Does living with less make you happier?

Postby tashlentine » Thu May 18, 2017 8:01 am

I'm really getting into minimalism lately and going ethical in my shopping choices. It's a personal choice and I'm not here to judge anyone or try and shove my views down anyone's throat - I just want to share my experience so far and see if anyone else has tried living with less and how they found it.

I'm about 1/3 of the way through de-cluttering and getting rid of most of my stuff. I never had a particular attachment to clothes I just find it quite difficult to know what suits me when my body shape fluctuates as much as it does. I still have a way to go on the clothes front but I am feeling better about the way I look since getting rid of a lot of clothes I bought to hide what I don't want rather than accentuate the good bits.

I used to hoard 'memory stuff', even if those memories weren't very nice - photos of ex boyfriends whom I loved deeply and lost or that didn't treat me well and the service sheet of a close friend who died suddenly when we were 17. I had held onto it for years because I felt guilty about the thought of throwing it away til I realised that what I was holding onto was memories of her death rather than her life. I felt lighter.

I'm almost finished going paperless. I have condensed 6 big binders of 'life' stuff into a hard drive that fits in my hand and I am amazed by how much lighter I feel from it.
Maybe it's because holding onto papers digitally makes it easier to hide them rather than having 7 years worth of bad financial decisions taking up a considerable amount of space in my room and staring at me every day.

I am a designer. I was so trapped in my last job I feared I had totally lost my creativity. When I lost my job 6 months ago thanks to corporate restructuring I had enough money from my redundancy pay that I decided to take some time off and figure out what to do with myself. I've been blocked for a year and a half and was genuinely concerned that my creative spark had died and I should look for something else (but what?! When creative was all I'd ever been). I've started writing a blog about my journey to becoming minimalist and tiny little sparks of light are coming back. It's incredible. Just knowing that my creativity isn't actually dead it's just resting and is slowly waking up is an enormous weight off my mind. I haven't lost the core of who I am after all!

One of the interesting things I've done this week is take myself shopping - I went to a homewares shop (my kryptonite) and walked up and down each aisle as a casual observer of my brain and noted how it went running after everything and kept trying to justify buying ridiculous stuff I don't need and would never use. I had no idea how out of control my 'monkey brain' was. Perhaps I was a shopping addict? Don't worry, I made sure I left with nothing.

It has so far been a really interesting experience. I feel calmer and I'm able to think more clearly and more decisively than I ever have before. I've even started meditating which I would have scoffed at before but it really does help to clear my head. I'm educating myself about the true environmental and human cost of everything I own and it is changing the way I eat and the shops I buy from and as a result I don't feel guilty about what I buy. It is also improving my relationship with my boyfriend as we are spending quality time together debating ideas while cooking healthy meals now rather than sitting in a pub eating a burger with our phones on the table next to us.

I am only keeping things and people around me that bring value to my life and make me happy and I'm doing more with less and the results have so far been well worth the sweat and endless and exhausting decisions. Just knowing that my bureau isn't stuffed to exploding with letters I've done nothing about, books I haven't read and birthday cards I've forgotten to send 'because I'm a rubbish friend' brings me peace of mind, even though I couldn't see those things before, I knew that they were there, and it stressed me out and made me feel guilty.

I've been watching a lot of YouTube videos and ted talks around this subject and it seems to be a really rewarding way of life for a lot of people (but then I'm not sure they would post a video saying 'I got rid of all my stuff and I'm still miserable'...)

Has anyone else tried doing this? How have you found it?
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#1

Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Thu May 18, 2017 9:37 pm

tashlentine wrote:I'm really getting into minimalism lately and going ethical in my shopping choices. It's a personal choice and I'm not here to judge anyone or try and shove my views down anyone's throat - I just want to share my experience so far and see if anyone else has tried living with less and how they found it.


The year was 2012. I sold 95% of everything I owned and left Las Vegas to go to Bogota, Colombia to take 6 weeks of Spanish in an immersion course. No more house, no car, no furniture. The only thing I kept was a footlocker with pictures and some personal mementos. I put those in a storage closet owned by a family member.

Headed to Bogota I had a personal bag that contained my technology and a carry on bag that contained my clothes. Eight shirts, eight pairs of socks, underwear, 3 pairs of pants, shoes and two jackets.

