved me a lot of money in the past year.
I don't need a lot in order to be happy.
I kept a lot of things because I thought I needed them for the future. On a regular basis, I probably only used around 25% of the things I had in my house.
Probably even less than that.
I know I'm not alone – many people keep items because they think they may need them in the future. You know the feeling – you buy something, don’t use it right away, and years later you find it but just can't throw it away in case there is some circumstance where you need that exact item.
If this is you, then you should put a timeline of no more than one year on the item. If you don't use it in that timeframe, then there's a big chance that you'll never need it.
Chances are that you won't miss it much either.
When I think about how much stuff we gave away and how we’re now living with less stuff, I honestly can't even remember half of the things we got rid of. Now, I know that I never really needed the majority of those things.
Having more stuff doesn't make you happier.
It's really that simple. Things don't make you a better person, they don't make you more successful than others, or anything else.
I know this because I have less stuff than I have ever had, and I am happier than ever.
You should only own something if you truly want it. Who cares about what everyone else has?!
Life is less stressful when you are living with less stuff.
Getting rid of so much stuff has made my life much more peaceful. Hanging on to so much stuff for years and years can add an insane amount of clutter to a person's life, both physically and mentally.
I'm able to save money, not waste a bunch of stuff, and focus on what truly matters in life.
Now, this isn't to say that I'm just not buying anything anymore. I am definitely still buying stuff – I am just much more mindful of what I'm spending my money on.
Living with less stuff has made everything seem so much clearer now.
It's easy to start living minimally.
As you can see from the above, living minimally has a ton of positives. One last positive is that it's actually easy to do.
Many people think that living with less stuff would be difficult because you have to get rid of so much stuff, change your mindset, and more. However, it's been an easy change for us.
Having less stuff and spending less money on things we don't need allows us to spend more time on things we care about and actually want to do. Plus, now we hardly ever have anything break because there aren't many things in our life that can be broken (except for boat stuff – boats are just always broken).
We don't miss anything. We don't feel like we need anything. We are happier and much more carefree now by living with less stuff.
How do you actually start living with less stuff?
The first step is to evaluate what you have, but you also want to stop yourself from being wasteful in the future by buying less stuff.
If you are trying to learn how to downsize your home like we did, there are many great benefits, even though it can be difficult at first. We started by going through all of our possessions. We found a way to store certain belongings that we couldn't part with (we have some stuff stored at my husband's parents' home), which is mostly hundreds of photo albums that my dad left me after he passed away, family paintings, childhood mementos, etc. Then we moved into the RV – and then our boat!!
Figuring out how to downsize our home wasn’t the easiest task on earth, and we really dreaded all of the work that had to be done to start living with less stuff. However, we hoped it would be a stride towards our goal of living the life we wanted.
And, it was! We are so glad that we decided to downsize our home. We haven't regretted the decision one bit, and now we are happier than ever.
You can learn how to downsize your home in Learn How To Downsize Your Home, Stress Free!
Are you interested in living minimally? Why or why not?
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