10 Benefits of Living with Less

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Someone asked me recently to share some of the specific benefits of “living like this.” Her family was considering taking a similar trip and wanted to know what they might be in for.

The thing is, there is no one definition that seems to fit what this is.

We’re living with less, traveling full time, living in an RV, and generally enjoying temporary unemployment. We’re making our own definitions of happiness and success. We’re becoming couch-crashing experts. I don’t imagine any family — or any one person — will ever emulate our current lifestyle exactly because it’s uniquely ours. However, there are some aspects of our current journey that might be worthy of adaptation.

I think we can all benefit from learning to live with less – less stuff that doesn’t really matter. This is one of the first lifestyle changes we made, and the one that helped make all the rest possible.

10 Benefits of Living with Less

1. I set aside no time in my schedule for cleaning.

If something gets spilled, it gets wiped up. The floors get swept when we set up at a new campground. There is no need to make time every day or every week for cleaning. How much time do you devote to “keeping house?” Is there anything you’d rather be doing with that time?

2. I don’t spend time shopping.

To be honest, I miss shopping. I tend to rely on the pleasure of acquiring things when I need a mood boost and that coping mechanism doesn’t fit with my current lifestyle. On the plus side, I no longer spend my weekends running shopping errands. The only thing we shop for regularly now is food.

3. I spend less time looking for stuff.

I still lose my iPhone several times a day and I’ve managed to misplace one of a pair of mittens I just bought in New Mexico, but I definitely spend less time searching for lost items.

4. I’m more content with what I have.

I used to sit in my house and think about all of the things I had yet to buy, things I was certain I needed in order to be happy or successful. I cursed the cheap things I’d foolishly purchased to get by until I could afford what I really wanted. Ironically, having less stuff has made me less obsessed with what I don’t have.

5. I’m more environmentally responsible.

Owning fewer items has made me more aware of what I own, what I use, and what I throw away. I think this has made me a better conservationist, a value that’s become really important to me in recent years.

6. I’m more resourceful.

Living with less has made me a better problem solver. When a new need arises, I no longer think about how I can meet it with $10 and the closest Wal-Mart. Instead, I think about how I can use something I already have in a new way. Getting better at finding multiple solutions to a single problem has, I think, made me a better freelance writer.

7. I don’t make purchases based on guilt.

As a parent, I’ve definitely been guilty of buying things no one needed just because not buying them made me feel bad. The newest game, the new clothes, the plastic toy that I knew would be forgotten about even before it broke – my kids don’t even ask for these things as often as they did four months ago.

8. I’m learning to value quality.

I know on a logical level that it makes more sense to buy quality than to purchase a cheap item, but growing up poor trained me to always go for the lowest sticker price. This short-term thinking has repeatedly resulted in waste and buyer’s remorse, and yet it’s a tough habit for me to break. Living with less has forced me to carefully consider any new purchases, which has really helped me to focus on long-term value.

9. I’m learning to think beyond the short-term.

My natural tendency is to live in the moment and embrace instant gratification. Having to focus on quality and think about how one item can be reused over and over again forces me to step back and look at the bigger, more long-term picture. Living with less is also a long-term sacrifice made in an effort to achieve long-term goals, something I haven’t always had the discipline for in the past.

10. I can do more with my money.

One of the most obvious benefits of living with (and purchasing) less is that you spend less money. For us, that extra money equals more time on the road and less stress. It means Jared being able to spend time with me and the kids instead of looking for a way to earn money. It means I get to focus on writing what I’m passionate about instead of churning out content for cash. Those are powerful motivators for our family to keep our possessions to a minimum.

Would your life be better if you could learn to live with less? What’s stopping you from finding out?

  1. Nicole says:

    We recently downgraded to a 950 sq. ft., two-bedroom condo for our family of four. After always having a lot of space, we decided we needed to live with less. Although we still have more stuff than you do because of a home attached to the ground, we have learned many of the same lessons you have. Nothing comes into this place without something leaving now, which is making us (me especially) extremely mindful of every purchase. It’s so freeing!

