It’s that time of year again – springtime! And springtime brings on the ever dreaded task of spring cleaning. You open up the house and air it out and then you start going through the boxes of things you own. What should I get rid of this year? Is there stuff here that I might use someday? How do I better organize all that stuff?
We have some of these questions now, but to a much smaller extent. There just is not that much stuff left to go through for spring cleaning. We also don’t just do spring cleaning. We now go through stuff ever couple months since we really don’t want to be hauling around things that we aren’t going to use.
There are a lot of benefits to owning less stuff. Some of them are pretty obvious. For example, there is less to clean and organize. It’s also easier to find stuff when you’re looking for something (although I still have “lost” a few things and taken hours trying to find it). Other benefits are less obvious until you start actually living with less. In today’s post, I’ll spend some time discussing 5 of these surprising benefits to owning less.
1. More Freedom
Do you own your stuff, or does your stuff own you? Seems obvious that you own your stuff, but that may not be the case. Items you own come with obligations, and many of these obligations might not be that apparent.
The big obvious one is owning a house. You have maintenance items on the house and the yard. We used to have a pool, and that required regular maintenance as well. With all your belongings, you are going to be very hesitant to move, even if you don’t like where you’re currently living. When you do move, it’s likely going to be into a bigger house because you’ve convinced yourself you’ll enjoy it more. We’ve been there as well.
Other items may be less obvious. The more that you own, the more you have to store. Storage is a cost of ownership. In the financial world, we call it carrying costs. You might rationalize that you are not paying for storage costs because you have room in your house or your garage. True, you have the space to store your extra stuff, but how do you have that space? Because you bought a house with more room, but there is a cost for buying a bigger house.
2. Happier with Less
How much do we need to be happy? Probably not nearly as much as you’d think. There are numerous studies that look at happiness in various groups of people, and what do you think they’ve found? Yep, more stuff does not make us any happier. On the contrary, it can frequently do the opposite.
What it comes down to is how we compare ourselves with others. It’s a trait in humans that has worked very well in the past. We would observe what a successful human is doing and try to mimic that behavior to bring our own success. An example would be in hunting techniques from cave man times. Copying a successful hunter might bring you success. This pattern existing in modern times as well. Maybe you have a role model and you try to follow in their footsteps. This is all a great part of our genetic makeup. We are programed for success!
The problem comes in modern days with a difference in perception of success and true success. There is a marketing of the “American Dream” which is all about living a suburban “cookie cutter” lifestyle. In trying to live this lifestyle, people just end up trying to “keep up with the Joneses”. That leads us into a vicious cycle of striving for happiness that will never be found.
The desire to acquire more stuff can never actually be satisfied. Learning instead to focus on what we truly want in life is much more important than trying to live somebody else’s life. This intentional living will get you pointed in the right direction, and likely, you will realize you don’t need all that stuff. In fact, we realized that we are much happier with less stuff.
3. Get Outdoors (or get out to see places)
It’s easy to get attached to all the comforts and luxuries we have right in our own homes. For many people, it becomes so comfortable that they don’t get outside of the box and really live life. They are literally stuck in a box that is their house. I remember being very comfortable living in our house, and it’s easy to create such a nice environment that you don’t want to leave.
So what’s the problem with that? Maybe it’s ok for some people, but I want to get outdoors and explore the world. We love traveling, and if you are too comfortable in your house, you may never leave. I have seen this happen quite a bit with people.
Besides just being comfortable in your house, people spend so much time dealing with your things or buying more things that they don’t have the time or energy left to get out. Things have a way of holding us down to one spot. We were the same way at one point.
Now, you don’t have to have a house that’s mobile like us in order to get out and explore. Just get in your car or fly somewhere and experience a new culture. Get out and see the world instead of letting the comfort of your own world keep you in one spot. Even when we’re in one spot for an extended period of time, we get outdoors a lot more than we used to.
4. More Productive
I never realized how much my stuff controlled me. When we were going through and selling stuff as we tried to downsize, we’d ask the question “when was the last time I used this item?” Many times, it had been years since we used something, but we keep holding on to it. Maybe we’ll use it or maybe I really want to use it, but don’t have time.
As we started the journey to seriously minimalize, I started parting with items I have held onto for a long time. What I realized is that once I got rid of the item, I didn’t think about it any longer. It wasn’t cluttering up my mind any longer. This gave me more energy to think about things that are truly important to me. The more stuff we’ve gotten rid of, the less my mind is concerned about this stuff that doesn’t really matter. As a result, I was being more productive and purposeful in the things that I did.
Stuff takes up more of our time then we realize. Every little item adds up and takes away more of our most valuable resource – our time. Clearing up the clutter in our lives has also cleared up our time and allowed us to be more productive in areas that really matter to us.
5. Spend less/Save more
The longer we have lived with less, the more we realized the less that we actually need. Over time, this has changed our internal desire to acquire more stuff. It has really become a habit now. Instead of going to the store and thinking of what else do we “need”, we typically are talking ourselves out of buying more stuff. Of course, we live with more than we really “need”. The word “need” can become subjective, but the less you have, the more you appreciate the things you do own.
With less desire to acquire more stuff, the less money you spend on things you probably don’t really need. So you can actually save money by owning less (or at least, that’s what we’ve found). This benefit goes a long ways because saving allows you to eventually make your money work for you (instead of the other way around). But the first step is to start thinking about what you really need, and start purging all that extra stuff from your lives.
So, as we go into spring, don’t clean your house just to buy more stuff. Start working on actually owning less. Get rid of all that extra clutter in your lives and make room for more living!
Do you dream of having less stuff weighing you down? Have you been downsizing recently? What benefits have you been surprised by? Share your stories below in our comment section.