How to be Happy With Less

How to be Happy With Less

In our society we are constantly inundated with daily advertisement for the next gadget or gizmo; continuously bombarded with the sense that we will only be happy if we are spending money. It’s no wonder Americans are more in debt than ever before.

Whenever I see people carrying big shopping bags walking around in the mall, I’ve always wondered what they were buying, if they really needed all those items, and also if they were using their money in the most efficient way.

The Minimalist Mindset

Over the past few years, the minimalist movement has been gaining ground and popularity. It has been getting more coverage in traditional media, as well as more exposure in social media. Minimalism is a lifestyle many people have been adapting.

Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing is not only a best-selling book, the KonMari Method has also become a cultural phenomenon. Kondo lays out a refreshing perspective to organizing, tidying up and decluttering. This book has changed the relationship many people have with their stuff.

Decluttering Your Space and Mind

Personally, I find it therapeutic to go through all of my belongings every so often to see if I really need something. As a family, we periodically sort through our possessions — from clothing to toys to anything that takes up space — and pull out items that haven’t been used. These items will either go to my extended family or friends, or depending on the condition, be donated to a local charity.

You may be surprised at how many items in your closet that have not been worn in 2-3 years. Think of your old purchases as sunk costs – money that you will never get back. What you can get back today is that extra space in your house that the item is taking up

Besides the obvious fact that you will save money by buying less stuff, the minimalist mindset also encourages us to stop hoarding things that provide no value. We often attach emotion or sentiment to things that only serve to take up space in our lives

Owning less stuff also makes you more creative in finding solutions. Do you need expensive gym equipment that take up half the garage? Why buy a treadmill when you can run outdoors and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine? Don’t keep old magazines or books around when you will never read them again. Libraries nowadays have an extensive online catalog that you can borrow at no charge.

Prioritize Your Spending

Before you buy the next item, equate the price to something that you can relate to like your paycheck in order to create a frame of reference.  For example, before buying a new pair of shoes for $75, compare that to how much that translates to your after-tax hourly wage

Always ask yourself if this item is worth it. Prioritize your spending. Do not buy things just because it is on sale and don’t get sucked into buying two pairs of shoes when you only need one.

These “BOGO” (buy one get one) sales are the worst offender of all when it comes to sucking money out of our wallets. They actually make you feel like you’re missing out if you don’t buy two items when your initial plan was just one!

Say No to Ads

We are constantly inundated with advertising and made to feel we must buy more stuff to be happy. Just by going online to read news articles, check your emails, or watch a Youtube video, we are exposed to the “wonders” of material goods

How many emails a week do you get from retailers that you didn’t even know you signed up for? There seems to be a “one day only” sale every other day that makes you feel as if you can’t miss out.

The popularity of online retail means that you can shop 24 hours a day 7 days a week and have it delivered to your doorsteps. This ease of shopping is just the many ways that retailers will try in every way possible to entice you to buy, buy and buy.

Now don’t get me wrong; I am not saying you should never go to the mall or do any online shopping. You just need to recognize that retailers will tirelessly try their very best to pry your money from your hands.

How to Start

Like I mentioned earlier, I have made it a habit to periodically go through all of the items I own.  By doing this, I have cleared up so much space in my home.  You may be surprised at how much bigger (and cleaner!) your house looks after a thorough decluttering.  I know where things are and can find them at a moment’s notice.

Making a list of items that you need to buy and sticking to the list will help you resist the urge to impulse buy. Sure, material consumption might momentarily provide happiness; but after the elation wears off, you’re just left with unappreciated items in the back of your closet.

Also, you can use technology to help you own less stuff.  For example, by burning our CDs and DVDs that we want to keep onto a hard drive, we save tons of space on storage. All documents and important paperwork that I want to keep are scanned onto my computer.

These are all small steps towards a decluttered space and mind. I really believe that making a habit of these small steps will help improve our relationship with money, learn to appreciate what we actually own, and help us be truly happy with less.