  2. the muskrat says:

    Great qualities to have for anyone, no matter where he/she lives!

  3. Nicole made the same point I came over to make – we have radically redesigned how we live and changed our priorities by making the choice to downsize to a very small home for a 6 member family. I think that might be point – it’s more the mindset and the determination to do it.

    While some people are forced into situations that cause them to realize what they can manage to live without and others choose it, if you don’t change the heart you’ll be miserable whether sitting in 50 ft trailer or a 50000 square foot home.

    Fantastic post.

  4. i am in love with that second shot. where was it taken? is that emma in the far left corner?

  5. Caitlin FitzGordon says:

    Thank you for sharing! I love the idea that living with less doesn’t have to be about focussing on what you lack, and can actually mean more of things that really matter. And I’m all for less time spent cleaning (or thinking about what needs to be cleaned!)

  6. I think what’s keeping me from dong with less house is mostly the housing market, but I’m setting aside time in early November to get rid of all this STUFF we’ve accumulated over the years. All that “just in case I need it” and “someday it will be in style again” and “the kids played with it once last month” stuff. I cannot wait!

  7. Alexandra says:

    See..

    this is why I love coming here.

    I can tell you, I find out this very same thing when my husband was laid off for a year.

    We did without.

    ANd it felt good.

    ANd it freaked out people, some that couldn’t deal with me not having money to do things with them.

    They moved on, in a different direction.

    And I moved in my own.

    And it’s better without the burden of a boulder of possessions, too many possessions , on your back.

    Love your posts.

  8. Megan says:

    I am working on this very thing. I’m moving through my house, culling things. If I decide to buy some new clothes, the same amount of old things that I haven’t worn for ages but thought I would eventually has to go. Still have the house, but there is a method to that. We’ll sell when it’s time for Mitch to retire; we plan on moving into a condo or loft, something with less space but more character. It’s a work in progress. I want to free up money to travel more, so I’m more mindful of where my money goes.

  9. Sheila says:

    Living on half of the income we’re used to having is surprisingly easy.

    Every month when I pay all of our bills, I’m amazed/shocked/ashamed at how much money we used to waste on total crap…..most of which we no longer own bc I’ve given it away/thrown it away/whatever.

  10. KDrausin says:

    When I stopped teaching full time to write and spend more time with my kids we all learned to cut back. It was freeing, one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

  11. tracy says:

    You’ve defined my relationship with “stuff” to a T – thanks for the well-written insight!

  12. Lisa says:

    I set aside no time for cleaning either. Better make a note of that for when you come visit ;-)

    I’m in the process of getting rid of stuff too. It seems like it keeps creeping back in! I can’t get rid of the house right now because of the market, and it’s pretty small anyway, otherwise we do the same thing as Megan. If we buy something, something else must leave. It helps keep the number of things rather neutral.

  13. Friday Links says:

    [...] and sorting through the huge pile of mail on the dining room table, I thought of this post about living with less from Miss Britt. Over the years Bill and I have accumulated too much stuff and it’s starting [...]

  14. My favorite presents to get and give are “Experiences.” Tickets to plays, concerts, money towards a cool class, etc. It really cuts down on the clutter, too!

  15. Liz Janega says:

    fascinating that you don’t post comments that raise questions about your happiness quest.

  16. Abby says:

    I recently found your blog through Twitter and on my first visit read one post after the other that spoke to me, including this one. I guess comments are closed on your “How to Change a Bad Mood” post, but I loved it. It’s exactly what I needed to hear right now, and I realized without knowing it I’m going through several of those steps. When I’m bummed, I spend more time with my kids (slow down) and bake, then give it away to friends or neighbors (focus on others). Thanks for the reminder that I may not be in control of my situation, but I can control my attitude.

  17. We are working hard to reduce our stuff. With the last 2 kids moved out, we really don’t need this space anymore. Not ready to sell, but maybe to rent out & rent a smaller place close to hubby’s work. Love the idea of not cleaning OR shopping!
    Bernice

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