It is now 2017 and I have been traveling the world for 5 years while working online. I have replaced my shirts over the years, but I still own 8. My blue jeans are now from China (replaced after a scooter accident), I have sunglasses from Vietnam, a belt and shirt from Colombia, a scarf from Ecuador, etc.

I would say I'm on the extreme end of minimalism and much of it is the practicality when living a mobile lifestyle. I don't want material things, I have no use for them outside what I already own. Life is simple.
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#2

Postby angelal » Sun May 21, 2017 11:10 pm

Ah, decluttering. My life passion! But remember. If something doesn't feel right, don't do it. Or at least give it time. Minimalism is about getting rid of what does not serve you or bring your purpose. If getting rid of something causes you anxiety or grief, by all means keep it! It's not a competition of who has the least amount of stuff (not that you are treating it that way. But mainstream media has a tendency of doing that). Good luck!

And yes, having less stuff and in particular, shopping less, has made me happier. This is because it has given me more time to do productive, fulfilling things like blogging and drawing.
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#3

Postby tashlentine » Wed May 24, 2017 3:29 pm

@Richard
Oh wow! that's amazing!! It must feel incredible to know you can just take off and go wherever and you don't have a whole heap of 'yeah, but's and an equal amount of 'where would i keep...x's. No 'stuff' weighing you down and holding you back from Life's adventure!

Is there anything you miss from living so minimally?

I don't want a conventional life for myself - I've done it for three years and it made me so unbelievably unhappy - I'm trying to figure out how I can do lots of different things and work from home/on the move and still earn a decent paycheque.

I found out about tiny houses the other day and I'm intrigued - the way the housing market is in the uk, unless I earn a 6 figure salary (which will never happen with my line of work) I can never hope to buy a house outright. I don't believe in debt, so don't really want a mortgage hanging over my head for the next 30 years determining what I can and can't do with my life in order to meet the payments. I could own a tiny house and a tiny plot of land within 3 years on an average salary - which means something I could own outright and have the lifestyle I want, not just camping expensively in someone elses house unable to save or accruing a huge amount of debt with the aim to pay it off sometime before I hit 75.

@angelal
yeah I've noticed that competition element - it's very strange! I watched quite a lot of youtube videos about others who are doing it and some of the stick they get from people is remarkable - like, you can't be a minimalist and wear makeup? you can't be a minimalist if you wear colour?.... says who!?!? Is there a minimalist 10 commandments that I've missed?! hahaha!! It's about what works best for the individual not what they feel pressured into doing by other people who aren't living in their skin.

Are there any anti-shopping / anti-accumulating tips you'd like to share? I've started employing the 3 week rule - that if I see something I 'want', I make a note of it and put the note away for three weeks. If I'm still thinking about the thing for three weeks and can justify more than 2 reasons for having it then I should probably get it. So much of the junk I've ended up with have been from impulse purchases that I would have totally forgotten about within a few hours if I'd just left the shop after trying it on or seeing it. So far it's worked pretty well for me - the only thing I've bought in 3 months apart from food is a scanner! Going to art and maker fairs was really tough - I wanted all of the things but I just held back and took their business cards knowing that if I did still desperately want whatever it was they were selling I could just go on their website in 3 weeks and order it.
I'm not feeling the extra time reward just yet because I still have a ton of stuff to get through and get rid of so I'm pretty busy with it, but I'm definitely feeling a lot less overwhelmed by all the things and projects I've accumulated over the years.
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#4

Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Wed May 24, 2017 4:22 pm

tashlentine wrote:Is there anything you miss from living so minimally?


Hot showers and good wifi, lol. But, honestly that is probably more to do with the adventures of travel more than a minimal lifestyle. Travel means I sometimes end up in parts of the world that don't have 1st world amenities. Poor me, heh heh.

I can imagine if I were in one location I might miss something. Off the top of my head I can't think of what that might be. Maybe, maybe if one day I wanted a margarita but didn't own a blender? I can't see that as really missing something, but your question has me thinking. Hobbies might be a good example, such as I use to golf when I was a teen and had clubs but living a minimal lifestyle I got rid of my clubs. Traveling I don't golf, but when I visit family my dad or an uncle may want to play. I end up having to borrow clubs. How horrible, right? Lol.

Tough question, because I really can't think of anything I truly miss as a result of minimalism.

I don't want a conventional life for myself - I'm trying to figure out how I can do lots of different things and work from home/on the move and still earn a decent paycheque.


