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Own less, travel more: My journey into a simple life

Last month, I was trying to understand why I felt polarizing feelings anytime I walked into our bedroom versus when I entered our dining or living room. Our bedroom is large and airy with very minimal decorations or furniture. It’s a practical space where everything serves a purpose therefore, requiring minimal cleaning and organizing. Our dining and living rooms, however ( and really every other room in our house) are bursting at the seams. This is why I felt like I was cleaning and de-cluttering all the time, and this is why I didn’t feel at ease in any of these rooms.

I started reading a lot about the signs that you should probably start minimizing; you feel stress, you don’t know what to wear, you feel like you’re cleaning all the time. All of these reasons spoke to me. I knew I had to take action to restructure our lives.  This wasn’t one of my typical annual decluttering moments, this was the real deal. I was ready to hit the ‘reset’ button and start all over.

A few things came to mind: what if we have children in the next few years? De-cluttering while pregnant does not sound like fun at all. What if we owned less and traveled more? What if cleaning took 30 minutes every week instead of two hours? What if we moved to a new house and packing only took one day? What if we could name every single item behind a closet door?

But before I dive into why and how I began my journey to living a more simple life, it’s important to understand a few things about me: I’m a life-long thrifter and practically everything I own came from a thrift store.  I have messy tendencies. I have a restless mind that just doesn’t quit; I constantly need to be creating something. All of these things contribute to my urge to own a lot of things. 

Over the years and after moving many times, I embraced the fact that just because something is cheap, doesn’t mean you need to buy it. I’ve also fully embraced the one-in one-out rule where if I bring something new to the house, something else has to go. These things are fantastic rules that I highly recommend to anyone, but it’s still not enough. I still own way more than the average person should.

So the question becomes: how could I pursue my love of thrifting and creativity while living a more simple life?

What I realized:

  • Things I own should serve a real, practical purpose: if I can’t sit in the chair, then it serves no purpose. 
  • Fully embrace the idea of one one black dress, one denim button down, one throw blanket.
  • Just because you can repurpose it, doesn’t mean you must buy it. Sure you can repurpose that chair to make it brand new, but do you really need it? Are you buying it for the sake of repurposing it or will it actually serve a purpose in your home?
  • Just say no. If a family member or friend cleans out their basement and is offering up a nice table, lamp, or bag of clothes, just say no, thanks! Really consider if you need it. If it’s something you’re just going to add to the pile of stuff you already own, then pass.
  • They are just things. I had a hard time letting go of a few pieces because I thought, well what if I need it for a fashion show? My husband quickly brought me back to reality and reminded me that these are just things. Things can always be replaced. There will ALWAYS be things. If you find you really, truly missed something your chances of being able to replace it are pretty high. Give yourself the chance to actually miss it.

What I did:

  • Donated all of our mis-matched furniture and invested in a comfortable, practical, and functional living space.
  • Donated 1/3 of our books and records. I asked myself the question: is this the kind of book I would give to a friend to borrow? If not, stick it in the donate pile.
  •  Replaced our bookcase with a cabinet so everything is put away.
  • Tracked all of the things I wore over a two week period and made note of my clothing habits. I realized I gravitated towards comfort and simplicity more than I ever thought I did.
  • Hosted a free sale at my house and gave away over 100 pieces of really nice clothing that didn’t fall into the category of serving an actual purpose.
  • Replaced knick knacks with plants. We still own a few decorations but replacing lanterns and candle holders with actual living things that brighten up a room was much more rewarding in many ways. 

This is just the beginning and I’m still learning every day.  It’s become much easier to pass on things at the store and to say no to friends and family who offer up their items.  My goal is to continue to own even less over the course of the year, and travel as much as possible instead.

Have tips to share? Tell us!