Why You Should Own Less Stuff

Johnna Kaplan

Trying to organize your home and your life? Your first step should be to get rid of some of your belongings.

You may have heard a lot about decluttering by discarding, partly because of Marie Kondo’s bestselling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. But although Kondo’s popular KonMari Method and other trendy organizing techniques will come and go, the benefits of a more minimalist lifestyle are permanent. Once you start eliminating unwanted objects, you’ll see how everything from cleaning your house, increasing productivity and saving money will become easier when you own less stuff.

Cleaning and tidying up will be easier.

Although the goal is not to create a completely austere environment, it’s obvious that a bare table is easier to clean than one that’s constantly covered with mugs, trays, and books, and that hundreds of knick-knacks take some effort to arrange whereas three or four simply have to be lined up on the shelf.

In a sense, owning fewer things allows you more free time; pack-rats have to be extremely organized to prevent huge messes from developing, but minimalists can be more relaxed about keeping things organized.

You’ll waste less time.

Think about getting dressed in the morning. Imagine a closet spilling over with clothes, some of which may no longer fit or go with anything else. Then imagine a closet with a small selection of pieces, each one chosen because it’s versatile, functional, and flattering. You can guess which closet is going to take more time to sort through in the morning.

But it’s not only too much clothing that can eat up your time. Mountains of makeup, cluttered kitchen drawers, and piles of paper can also work against you when you’re trying to get out of the door on time.

You’ll stop losing and misplacing things.

This is not to say that you’ll never lose anything ever again; accidents and mistakes can still happen. But when you own fewer things, you start to value your belongings more, and hang on to them more carefully. And it’s also harder to lose things when you’re lugging fewer things around altogether – anyone toting three bags might leave one on the bus, but a single bag is pretty easy to keep track of.

Misplaced items are also easier to recover when you own less, because there isn’t much chance for those items to hide among the clutter. When you have one junk drawer, it’s an obvious spot to look for a wayward roll of tape; when your whole room is a junk drawer, it can be difficult to know where to begin.

You’ll be more comfortable opening the door to others.

When your home is uncluttered, all you need to do to prepare for company is to make sure everything is in its proper place. Owning less doesn’t mean that your space will look perfect all of the time, but it greatly decreases the chances that you’ll feel too embarrassed by your space to have friends or family casually stop by.

You won’t dread moving.

Few people would consider packing fun, but it’s much less of a chore when there’s much less to pack. If you’re thinking about moving on your own, having fewer household items to wrap and box-up makes for an easier job. And when you have less to transport, hiring movers might not be as expensive as you’d think.

You’ll be more productive.

Excess stuff is distracting. And when there are more distractions around you, it can make you less productive. Even if you’re not actively looking at a cluttered counter, a giant pile of laundry or a garage that’s so messy that the car doesn’t fit inside, those areas can sap your motivation and make you feel overwhelmed.

This is especially true if you work from home, where no one else can force you to concentrate on a task or deadline. But even if you don’t work from home, getting rid of excess stuff means that it won’t start to affect your focus and performance.

You’ll save money.

A potential result of deciding to own less is transforming shopping from a recreational pastime to an activity performed only when you really need something. (If you love to shop, don’t worry – buying only what you absolutely love or need can make shopping more enjoyable.) You’ll also need fewer duplicate items because you won’t keep “losing” what you already own at the back of an over-stuffed drawer.

Considering have a yard sale to get rid of some of your extra items. Someone may need what you do not anymore. This is an easy way to make some extra cash.

You’ll make better decisions.

When you actively try to buy fewer things, you have to learn to be more discerning about what you do acquire. (And it’s not all about shopping; this is true even for “free gifts” from family, friends and stores.) Over time, it becomes second nature to evaluate any potential new item based on how much you really love and need it.

This means you’ll want to choose one great pair of black dress shoes instead of five pairs that are just okay, but this will also spill over into the more important areas of your life. As it becomes easier to distinguish what you really want from what others claim you should want, larger decisions like whether to own or rent, whether to save or spend or whether to retire or keep working can become less complicated.

If the idea of getting rid of some of your stuff makes you nervous, the good news is that even a little bit helps. Throwing out your dried-up ballpoint pens, for example, is not a huge project, but not having to test out three pens when writing down a phone number can make your life less frustrating. And paring down can be addictive.

If you start with those pens, you’ll probably be inspired to move on to your closet, your silverware drawer or that stack of old magazines you don’t read through anymore. And once material things take up less of your time and energy, you’ll have more left over for experiences, knowledge and the people that really enrich your life.

Have any other tips on how to declutter? Share your advice below.  

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