Doing Away With The Unnecessary And Focusing On Efficiency
Find balance in all the chaos by clearing the way for more of what matters in your home, in your mind and in your heart.
Remember when computers and modern technology were supposed to make our lives easier and give us more time to spend with our loved ones? In an era where sleep deprivation, longer working hours and not having enough face time with family are common complaints, it may be worth asking whether the 21st century’s promise of more has in some ways given us less.
With many of us living in a constant state of feeling overwhelmed, it’s no wonder that the minimalism movement has grown in popularity over the last decade. While everyone’s exact definition of minimalism may vary, overall it has to do with embracing a more efficient existence where the focus is on a mindful assessment of our true needs and ridding our lives of the unnecessary.
Zoë Kim, author and creator of the website The Minimalist Plate, sums up the philosophy nicely when she says, “There is joy in owning less, or should I say, enough. Letting go of our excess creates more time, space, and energy to pursue our purpose, passion and meaningful connections with those we love.”
The less-is-more lifestyle can appeal to people for a variety of reasons. Author Kathy Gottberg, who shares thoughts on “rightsizing” on her blog SMART Living 365.com, turned to minimalism in response to the global economic downturn of 2008.
“When the housing crisis hit in 2008-09 my husband and I had two choices. One: We could manage to ride out the wave and hope things got better. Or, we could use the experience to focus on elements in life that really mattered to us. We chose the latter and decided to trim away everything that wasn’t important, including a big house, a majority of our “stuff,” a big lifestyle, and all our bills. Instead of calling our actions “minimalism” or “downsizing,” we came up with a word that reflected the benefits to our lifestyle. That word is “rightsizing.””
Of course, deciding where our lives can do with some downsizing is a very personal choice, yet for the majority of us, there are key areas that can often benefit from simplification.
When it comes to looking for a house, square footage and the number of bathrooms are often at the top of the list, but Gottberg believes it’s the intangible perks that should be center-stage in your search.
“Rightsize the size of your home. Refuse to believe that bigger is better, and choose a home for the benefits it brings you in terms of peace-of-mind, experiences and community.”
If you already have a home and are just looking to declutter, Kim suggests that the best method is to do it in layers and start small; cleaning out one room or even just starting with a single drawer can have a soothing affect on the psyche.
Too much stuff can actually stand in the way of quality familial relationships.
“One of the greatest challenges I see for modern families is that we’re too connected to all the wrong things,” explains Kim. “We’re living in the land of overwhelm—holding onto too many things. Living a practical minimalist lifestyle allows you to shed those things that aren’t serving you and those you love. Creating a minimalist home by removing excess stuff naturally leaves more time to connect with the people in it.”
With consumer debt reaching all time highs for much of North America, it’s clear that we can all benefit with a different approach to what we choose to spend our money — or more accurately, our credit card company’s money — on. Gottberg feels strongly that debt is a major barrier to freedom and a more carefree quality of life.
“Debt is imprisoning people in jobs they dislike. People then buy stuff to try not to be depressed about how burdened their lives have become. When you eliminate your debt, and put the focus on quality of experiences rather than quantities of stuff, peace of mind and happiness is a natural by-product.”
Reassessing your needs and figuring out what truly adds value to your existence can often lead to revaluating the impact your work is having on your quality of life. Obviously, we all need to earn an income, but choosing to “need” less may give some people the freedom to walk away from jobs they hate, even if it means earning less money.
There’s always one more email to answer, one more Facebook post to read and another tweet to make. Learn to turn off your smartphone and take time off from social media apps. These activities can actually detract from quality time with friends and family who are physically present in your life.
If the pursuit of more — were it more money, more things or more acquaintances — has not helped us feel more fulfilled, let’s explore whether having less and leading a more streamlined existence will lead to greater happiness.
Sandra MacGregor is a Canadian writer and editor who specializes in lifestyle, travel and finance. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including The New York Times, UK Telegraph, The Washington Post, Forbes.com and The Toronto Star. She is presently trying to adopt a few minimalist habits, starting with going through her “junk drawer,” which presently takes up an entire closet. Follow her or Twitter at @MacgregorWrites or on Instagram at @sandragetssidetracked.