Given my lifestyle I meet a ton of online freelancers. Programming skills and graphic design are two of the more popular skillsets I encounter. I teach online. If you want freedom, look into Upwork and Fiverr and see if you might have any of those skills. Look at teaching platforms like Teachable and Udemy.

I don't believe in debt, so don't really want a mortgage hanging over my head for the next 30 years determining what I can and can't do with my life in order to meet the payments.


I've been debt free since 24, so most of my adult life. I have 2 credit cards I pay off every month. It is another aspect of maintaining flexibility and freedom. But, I don't see a home loan as debt. If you take a loan out on a car then it is debt as when you drive it off the lot the price immediately drops. A car or other product, with rare exception is 100% guaranteed to go down in value, but some things are investments.

A home is like any other investment. It is like buying a futures contract. A simpler example is buying stocks, gold, silver. The price may go up or may go down. That is not debt, that is investing. You may lose money, but most people make money. I didn't...I lost money in the housing market and I would never buy another home, but not because I see buying a home as debt, rather I see better investments that are more liquid and work better for my situation. I own stocks and can trade those online in seconds while a home is an investment that is not nearly as liquid.

For you, if you are thinking of buying a home (regardless of size) think of it as an investment. Loans are leverage that give you buying power. Again, it is like trading a futures contract where for a little money you get to leverage a high value trade. A loan at APR of 4% is wonderful if the investment is going up 7% each year. Don't go crazy and take out adjustable rate/interest only. And I agree that a 30 year is horrible as well. See it as an investment rather than a home and be aggressive with the loan and use the leverage to make money.

Anyway, just my thoughts.
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#5

Postby tashlentine » Wed May 24, 2017 5:46 pm

Your reply has meant so much!
Really, I don't know anyone who has carved their own path and lived life by their own rules rather than following conventions - everyone around me without exception has told me that my dream of having a smallholding and living simply is totally unrealistic 'it's just not the way the world works'. It seems totally oxymoronic to think that in order to live a life that is similar to the way rural peasants lived 100 years ago, I have to earn almost a million pounds!?!? Just thinking about it makes my head almost implode. We like to think that culturally we have become more advanced since then, but advanced to what!? We are more fat, stressed, overworked, overwhelmed and unhappy than ever, even though we are living with more material comfort than our ancestors ever had.

I'm in the middle of redoing my portfolio at the moment and I think I will sign up to upwork - it looks like a really great way to meet new people and do a variety of different work! I haven't heard great things about fiverr but I'll look them up as well and learn a bit more - thanks for the recommendations!!.

With your golf, and hobbies, have you heard about the library of things? I've discovered a couple in London and they're fantastic - if I wanted to go camping I could just hire a tent for £6 a week rather than go out and spend £20 on one and be stuck with yet another thing I don't really need. The culture of sharing and lending seems to be a lot healthier and nicer than the culture of 'having, but not using'.

Re the mortgage, with the money I'm on (very average), I couldn't even afford to buy a one bedroom flat. Which is why buying what is essentially a shed on wheels is looking more and more appealing.

I was having a think too about what I would miss if I had to live out of a backpack and honestly I can't really think of anything material I would NEED aside from some clothes, my laptop, graphics tablet, passport, camera and a decent cup of tea (I'm English - it's a need). Everything else would just be a want.

It's strangely comforting to realise how little you actually really NEED when you really think about it. To hear even one voice of a person who is doing their own thing and living what others will view as an 'extremely different' life, and living it without feeling deprived or limited is amazing and just goes to show that choosing to live simply is neither unrealistic or insane!

What would you say has been the most rewarding part of living with less? Have you learned anything you never would have otherwise? (sorry for the 'deep n' meaningful' questions, but I don't believe you can learn anything from people by asking superficial questions)
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#6

Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Wed May 24, 2017 7:51 pm

tashlentine wrote:Your reply has meant so much!


Great, glad I can share. I truly enjoy my lifestyle so I'm a bit biased.

We are more fat, stressed, overworked, overwhelmed and unhappy than ever, even though we are living with more material comfort than our ancestors ever had.


