5 TED Talks That Will Inspire You to Live With Less (Maybe Even a Lot Less)

by | Nov 8, 2019 | Minimalism | 2 comments

Keen to live with less, but not sure how to go about? These TED talks will get the minimalist ball rolling for you. After that, it’s time to declutter.

You didn’t think there wouldn’t be work, did you?

The U.S. self-storage industry is booming. Valued at $37.33 billion in 2018, the figure is projected to rise to a whopping $49.24 billion by 2024.

live with lessThat’s just nuts. Americans are living as large as ever, but space is still at a premium. Or is it?

Perhaps the problem isn’t so much the lack of space, but the fact that we own too much stuff. The solution seems obvious, right? We should just get rid of it. In theory, maybe, but we all know it’s not that simple. Getting rid of clutter is hard.

But while that may be true, it’s a task worth tackling nonetheless. The benefits of decluttering are many. For starters, it will make you happier and more productive.

Decluttering will also help you de-stress and it will ensure your family isn’t left with the job when you’re gone. Take it from someone who knows: your kids don’t want your clutter.

I’ll get to the TEDx talks in a bit, but first let’s talk about something that has most folks breaking out in hives at the mere thought of downsizing.

What If You Need Something You No Longer Have?

live with less

My mother loved referring to herself as a JIC person. For those of you not au fait with (or partial to) acronyms, JIC means just in case. We all know the sad story of Justin Case. Holding onto things ‘just in case’ we need them.

The truth is, we almost never use the things we insist on keeping. That treadmill, those pre-kids skinny jeans, the tennis racquet: they’ll all just continue gathering dust in the attic, waiting for a day that will probably never come.

Yes, there is the teensiest possibility that you will take up tennis. What then?

After books and sentimental items, this is the thing that concerns most people when they first learn about minimalism. They can’t get their head around the idea of ditching something when there’s a chance (however remote) that they’ll use it in the future.

Press them for a better reason and they’ll likely say it’s because they spent good money on it. And therein lies the rub. We humans have a tendency to overvalue the things we own. Those in the know refer to this as the endowment effect.

Long story short, we’re all emotionally attached toddlers when it comes to our belongings. 

Buy Less, Share More

live with less

Okay, so what happens when you discover you need something you no longer have? First, I’ll tell you what you don’t do, which is rush out and buy a new whatever. There are no get out of shopping jail free cards on this blog.

Sorry not sorry.

Not that it matters, because I have a way better plan. Instead of buying something you may or may not use again (or at all), borrow it instead. I’ll bet you’re wondering how on earth you’re going to find someone to lend you a whatever?

It’s actually easier than you think.

Enter Stuff4Hire, a community focused service that helps neighbours rent things to one another at a reasonable cost. They’re like a matchmaking platform for stuff.

Wait, what? It’s true. Stuff4Hire ‘marries’ people who need something for short-term use, with those who have something to lend out.

Now you can live with less and not worry. How awesome is that?

It gets better though, because the service is so much more than just a lending platform. It’s also a way to meet your neighbours and create a sense of community in your ‘hood.

There’s another bonus to buying less and sharing more.

Let’s say you’ve always wanted to learn how to surf, but aren’t convinced you’ll love it. Kitting yourself out with a wetsuit and surfboard is lunacy (even for a shopaholic).

With Stuff4Hire you can find someone in your area who has a board and wetsuit (in your size, no less) to rent. You can hire them (preferably during the week when there’s less chance of bumping into anyone you know at the beach) and finally have a go at surfing.

If you hate it you can just return the items and tick surfing off your bucket list. On the other hand, should you prove a natural you can go ahead and buy your own board.

Rinse and repeat with everything from that DIY project to your dream of riding the Cape Town Cycle Tour. Before you know it you’ll have tried and bunch of new things and made some friends at the same time.

See, you can live with less and still have a normal life.

According to their backend elves, Stuff4Hire is almost ready to go live. Yay. They’re busy ironing out the final kinks in the system and will be launching later this month. What are you waiting for, go check it out!

If you’re lucky enough to live Stateside, be sure to join their mailing list so you’ll know when they’re up and running new stuff lands on their shelves. While you’re at it, follow them on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter to find out what else they’re up to in the meantime.

