We worry too much.
Here in Toronto, worrying is the name of the game. We’re either worrying about where we’re going to get money to pay off our debts, or worrying about how we’re going to save up enough money to buy stuff so we can worry about where to get the money to pay THOSE debts off.
We worry about or futures, we worry about what’s already passed. The weather, chores, our jobs — they’re all fair game. We worry about our stuff and get more stuff to cope with the worry.
You know that I don’t hide the fact that I’m an advocate for having less stuff. I think that it’s the things that we need that should be made sexy — not the things that we think we want. Life would be far less confusing this way. But stuff is everywhere. You can’t hide from it. Advertising is everywhere we look. Stuff will FIND you.
So what can you do about it all? How do you become happier in this maelstrom of activity around you?
Well, there’s some key rules you can follow:
1: Don’t get MORE stuff, get the RIGHT stuff!
Do it right the first time!
The problem with the modern consumer is that we have too many things in our too-small spaces. Then as those things grow tattered through use, we get new stuff, often hanging onto the older stuff due to laziness or sentimentality. One needs more pieces that last — it might take some saving, it might take some sacrifice; but you’ll come out ahead in the ahead when you only have to buy something once and have it pay for itself over future years by the saved cost of not having to buy a similar item again. Quality always wins over quantity, which I’ve started to realize through frayed collars on cheap dress shirts and one too many cheap BIC pens bursting in pants pockets…
2: Come back home with LESS than when you left
This can be really hard, but it’s a good practice to look into. If you strive to come home with less stuff you had on you than when you went out the door in the morning, you’ll encounter a gradual effect where you slowly get rid of all the things that were simply cluttering your existence. And wouldn’t it be way better to have less weighing you down after a long day of being out? Of course, the flip side of this is that you have to make an active effort to not get more stuff while you’re out. No shopping for the sake of shopping; no getting more stuff that you may already have at home without using up the stuff at home first — because for the next tip, we remember that…
3: You only have SO MUCH space
Space is one of the things that are at a premium in most of our lives. Do you really want to waste it all on stuff you rarely use? The places we live and work, I feel, should reflect what we do most with our time. The items you have around you should inspire you and enable you to do the best you can do. We shouldn’t be holding on to things without good reason for doing so. I recently found that my room got a little more chill by bagging and tagging some clothes for donation, sending some articles to Instapaper and just finding space for all of my random stuff. It’s still a work in progress, but if it helps you sleep better at night, I say totally go for it!
4: Someone ELSE could PROBABLY use it more than you.
You’re going to have the opportunity to accumulate a lot of stuff in your lifetime, but I’ll just let you in on the big joke of life when it comes down to material possessions —
MOST OF IT’S GOING TO BE JUNK.
It’s true! We have this fixation on owning everything that we possibly can! But the worst thing is that in our blind rush to amass the wealth of things that we do, we often have things that others could DEFINITELY use, but we’re too stubborn to give them up.
Look around you at your possessions. Unless you’re an organizational superstar and you’ve managed to find a way to get your life in total equilibrium, you probably have a bunch of stuff that you haven’t used in QUITE some time. Books, clothes, movies, non-perishable food items — it could be just about anything. You say that you’ll eventually use them, but oftentimes you’re just kidding yourself.
But what if someone ELSE could ACTUALLY make use of these seldom-used items? I find that life is a lot better when helping others — I tend to give stuff away that I’m not using if someone else seems like they could use it. This has included things like old cell phones, computer RAM, cameras — it’s just not HEALTHY to hoard too much stuff! And looking around, I know that there’s more yet that I’d love to see out of my life, if I just make the time to clean up some more. (I’m sure you’ll hear more about it as time passes!)
There’s not enough time in the day to use all your stuff — really think about what you NEED, and stick to that instead of fulfilling each and every whim you have 🙂
5: Know the resources you have. USE THEM WISELY.
We have really short memories. We see coupons and deals; hear of amazing new tools and resources — but then we can get distracted, going back to our lives without making the improvements that are available to us out there in VAST QUANTITIES. I’ve mentioned getting so many Groupons that we forget we have them, and if you’re like me and have amassed a lot of coupons, discounts, gift codes and so on from different events, it’s a lot to keep track of. Things will expire, companies will close or change their policies — I even got as far as establishing a second wallet to carry gift certificates, rarely used store cards — yeah. Don’t be a Casey. Use what you get and don’t hold onto them for a special occasion. Treat yourself sometimes, if only to restore some sanity in your life!
So there you have it. These rules — I think you could use them to devise your very own Quest for Less and be successful at it. Having less stuff is one of the main keys for living a better life — I stand by that. And if you don’t believe me, just heed the words of Malcolm-Jamal Warner:
And with that, I bid you adieu!
Previous Posts in the Quest for Less Manifesto Series: