Monday, March 01, 2010

THOUGHTS ON LIVING WITH LESS "I had rather be shut up in a very modest cottage, with my books, my family, and a few old friends, dining on simple bacon, and letting the world roll on as it liked, than to occupy the most splendid post, which any human power can give" -Thomas Jefferson

I think a lot about minimalism and possessions and my relationship with the things I own.
I was reading my friend Sara's travel blog last night, and had the urge to follow suit, selling most of what we owned for a life of RV'ing on the open road. But as I considered further, and what that would really look like (or at least, what I imagine that it would look like), I acknowledged that's not a lifestyle I really want. I like having a house and firm roots in a community. The part that really appeals to me is the life that I could have without the encumbrances of THINGS. When I consider the amount of time that goes into maintaining the things we own, it just seems like a waste. A waste of time, of resources, of mental and physical energy.

What good things am I giving up because of the time I spend maintaining my stuff?

I have been going through what my typical day looks like and how much of it is spent on taking care of our things and how much of it is spent engaging with the people around me in a meaningful way. And while I don't think my time is grossly out of proportion in those areas, I just wonder how much time is spent caring for things that don't add a lot of meaning to my family. Of course, there isn't a clear-cut answer.
Basically, I want

my footprint here to be small

to be content with less

to own good things but few things

to be focused on the people in my life, not the things I own

to only own things that enhance our life, not take away from it

to leave enough margin in our finances that we are able to help others when a need arises

to focus more on experiences than acquisitions

The more I pare down, the more freedom I feel. I don't attach a lot of sentiment to the things i own. I am happy to release much of my material excess (though I am extremely attached to my physical house). But still, stuff creeps in. I feel like I am constantly editing. It can be challenging when other family members don't share the vision. I want to be respectful of their feelings. I read a good article on being a minimalist when your partner isn't.

Minimalism looks different to each person. What might be stark and austere to one person might be perfect to another. For me, books don't feel like clutter. I like being well stocked in food and household supplies. Areas that I want to be pretty pared down in are
kitchen appliances and equipment
knick knacks/framed pictures
make up

Those are the things that I prefer to keep a relatively modest amount of to feel balanced and in dominion of my home. I am curious to hear your thoughts on this topic and how you find balance in this area.


  1. Thanks for getting me thinking. It reminds me of Wordsworth's sonnet The World is Too Much With Us. We're going through a huge purge in our home and it feels so good. We have a relatively small home so it is necessary to not allow things and their purchasing and their care overtake us!

  2. shoes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! nooooo!!!!!!!!!!! j/k... i am feeling very overwhelmed by the types and amount of shoes i own. its ridiculous. i am planning on getting rid of a lot of them. or at least putting in storage the ones that make no sense at all for me right now. i tend to define myself with clothing... i do not like what i am seeing in my shoes closet ... it doesn't define...simple non fussy. instead i have rows of high heels for every occasion. definitely fussy.

  3. Laurel, I am always challenged by your desire to live simply! Thank you for sharing your heart. BJ and I have been discussing ways we need to do this in our lives as well. I feel as though I am the resistant one but not sure why. Definitely worth some consideration!

  4. girl, you know i deeply *feel* the same way. i feel like most of my day is spent organizing "stuff"'s ridiculous at the amount of time I spend managing things instead of just enjoying my kids. Less stuff=less time organizing=more time with people. Off to fill more garbage bags.

  5. get "material world" from the library and let your husband and boys look at the photos...sometimes when they see how much stuff we have compared to the rest of the world, they are willing to have less.

  6. Love the new look.

    I am always decluttering. I think living with less is especially challenging with children- keeping clothes to pass down, new interests, gifts from well meaning relatives, etc.

    My own personal area that I can't seem to control is books. Oh, how to not want to have and read more and more. I don't know if I'll ever learn to want less literally.

  7. love this post. love the quote. you are so inpiring. and, so close to perfect!