The American dream has begun to shatter and to lose its luster over the decades, though daily we can catch flashy glimpses of its former glory — it’s not dead, but it is dying. On the other hand, the new adventure has started to become fashionable for some families living the van life, crossing the country in search of freedom, travel and online work. At the same time, minimalists have taken to the extremes of living in tiny houses and opting for capsule wardrobes, wearing the same “outfit” every day.
While most of us are not willing to let go of all that we own, the question begs to be asked: “ Are we living with clutter?” The kind that spills out of closets, squeezes the car in the garage and overflows into a rented storage space, all in a vain effort to save the collected excess that no longer fits in our home?
The accumulation of clutter is a double-edged sword — sometimes objects and gifts may bring us joy, other times they are costly to buy, maintain and store. Often it happens that the money spent acquiring stuff, could have been better spent on more meaningful items or experiences.
Shopping has become a national pastime, born out of boredom and the desire to constantly upgrade our lives.
It hasn’t always been this way, and we don’t need to keep the dangerous cycle of overconsumption going, creating a mountain, and iceberg, of plastic destruction as we advance into the future. It is always helpful to analyze our spending habits when we need/want to save time and money. And as we look outwards, further from our own cluttered homes, we see staggering statistics such as this: “$1.2 trillion: How much Americans spend annually on goods and services they don’t absolutely need.”
The previous statement is bygone news, from calculations gathered several years ago, yet it still rings true today, perhaps tolling the bell even louder than before. To continue with the theme of overconsumption, let’s acknowledge the fact that there are more than 48,500 storage units in the United States — that’s a lot of excess stuff! If we don’t see the value in what we own, who will?
Humans are not quick to change when we don’t see the virtues for ourselves, so let’s discover how accessing our mindful minimalist mindset not only helps us save time and money, it benefits the Earth too.
Rather than investing in bigger cars, more spacious homes, frivolous items and smarter/faster technology, we need to examine our thoughts related to consuming and why we think we need more. Any true minimalist would tell you that less is more, and for most of us the reality is that we already have enough, even if we spent an entire year buying nothing new.
As we shift the focus and appreciate what we have, away from what we want, then we can discover new ways to appreciate items that have already been created.
This method alone, of realizing that you already have all that you need, will be generous to your wallet, even allowing you to set money aside for the future. As you spend less and do more, you’ll also find time to declutter and get rid of items that no longer serve you. Gift them to someone in need, or sell them for some extra cash, the choice is up to you. And as you declutter and find more space in your home and life, you’ll have less to clean too, leaving you with time for hobbies, walks in nature and family.
Remove fear of a scarcity mindset from ruling what enters your home and life, rather than hanging onto absolutely everything that comes your way. Reflect on how often an object or item gets used, and shift your thinking to “what can I borrow instead”. Take small minimalist actions every day as you streamline your life and live lighter on the planet at the same time. Reduce your carbon footprint as you reduce your dependence on material goods — it is that simple.
Is a happy, meaningful life buried under your clutter?
Access your minimalist mindset and dig it out, your family and your wallet will thank you!
Cheryl Magyar is a successful sustainable life designer who helps families and intellectual introverts return to simpler ways of life. 3x an expat, she homesteads in the hills of northern Romania where foraging, organic gardening, writing poetry fired by climate change, and planting trees are her chosen way of life. Gather energy to live an ecologically fulfilling existence by downloading a 19-page guide — My Sustainable Journey — and be inspired by everyday actions of sustainability, starting today!