7 tips to simplify your home
Lately, I’ve been drawn to stories about simplifying and minimalism. There seems to be a shift happening. People are recognising that slowing down, owning less and living in smaller homes can make us happier. I only recently understood why. Simplifying our possessions makes us re-evaluate what’s important and what’s not. Yes, this results in us having less stuff, but it also results in us having a greater understanding of our values, less distractions, and more time and money for what matters. This may even mean discovering new passions.
My partner and I live in a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment (about 120sqm) in Brisbane. I’d say we have a below average amount of ‘stuff’, but at times it still seems like too much!
Graham Hill (founder of LifeEdited and Treehugger) pointed out in his TED Talks that the average space of US homes has tripled since the 1950s. But people still don’t have enough space for all their stuff, which has created a ballooning self-storage industry. Australia is experiencing a similar trend, where large homes and more ‘stuff’ result in increased energy usage, debt and stress. This same message was shared by The Minimalists on their Less is Now tour that I went to see in March.
But when listening to these stories, the words “First World problem” do come to mind. In a world where so many people live in poverty, it seems insensitive to say having too much stuff is a problem. So it’s important to declutter sensitively and donate or sell what you can.
Here are 7 tips to help you reduce and simplify:
- Digitise - store and access your books, music, photos, movies, and paperwork in digital/online format. Netflix and Spotify are the bomb. I recently donated almost all of my old CDs to charity. I uploaded several albums to iTunes and only kept a few favourite CDs for passing down to grandkids when they’ll likely ask ‘Who was Janet Jackson?’ and ‘What is a CD?’ :-)
- Edit – look at what you have and cut it down to the stuff you really need. Donate or sell the rest. Consider donating corporate attire to an organisation like Brisbane-based Dress for Success, who support women to find jobs and become economically independent. If you have 10 beach towels and only need one, donate the rest to an animal shelter. For more donation ideas for animal shelters, check out this great blog post by 1 Million Women!
- Buy small and multifunctional – buy things that are small, stackable and/or have multiple purposes. I have four dining chairs that are a nightmare when moving house because they don’t stack! Clu Living has some great pieces designed for compact living.
- Avoid bulk buying packaged food – I realise that it can be cheaper to do so, but do you really need 20L of pasta sauce from Costco?! I’m totally on board with buying ‘bulk’ wholefoods to reduce packaging waste (like from The Source Bulk Foods), but try to give bulk buying of packaged foods a miss. Bulk products normally have long use-by dates due to the use of preservatives to extend their shelf life. And they take up a lot of space. Consider buying fresh, whole foods from your local farmer’s market on a weekly basis instead. It will be healthier for your body, you’ll support local growers and you’ll free up space in the pantry.
- Give consumable gifts or experiences – Rather than buying material gifts for your friends and family, give consumable gifts (like food or body products) or experiences (like gift vouchers to beauty salons, restaurants, the movies, horse riding). Or, better yet, gift your time to create memories together – cook dinner, give a massage, spend a weekend away, or write a meaningful letter or poem. Also gently encourage your loved ones to do the same for you. I recently created a food hamper for a friend’s birthday present, which included fresh fruit and vegetables and it was a hit!
- Use a “one in, one out” philosophy – When you buy something new, remove something else. I’ve been doing this for a while and it works well for me. If you buy one new dress/coffee mug/pillow, remove one. This encourages you to cap the volume of your stuff and only keep things you need and use.
- Consume mindfully – For each purchase, ask yourself – do I really need this? Could I borrow or do without? We still need to buy things, but shift to intentional consumption.