Living With Less Starts in the Mind

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Sharing a 400 square foot attic apartment at 23 years old taught me a lot about small space living. Ten years later, when my family and I decided to sell everything we owned and move to Hawaii, I learned even more about what it means to live simply. Our move from lovely mid-west Indiana to a tropical island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean was intended to do just that: simplify. We wanted more margin for one another, the important stuff, the stuff that is truly worthy of our time, energy and affection.

Choosing to live with less stuff and less space is both rewarding and liberating, but learning to appreciate that freedom can be a challenge.

Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way:

1. Stop comparing yourself.

Disputably, this is the most important tip for life, especially, in our modern society where social media serves as the sun and moon. For some, (dare I say most) social media is the first and last thing we see. We spend our days scrolling, pinning, posting, refreshing for likes, all the while subconsciously comparing ourselves to influencers, those we follow, those we don’t, ads and anything else. Even if you are in the minority and choose not to engage with social media, there are still plenty of opportunities for comparison.

While in Hawaii, trying to adjust to this new, stripped-down lifestyle, I found myself continually trying to compare to others’ contentedness. I was left feeling ashamed that I wasn’t more like other island dwellers who were so comfortable and happy with very little. The move was about embracing less stuff, expanding our bounds and generating a more peaceful living environment; yet, ironically, I battled feeling truly at peace thanks to the joy thief.

Meanwhile, I compared myself to our old neighbor with the walk-in pantry and fancy matching glass jars (that were alphabetically-organized) and my favorite celebrity designer’s floor-to-ceiling built-ins housing thousands of books arranged in a rainbow formation. Also, the spare-bedroom-turned-dressing-room I recently pinned; the concept alone was lost on me… what spare room?

Desiring to live more contentedly is admirable. Wanting for more space or better efficiency is, of course, okay; just be really honest with yourself about why you’re wanting those things. Is it because it’s what “they” have? Perhaps it has the appeal of “success?” Or maybe there’s an element of your identity at stake. The ticket is to discover health, meaning and success for you without measuring yourself against the Joneses.

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Image via Myles Tan

2. Embrace the freedom of less.

In a world where we’re sold the dream of More Is More on every corner, realizing the freedom of having less stuff and less space calls for a renewing of the mind.

Less means less money spent on stuff you probably don’t need and will likely forget about, or tire of, in a few months. Less time spent cleaning, organizing and shopping. Less worry about said stuff; less worry about the time and money it requires to care for all of it. Less clutter. Less waste. This alternative approach is making waves as increasing amounts of people embrace a minimalist lifestyle; however, adopting the new mindset and really living into it is still countercultural.

Therefore, it requires a conscious practice of acknowledging that less truly is more and constant gratitude for the freedom it allows. A daily journal accounting what you are grateful for might be your thing. Setting aside a few minutes every day to silently meditate on life’s goodness may work better for you. Try to establish an intention at the start of your day; make it your mantra as a reminder for when you feel the urge to shackle yourself through comparison or a superfluous purchase.

3. Get creative.

While living with less begins in the mind, there are also some practical challenges; but nothing a little creativity can’t remedy. Creating clever storage solutions is top priority for small space dwellers because the battle against piles is real — laundry piles, mail piles, paper piles, the recycle pile and beyond. The key is to tackle some smart solutions before the piling begins.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of websites and online articles dedicated to helping you live “more simply” — minimalism has certainly made its mark. Project 333 is a website given entirely to creating your own capsule wardrobe, a project that could completely change your days, maybe your life and most certainly your need for that spare-bedroom-turned-dressing-room. I experienced the value of a simple wardrobe living in Hawaii with only one suitcase of clothes; even back on the mainland, I prefer a small, pared-down wardrobe.

Take some time to research clever options for your closets, cabinets and drawers. Be sure to take advantage of the wasted space under beds, in the high, hard-to-reach cabinets and the space under stairs or windows. Then get to your nearest lumber and container store and put those solutions to work.

There is no one way to live. In the material sense, some are fortunate to have more options. However, we all have license to our minds and how we choose to think about our lives. Choose less comparison; choose freedom; choose gratitude. It makes all the difference.

How do you live with less, practically?

Feature Image via Yulia Chinato

Erin spends a bulk of her time hunting the perfect vintage piece or ideal sconce for her latest design or renovation project. But, her favorite moments are spent traveling with her husband and one-year-old daughter, Ember, while dreaming up plans for their next reno or in the kitchen cooking up vegan magic. Fingers-crossed Ember approves.

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