How cool would it be to love the home you’re in right now?
In his book The Minimalist Home, Joshua Becker explains how getting rid of the excess clutter does more than simply create an inviting living space.
He claims it will turn your home—your life’s HQ, as he likes to call it—into a launch pad for a more fulfilling and productive life.
Having launched ourselves headlong into the lifestyle some years ago, I can attest to this being true. Minimalism is merely a catalyst. It’s a portal, if you will, into an infinitely more rewarding way of being.
Most people know inherently that less is more, that without all the excess they’d be happier and less stressed. Yet they still find it difficult to let go of the things that weigh them down.
In The Psychology of Stuff and Things, Christian Jarrett —psychologist and author of Great Myths of the Brain— reflects on our lifelong relationship with objects. According to his findings, our relationship with stuff starts early. And it only seems to intensify with age.
In a recent study, researchers polled more than 1,000 people to find out more about their homes and belongings. Their findings were in keeping with what we know already. We own too much stuff, to the point that we don’t even know what’s in our homes.
Take this stat for example: 47 percent of people found an item from 1980 or earlier when they last cleaned their homes. Ironically, almost everyone polled felt embarrassed about the state of their homes.
Why Can’t We Just Let Go?
What compels people to hold on to items they no longer use? “As our lives unfold, our things embody our sense of self-hood and identity still further, becoming external receptacles for our memories, relationships and travels,” claims Jarrett.
He goes on to say that our possessions also allow us to signal something about ourselves to other people. (We’ve all seen a midlife crisis manifest itself in a new Porsche or Harley Davidson.)
We hang onto things because we think we might need them, because we spent a lot of money on them or because they bring back good memories. The truth is, we humans are inclined to overvalue the things we own.
What we need to do instead is take the time to honestly evaluate our belongings. Organizing your stuff won’t improve your life. For that to happen you need to purge your stuff.
But First, a Change in Identity
Maybe you’re on board with this idea of purging. Perhaps you’ve already loaded everything up and taken it to Goodwill. Your house feels spacious and uncluttered.
Unfortunately, if you don’t simultaneously change your identity, you’re more than likely going to slip right back into your old packrat ways.
In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear makes a valid distinction. He says, “Habits are the way you embody identity. True behavior change is really identity change.”
In other words, purging your stuff alone won’t solve the problem. In order to break the cycle of clutter, you first need to see yourself as someone who is organized and doesn’t just thoughtlessly accumulate stuff.
No Need to Purge Everything
I’m not suggesting you purge everything that doesn’t fit into your backpack. There’s something to be said for a little nostalgia; we’re human after all. Just keep in mind that the best memories are made, not bought.
Experiences with the people we love are what hold the most value. They’re what we remember and talk about for years to come. They’re also hard to come by when you’re weighed down by your possessions.
Our stuff comes at a price. It can keep us in debt, cost us our leisure time, stress us out and cause friction in an otherwise happy relationship. Nobody is suggesting you live in a tiny house with one cup and no television.
But how about a smaller house with just one television? A lower mortgage and less space to clean equals more time and money for adventure and fun.
Makes you want to purge a little, doesn’t it?
Making Your Small Place Feel Like A Big Space
A lot of people balk at the idea of living in a smaller home. They assume they’ll feel restricted of hemmed in. For Sporty and I, the opposite is true. The mere thought of a large apartment has us breaking out in hives.
I mean, there’s all that extra cleaning!?
I get that not everyone is happy to live in a bachelor pad with just two of everything. Some folks actually enjoy indulging in a little décor shenanigans. If that’s you, this guide from Downtown Apartment Company shows you how coping with a smaller living space can be done with a few easy-to-manage tricks.
No matter what type of small space you may have, there are a lot of simple yet effective techniques you can use to make that space feel much bigger. You won’t gain any square footage, but you’ll be able to spend time there without feeling cramped and claustrophobic.
By taking control of your small space’s color, texture and patterns, you can change the design of that space in a fundamental way that will affect how you and others feel in it.
Even your dog will be happier.
Living in a small space doesn’t have to mean feeling like you’re trapped in a phone booth. Mastering some simple elements of design and using psychology to your advantage can help small spaces feel much larger — ultimately making you more comfortable in them.