Yep. Two books, "The Theory of Conspicuous Consumption" and Senecas philosophical works, specifically his Moral Letters to Lucius and even more specifically letter 17 on "Philosophy and Riches".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conspicuous_consumption

https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Moral_le ... /Letter_17

The philosophy about riches describes how with more material wealth comes more stress as you have more you must manage. When the poor man finds himself in a building that catches fire, he simply leaves. The rich man starts thinking about what to save first and in what order.

Conspicuous consumption is basically about the damaging ideology of "Keeping up with the Joneses".

As for books, I had a few hundred before I started traveling. Some are in electronic form now, in the cloud and on my iPad. Before traveling, I took pictures of all my books and then donated them. I kept one book, because it was autographed by the author. Any books I really, really wanted I simply purchased an e-version. The pictures were to #1 document the donation and #2 in case I ever did feel like I was missing a book or wanted to look something up I could. Years later I realized maybe twice I wanted to look back into a hardcover book to get info and both times I was out of the country so I would not have had access anyway. A few clicks later I owned the e-version, problem solved.

With your golf, and hobbies, have you heard about the library of things? I've discovered a couple in London and they're fantastic - if I wanted to go camping I could just hire a tent for £6 a week rather than go out and spend £20 on one and be stuck with yet another thing I don't really need. The culture of sharing and lending seems to be a lot healthier and nicer than the culture of 'having, but not using'.


No I have not heard, but I do use the borrow or rent model. It is why I said I don't truly miss anything. For instance, if I really want a margarita but don't have a blender, I can just go buy a margarita. I can borrow or rent golf clubs. The last time I was in China I bought a second hand electric scooter for $74. I used the entire 4 months. Not only was it economical but kinda fun.

I was having a think too about what I would miss if I had to live out of a backpack and honestly I can't really think of anything material I would NEED aside from some clothes, my laptop, graphics tablet, passport, camera and a decent cup of tea (I'm English - it's a need). Everything else would just be a want.


Minus the tea you basically have my life the last 5 years. One thing I slightly miss is having the option of checking my bag. When everything you own is in a carry on and a personal bag, you definitely don't want to risk checking your bag. I did check it one time to get some alcohol (no liquids on a plane) to a buddy I was visiting in Ecuador. I purchased a tortuga carry on and love, love, love it. Better than a backpack. The size is specifically for carry on and it has a side open zipper like a suitcase verses top down like a backpack yet straps like a backpack so you can carry it on your back.

I keep everything of real value in my personal bag (small school size backpack) and keep my clothes and less essential items in the carry on. I do keep money in both and back up copies of passport in case one happens to get lost/stolen.

You mention hating to move 14 times in 4 years in another thread. I also hate, hate, hate moving, but when you only have a carry on and personal bag it completely changes that dynamic. It is funny, because while I have been "traveling" for 5 years, it really has only been changing locations about once every 3-4 months. It isn't like I'm constantly packing and unpacking. When it takes less than 30 minutes to pack up all you own, who cares.

What would you say has been the most rewarding part of living with less? Have you learned anything you never would have otherwise?


The list is endless, but I'm not sure if it is the reward of living with less or the reward of having the freedom to travel. Certainly it is a combination of both.

As for the living with less a very rewarding part is recognizing how little you actually need. Another rewarding part is the freedom, both mentally and physically. I have always been a happy person, but I think had I not adopted a minimal lifestyle I would have never learned the absolute bliss one can experience by just enjoying the small things in life.

For the travel, I now have friends from all over the world and with technology I easily keep in touch. Just today I sent messages to a friend in Italy, two in China, one in Colombia and another in Ecuador.

I also now am bilingual, English and Spanish and am working on Mandarin. These are things afforded by my freedom that would never have happened had I stayed with house, car, and job in Las Vegas.

I have had the freedom to go to disasters and help. These are things with my previous employment I couldn't have done. I went to the Philippines after Typhoon Yolanda killed 6,000+ in 2013 and I went to Ecuador in 2016 after an earthquake killed 700. Throw in my travels to areas of the world that are less than privileged and it has been a rewarding experience that would have been impossible in my old life.

One time I was outside a coffee shop in Manizales, Colombia having a conversation with this young girl and she asked, "You are always working, what do you do for fun?" It was hilarious and I could not help but grin. She was local, having grown up in Manizales and from her perspective all she saw was me going to the coffee shop day after day, getting on my laptop and working for hours on my business. As I replied to her, I was looking over her shoulder at a volcano erupting!!!! It was 2012, Nevado del Ruiz and it was at stage orange. In the 80's the volcano erupted and lava flows (lahars) wiped out the town of Armero, killing over 20,000 of the towns 29,000 inhabitants. I had specifically picked to head to Manizales, because of the volcano being at stage yellow. To her the volcano was not big deal. She saw it every single day. For me, it was an unforgettable experience. One weekend I went and visited the remains of Armero.

