Living with Less
“Minimalism” and “Marie Kondo” presented us with ideas and even movements that continue to grow in popularity. And it’s because the people who apply these principles report higher levels of contentment. I also believing in the power of living with less.
I wasn’t raised with this value. My parents’ house is full of “tchochkes” and my mom loves buying me random souvenirs from her travels that leave me asking “what am I going to do with this?”. I have grown to lament the idea of a thing taking up space in my space if it doesn’t have a truly valuable purpose.
Owning less “stuff” became easier while living in a tiny Manhattan apartment. The discerning question I would ask myself when I thought about making a purchase went from “Is this a good deal?”, to “Do I really want this in my space”.
And then I learned that less stuff could actually make life easier.
My first van trip was my honeymoon around Western Australia. I remember waking up to the most limited wardrobe I’d ever had (a subset of what I had packed in my carry-on to go from NYC to Australia for my wedding), and thinking “wow, there are such limited options but all things that I love wearing - this is really easy”. I loved the simplicity of having that decision - what to wear for the day - already pretty much made and made well.
I also think of “less stuff” as a feeling. My friend Angela recently upgraded her lifestyle with a big beautiful apartment in Greenpoint. But even though she moved to a bigger space, she didn’t buy more things, including furniture! And when I walk into Angela’s apartment, there is a big beautiful feeling of so much empty space and air to breathe.
We can also apply this thinking to our home at large, Earth. I think about landfills and the amount of waste that we create every day and it feels to me like it is crowding in on us, taking away from our big beautiful breathing room.
I think about waste in all aspects of my life (from the party favors my kids bring home to food containers and diapers), most painfully, when I throw away something that I know will stay intact for a long long time. Like 10x my own life span and then some. Wow - how much does that suck - something that is barely used gets thrown away and takes up space in our space (and in the space of our flora and fauna) for exponentially longer than our own lives. It is gross and unsustainable if we want to sustain human life on Earth.
OK but I don’t want to get angry here because the solution, at least the first step, is so simple and beautiful and it is to just use less stuff, and use this stuff far more often and for a very long time. Because the less we use, the less waste we create. And not to mention, the more often that we get to wear and enjoy our favorite shirt, the more memories that we embed in that shirt or that hat or that ANDI bag.
I bought a pair of 3rd-hand green cowboy boots at Bushwick Open Studios in 2014. The woman I bought them from, an artist, told me that she wore them all over France when she lived there, and she bought them from a woman before her (their first owner) who I am confident was also a bad bitch. The experiences these boots had been a part of! So not only did they accompany me on many awesome adventures, but they brought the spirit of all the places they had been and the things they had done and the people they had met. These $25 boots were rich AF.
And when it comes to clothing, I have bought many things in my lifetime that I have rarely or even never worn. I loathe the feeling of looking in my closet, seeing that piece that I at one point had hopes for, trying it on and acknowledging that it just doesn’t feel right and today will not be the day that I wear it. But I no longer have the space in my closet or time in my day to deal with clothes in my life that aren’t “just right”. In my home, I now own 2 feet wide of closet space worth of clothes with 2 small shelves for hoodies and pants, and two drawers (one for underwear and PJs and one for my workout wear). And that’s it! It’s so easy to get dressed, I never forget about my favorite things to wear and I am always and only wearing something I have consciously curated as part of my wardrobe which is comfortable, the right fit and suits my style.
All this to say, I believe that a preserving-human-life-on-Earth solution does so much more than preserving air, water and our species, but I believe it coincides with a more connected, joyful and fulfilling way to live. Let’s do (so much more) with less.