Decluttering: Practical Steps For Living With Less

How much 'stuff' do you you really need?
Living minimally has never been cooler. Or more necessary.
Living minimally has never been cooler. Or more necessary.

Consumerism -- the concept that an ever-expanding consumption of goods is advantageous to the economy.

And beneficial to the economy it is. Consumer Spending in Australia increased to $232 billion in the first quarter of 2016, up from $231 billion in the fourth quarter of 2015. Those numbers are hard to say, let alone fathom.

Handing over our money for things we want in the moment, want our friends to see we own, or think we need is commonplace. Phrases like 'retail therapy' and 'shopaholic' were coined for and by consumers, and Oniomania, an uncontrollable desire to buy things, is on the rise.

Though, how much 'stuff' do you really need? And do the things that you buy make you happy long term, or is it about a fleeting high when you make a purchase?

Joshua Becker realised that all his 'stuff' wasn't making him happy.

"I decided to minimise my possessions after I came to the realisation that not only were my possessions not bringing happiness into my life, even worse, they were distracting me from the very things that do!," Becker told The Huffington Post Australia.

We begin spending our lives accumulating more and more possessions, storing them in bigger and bigger houses, not ever realising that we are chasing happiness in things that can never bring it.

Following this realisation which came while cleaning out an overflowing garage, Becker vowed to live life with less. Becoming Minimalist -- a fantastic blog covering his and his family's journey as well as tips to a less cluttered life -- is the result.

"We live in a society that champions and promotes excess at every turn. Marketers have developed enormous skill in fostering discontent in our lives -- always offering more happiness in our next purchase. Unfortunately, material possessions never fully deliver on their promise. As a result, we begin spending our lives accumulating more and more possessions, storing them in bigger and bigger houses, not ever realising that we are chasing happiness in things that can never bring it," Becker said.

When you think about it, he's right. How many of your belongings are actually necessities? How much room does it all take up in drawers, dressers and cupboards? Why do you have so much stuff? Once you ask yourself those questions and address your motivations you can begin to learn to live with less.

Less is more.
Less is more.

Here are Becker's tips for getting started:

Start easy. "Your first step in the right direction does not have to be a big one. Our personal journey began by removing the clutter from our cars. Literally. The first things we minimised were ketchup packets, Happy Meal toys, old receipts, and rarely used music CDs. It wasn't big, but it got us moving in the right direction.

"Our next projects included the living room, the bedroom, and our wardrobe. Each room or closet was a little bit harder than the previous. But we found important momentum in the early steps to help carry us through the difficult ones down the road," Becker said.

Choose a lived-in area to begin. "When you first begin to declutter your home, choose an area that is often used. There are many benefits to owning less -- clear, open spaces with fewer distractions is one of the best. As you begin to remove clutter, you will quickly experience them.

"And the best way to fully understand these benefits is to begin decluttering a room that is used often. This could be a living room, a bedroom, an office, or a bathroom. Start decluttering in an easy, lived-in area. You'll love it. And find increased motivation," Becker said.

Touch every item. "Your decluttering journey is not a race. It took years to accumulate all the clutter in your home and it will take more than an afternoon or weekend to remove it. My own family of four took nine months. You won't regret taking your time. And you won't regret taking the extra effort to physically touch every item in your home.

"Physically handling each thing forces our minds to make intentional decisions about them. After touching each item, place it in one of three piles: keep, relocate, or remove. From there, handle immediately. And then repeat," Becker said.

Prefer donating over selling. "You can make more money by selling your unneeded clutter. And if you legitimately need the money, go for it. There are countless websites that can help. But be aware that trying to sell your clutter is time-consuming, cumbersome, and often adds to the stress of decluttering.

"If money is not an immediate concern for your family, sell your valuable items on Ebay, but donate everything else to a local charity. You will find joy and fulfillment in generosity -- and that experience will be important going forward as you seek to overcome the trap of consumerism," Becker said.

Read a book. "The first book I read on decluttering was Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui by Karen Kingston. While feng shui never became a guiding principle in my home, the thoughts in the book were helpful for our journey. It is important to be reminded that others struggle with the same problem. And it is beneficial to hear new solutions to these problems.

"The book was good, I still recommend it. But I also recommend Simplify,Organised Simplicity, The Joy of Less, and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Any one of them will be helpful and motivating," Becker said.

Tell a friend. "Joy is most fulfilling when it is shared with others. Tell your story about your resolution to declutter. You will find people are excited to try it themselves. They will cheer you on. They will motivate you by holding you accountable and ask you how things are going the next time you see them.

"As an additional benefit, when you share your story, you will be reminded again of the reasons you decided to declutter in the first place," Becker said.

Be okay with imperfection. "Don't let perfect become the enemy of better. The first time you go through your home, you won't remove all the clutter. You'll keep stuff that didn't need to be kept. You'll find it too difficult to part with some items. You may even remove a thing or two you'll end up wishing you had kept," Becker said.

Inspired to learn more about living with less? Becker's new book The More Of Less is available now.