Inspiration to Help You Live with Less

Finally, here are those TED talks I promised you a gazillion words ago.

I know, verbose much?

The articles I referenced at the beginning of the post should be reason enough to get you busy decluttering, but if you’re still on the fence about letting go of all your stuff, these TED talks will definitely inspire you to live with less.

Should the concept still not stick (seriously?), you can always take a look at our ongoing curation of minimalist TEDx talks for some additional motivation. At the end of them you’ll either be a ‘live with less’ evangelist or a lost cause.

1. Getting Rid of 1000 Things by Liz Wright

Liz says her ‘aha’ moment came after reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. The book caused her to look more closely at her own life, specifically the small day to day decisions, such as the things you bring into your house.

She looked around her home and saw that she’d clearly inherited her parents’ post-war ‘save everything’ mentality. But being an 80s child, Liz also had a consumerist mindset. Not a good combination. 

She set herself a goal to get rid of 1000 things. The end result was a lighter, brighter and more airy home and some wonderful learnings along the way.

One big epiphany for Liz was the realisation that there’s no point holding onto something for its perceived worth. Instead, she recommends looking at stuff in terms of its function and use.

2. The Masterpiece of a Simple Life by Maura Malloy

As a fellow writer and neat freak, I completely get Maura’s inability to focus, work or relax when she’s surrounded by clutter. Like her, I too need clear countertops, an empty sink, clothes put away and most importantly, an uncluttered desk, before I’m able to turn my attention to work.

Side note: I’ve since moved my ‘office’ to a co-working space and I’m so much more productive.

Maura says she wasn’t always like that. As a little girl she collected everything from dolls to pencils to teddy bears. It took a trip to India at the age of 19 to open her eyes to the joy of less, although not enough to deter her from shipping home a box full of touristy stuff to prove she’d been on an adventure.

It was only when she moved to New York that she finally began decluttering in earnest. Mara uncovered her masterpiece life by eliminating the superfluous. What would your masterpiece life look like? Why not follow Mara’s example and chip away at all that’s unnecessary until you’re living it.

3. From Clutter to Clarity by Kerry Thomas

Kerry reminds us that clutter isn’t just the physical stuff in our houses (though that’s a really great place to get the declutter ball rolling). It can also be digital, mental, emotional or spiritual, and each type of clutter can be equally overwhelming.

Drawing on the wise words of Barbara Hemphill, who said that clutter is postponed decisions, Kerry encourages us to more closely examine the things we’re holding onto and make a decision about them.

She reminds us that even in the midst of overwhelm, we have the power to effect change simply by making a decision. The quality of one’s life is determined by the decisions we make and it’s only through making them that we’re able to move from overwhelm toward peace.

4. The Joy of Less by Kim Coupounas

The seduction of more led Kim down a dark path that left her emotionally, spiritually and physically so worn out and out of balance that she spent the next eight years having five miscarriages, three failed in vitro fertilisation rounds and spending a fortune on western and eastern medical treatments.

It was only when she slowed down and cleared out the clutter from her life that her world righted itself and she was able to fall pregnant. Kim reminds us that less doesn’t mean lack, it means less stress, less anxiety, less anger, less worry. It also means more happiness, joy, abundance and connection.

5. How Many Towels Do You Need by Rose Lounsbury

When Rose Lounsbury realised her 1500 square foot (140 square metre) home could no longer accommodate all the stuff her family had amassed, she knew something had to give. Starting with her linen closet, Liz began downsizing with one clear goal in mind: to own less stuff.

So pleased was she with the results that she quit her teaching job and started inspiring others to live better lives with less stuff. Rose’s book Less: Minimalism, For Real takes a practical, hands-on approach to decluttering your home and simplifying your life. If you enjoyed her talk, it’s definitely worth picking up a copy.

There you have it. Five TED talks and a bunch of additional information to get you to live with less stuff. Hopefully something resonated enough to inspire change. Let us know, we’re always keen to hear what prompts people to downsize.



  1. Kerry Thomas

    Thank you so much for including my talk in this list! I love what you are doing here. Best wishes for your continued mission. 🙂

    • hello@angelagayehorn.com

      Hi Kerry, it’s such a pleasure, I really enjoyed your talk. 🙂


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