Like I said, the list is endless of things I have learned. To what extent it is a minimal lifestyle and to what extent it is because such a lifestyle I have combined with travel, I'm not sure.
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#7

Postby HumanB » Wed May 24, 2017 10:33 pm

When you have more, you have more to lose of course, and more to look after and protect. So yes, there is a source of stress there that you don't have when you have next to nothing. But you could say the same about relationships.... falling in love,  getting married,  having a deep friendship,, so much more to lose than remaining a solitary island. But I think for most people having relationships (especially stable long term ones) makes life richer (or at least can do if you have good ones) and outweighs the stress that comes with it. So I could say the same thing about my personal possessions or 'stuff'. Yes it can be a source of stress & time consumption,  but don't forget the pleasures or other ways that those possessions (use of) enrich one's life. Sure we don't NEED much to survive or even to experience happiness and healthiness, but how else do you wish to enrich your life? Do I need a guitar or a walking gps, or photographs? Nope. Do I do things with them that add to my experience of life? Yes. And it's all well and good borrowing something from a pooled resource, but sometimes there is no good substitute to having your own stuff in terms of convenience,  how suited it is to you, how well its been looked after,  etc. Also, I don't really see a problem in being attached to personal possessions,  so long as it is in proportion. For instance non-attachment to clothes was mentioned, and I am the opposite,  I love it when I find that a piece of clothing is so suited to me and works well that I end up wearng it threadbare, patching it up,  refusing to 'let it go' until it is beyond repair. I have a SMALLER wardrobe as a result of that,  I buy less clothes anyway. Instead I tend to have a number of 'trusty friends' in the wardrobe. So, attachment always a bad thing.... no I don't see it that way. I think having attachments to friends, sons, mothers, lovers, jeans, shirts, pens, dogs.... whilst giving potential for stress and heartache (loss), is part of the richness of being human. Becoming a buddhist monk seems to lose that if you ask me.
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#8

Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Wed May 24, 2017 11:10 pm

HumanB wrote: Also, I don't really see a problem in being attached to personal possessions,  so long as it is in proportion. For instance non-attachment to clothes was mentioned, and I am the opposite,  I love it when I find that a piece of clothing is so suited to me and works well that I end up wearng it threadbare, patching it up,  refusing to 'let it go' until it is beyond repair. I have a SMALLER wardrobe as a result of that,  I buy less clothes anyway. Instead I tend to have a number of 'trusty friends' in the wardrobe.


The correct proportion is the key in my opinion.

What you are describing with clothes is minimalism. I have a tortuga back pack I love, love, love it. I have a scarf from Ecuador, pants from China, a belt from Colombia, sunglasses from Vietnam. I know these odd details, because having less creates a rich story around those items. I patch up things, because I value them as they are the only possessions I have. Am I attached? Well, sure it is a bit disappointing if/when these things are replaced, but I would not go so far as to say attachment.

As for relationships, I don't see where this conflicts with minimalism. There are only so many deep, meaningful relationships a person can manage. It is not right or wrong, but just a reality. Minimalism doesn't mean having no friends or no intimate, deep relationships. Whether you have 100 friends, 1,000 or 10,000, you have a handful of people you make a connection with and keep in touch, while you have others that are more superficial friendships. I would argue if you applied minimalism to relationships instead of 1,000 friends you would have 100 and each one is special, because these are the people you truly want in your life. Nothing to do with a solitary island.

I get what you are saying about a possession being just right for you. Rented golf clubs are never as good as your own set. You clean them, you know the feel, you know precisely how far each club will hit the ball. My 7 iron strikes the ball 162 yards. A rental club? The feel is off, the yardage is off, and my score suffers. That is where proportion comes in. If golf was a big hobby and I was playing more than 2 times a year, then having my own set would make sense...at least to me.

To me, minimalism does not mean devoid of possessions, relationships or anything else. A person can own a Yacht and throw a party for his or her 100 close friends and be a minimalist in my opinion. Like you said, proportion.
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