“Possessions, outward success, publicity, luxury – to me these have always been contemptible. I believe that a simple and unassuming manner of life is best for everyone, best for both the body and the mind.”
“The more material we lose, the less we have. The less we have, the more we win.”
It seems to be a human trait to want more, collect more, own more. We buy things because we think it makes us happier. But what many come to find is that having less improves our quality of life because it allows us more room in our heads and our hearts.
Simply put, more material clutter means more mental clutter. The less excess we have, the less distracted we get. The less distracted we are the more peace, energy and happiness we gain. Besides, the fewer expenses we have, the more money we can spend on enjoying the moment. After all, it’s meaningful experiences that make us happy and not our material belongings (as multiple studies have shown).
Need some inspiration? Watch the movie Happy.
The 75 year long Harvard study on happiness revealed that relationships are the key to a happy life. The way we at wander.green see it, this includes the relationships we have with ourselves, with our co-inhabitants, as well as with our environment. Living on this planet makes us a small part of a big eco-system and it makes us responsible for the way we care for our own lives surroundings. Everything we own needs to go somewhere once we’re done with it, and it is our responsibility to recycle or dispose of it without hurting our environment.
Aspiring to be green and eco-friendly includes more than just using products that are better for our environment. Living a green lifestyle includes maintaining healthy relationships with ourselves, our body, our mind, our environment, and those around us. The process of minimizing our possessions is part of a healthy and green lifestyle and provides us with healthy space in our heads and hearts while reducing our environmental footprint.
This means minimizing waste, reusing as possible, recycling as needed and selling or giving to charity instead of throwing in the landfill.
Both of us at wander.green moved across the ocean over a decade ago, bringing with us only the bare necessities. That was our first experience with drastic downsizing. Of course, we accumulated new stuff over the years. Recently we have for the second time purged our belongings so that we were able to move from a one bedroom apartment into a 25ft travel trailer, our mobile home. Here’s what we learned and found to be helpful:
Downsize, Minimize, and Declutter Your Home:
Make a list of items with three categories: 1. Need 2. Want 3. Give away
Start with one room (including the drawers and closets) and sort everything according to the 3 categories. Go over the “want” pile a second time and move any items you don’t feel a strong love for into the “give away” pile. Do this systematically in each room of your house.
Once the drawers and closets have been cleared, use them to store the items that you will keep, grouping similar items together. Put the “give away” pile into a large cardboard box for transport and donate, sell, or recycle it the very next day.
There are several helpful methods to aid in the sometimes-overwhelming downsizing process:
The KonMari method, a methodical approach to decluttering and keeping only items that bring you joy.
The 30-day Minimalism Game, a methodical way of getting rid of one thing the first day, two things the second day, three things the third day, four things the fourth day, etc. You get the idea.
The Closet Hanger Method, a method suggested by Peter Walsh as seen on Oprah.
Another helpful tool is to look at all the things in your “want” pile and throw out anything you have not used in the last 3 months.
It is a good idea to go through this clean-up and decluttering process every few months to downsize even further and so keep your home tidy over time. Don’t forget your jewelry box, accessories, shoe rack, bathroom cabinets, make-up bag, hand bags, garage and attic, the inside of your car and even the items on your phone and computer.
Here’s a list that might help:
Computer and office:
- De-clutter your computer and delete, delete, delete.
- Organize your files and file-structures in a logical manner and keep file folders neat.
- Scan all your important documents and save them in a specific folder.
- Save your files and photos on external hard-drives for backup.
- Shred all paperwork except the legal documents – store them in a fire-proof lock-box.
- Subscribe to paperless-billing whenever possible.
- Unsubscribe from unnecessary emails and spam via https://unroll.me/
- Printed photos: scan your favorites including important memories. Photos of special moments with friends – frame and give as gifts. Shred or burn the rest. This can be a great way to create your own ritual to say goodbye to some memories from your past.
- Unsubscribe from junk paper mail: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0262-stopping-unsolicited-mail-phone-calls-and-email, https://dmachoice.thedma.org/, https://drowndinginmail.wordpress.com/start-here/
Clothing, shoes, books, CDs, kitchen items, toys, electronics and most of your other stuff can be either sold or donated. The process of selling is much more time intensive than donating, and for us the time investment was not worth the few hundred bucks we would have made from a sale. But there are other plenty of other websites that can help you out if you decide to sell your stuff.
If you are donating, don’t forget to ask for a donation receipt so you can deduct it from your taxes.
- Salvation Army – clothing, furniture, household goods and cars, depending on location they provide free pickup.
- United War Veterans Recycling – clothing, furniture, etc, free pickup.
- Vietnam Veterans of America – clothing and household items with countrywide locations for drop-off or pickup.
- Housing Works – free furniture pickup in New York City.
- Homeless Shelters – usually take clothes and bathroom items.
- Dress for Success – an international service to empower women to achieve economic independence by providing professional attire, clothing, and support.
- Clothes 4 Souls and Soles 4 Souls – clothing and shoes, distribution around the world.
- Brides Against Breast Cancer – wedding dresses and accessories.
- National Coalition Against Domestic Voilence – cell phones, laptops, mp3 players, digital cameras, and video game systems.
- Public Library – call your local library to see if they accept book and magazine donations
- Better World Books – nationwide donation locations for books.
- Books for Cause – books and electronics.
- Local Shelters and Senior Resident facilities, Nursing Homes and Hospitals – call to see if they take magazine and book donations and other items.
- Habitat ReStore – furniture, appliances, household goods and building materials:
- SAFE – stuffed animals for children in need.
- Bikes for the World – bicycles.
- Mr Holland’s Opus – musical instruments (except pianos and keyboards).
- New Eyes – reading glasses, sunglasses, hearing aides, watches, jewelry, silverware.
- Project CURE – medical equipment and supplies.
- St Jude’s Ranch – used greeting cards.
- Feeding America – a nationwide food bank.
- Zealous Good – connects givers with charities in need of specific items.
- Donation Town – a free service that connects you with donation centers who pick up your stuff.
- Charity Navigator
- Craigslist – list your items under the “free” section and have it picked up.
If you need to get rid of things fast and don’t have the ability to lug it yourself, then you may want to consider a paid service like The Junk Loggers. They are an eco-friendly service who pick up your goods for a price then bring it to one of their contracted donation sites and recycle what is left over. Another option is College Hunk.
Continuing the Path
Once the declutter and cleanup process is done, it will bring much joy and lightness to your heart. It is a good idea to do a thorough cleaning in your home and enjoy the fresh space once everything is cleaned and organized.
To continue this path—preventing future clutter and being a more conscious consumer—here are some ideas that might help:
- Don’t go shopping (except for food and bare necessities) for the next 30 days
- Don’t buy any new clothes for the next 3 months
- When you get the “I need” or “I want to buy” thought, write the item on a list and wait for 1 week before making the decision to buy it
- Plan your purchases and make a list with items you really need before going to a store
- Never go shopping without your list and only buy what is on your list
- Do your research and always choose the most eco-friendly and locally produced version of an item
- Choose better quality items that will last longer, even if they are more expensive
- Stay away from online shopping sites and malls to prevent shopping triggers and urges
- Think about how many hours you had to work to be able to pay for an item and consider if the value is really worth it
- When you are at a store and get the urge to buy something, always ask yourself the questions:
- Do I really really need it?
- Do I really love it and will it bring me joy?
- Will I use it for a very long time?
- Where will it be stored in my home?
- Can it be recycled once I don’t use it anymore?
- Is my money really worth it?
- Go through your belongings every 3-6 months and remove whatever is not needed