Our society often tells us we need bigger, better, and more in order to “keep up with the Joneses”. We’re constantly bombarded with advertisements encouraging us to buy a better car, newer clothes, or more toys. But this doesn’t always equal a happier life! In fact, adding more stuff to our household often means we’re just living in a more-cluttered environment surrounded by material things we don’t need. Deep down inside we know that the secret to a happy life is not in what we buy from the mall. The first step towards living a simpler, clutter-free life is to learn to be happy with less. Here are some tips for appreciating what you have without wanting more.
Clear out and make space.
To start, go through your house and clear out anything and everything that you don’t need or want. Be as thorough as possible in this step so that you can truly rid your house of things that are just filling space. Maybe your kitchen is filled with gadgets and appliances that you haven’t used in years. Or perhaps your living room is cluttered with knickknacks and decorative items that you purchased 10 years ago and are now collecting dust. Whatever room you’re in, go through it with a fine-toothed comb.
Courtney Carver says that when you clear out your house, you create more space to relax and focus on what’s important. “The spaces that you spend most of your time really reflect who you are,” Carver says. “They don’t always demonstrate who you want to be or how you want to live your life, but if you want a good indication of how things are today, look around.” After clearing out the things you don’t need, you can donate the items to a local charity or community thrift store so that others can enjoy your items.
It’s quite easy to confuse our wants versus our needs. We may think we need the new phone that was just released or the purse that catches our eye at the department store. But if we are physically able to survive without having that item in our life, well, then it’s just a want. If we are truly trying to live a happier life with less, then we need to evaluate what we feel we really need. Camille Willemain says that having less “stuff” makes it easier to practice gratitude. “It shows us that possessions aren’t essential, they are just extras,” she says. “We see that we have air to breathe, food to eat, and people to love us. We have everything that we need to feed us. The rest is just dessert.”
One way to practice gratitude is to make a list of things you have in your home that you can be thankful for. Write down everything that resides under your roof that you are grateful to have in your life – family and pets included. As you make your list, you will realize just how fortunate you are. Frame the list or tape it to your bathroom mirror to remind you on a daily basis. You can also fold it up and keep it in your wallet to remind you of what you already have when you’re in a situation where you want to buy more. “When we shift our thoughts from what we want to have towards gratitude for all that we already have, that’s when we discover true, lasting happiness,” Willemain says.
You might find yourself in a place where you’re happy with what you have… well, until you see what your neighbor has. We’ve all heard the phrase “comparison is the thief of joy.” Don’t let jealousy steal your joy of having a simpler life. Marc Chernoff stresses the importance of remembering what you have versus what others have. He says there are two formulas to consider: the happiness formula (do your best and appreciate what you have) and the unhappiness formula (compare yourself to others and the things they have). It’s up to you which formula you choose! Focus on the things that money can’t buy. “You don’t need a lot of money to lead a rich life,” Chernoff says. “Good friends and a loving family are worth their weight in gold. It really is the little things that mean the most…”
Having more does not necessarily mean you will have a happier life, as you may feel overwhelmed and burdened by the clutter. But by making space in your house, you can be more grateful for what you have as you learn to live a happier life with less.