Eleven ways my life is better with less

(Thank you to the good folks at Elephant Journal for being the first to publish this story.)

How has being a minimalist changed my life? I have freedom and space and social connections like I never had before.

Eight years ago I was living in a home with 2600 square feet of living space with a double garage and a large yard. Every last corner was crammed with stuff. We had a freezer full of food, a pantry full of food, and a fridge full of food. It all seemed necessary and none of it was.

Today I live with my two boys, a cat and a budgie in 1500 square feet of living space (including the basement). No pantry, no TV, no car, no garage, no yard except for a small deck. Guess what? I am happier now than ever.

Here’s a list of the ways my life has improved, with some examples.

1. I’m more connected to my neighbours. We have small decks with short fences. I’ve made a good friend across my fence. I don’t have a deep freeze or a pantry so when I run short of something I go to my neighbour. When my neighbour needs something he comes to me (he got rid of a lot of stuff too). We are an unlikely pair but it works.

2. I’m more connected to friends. Now when I think about doing something I consider if a friend would like to do it with me. Of course, this is convenient for me because I don’t drive but it builds connection as we converse, and reciprocity when I think of small ways I can repay the favor.

3. I’m healthier. In summer I am on my bike nearly every day. I walk to where I need to go in the winter. There’s no such thing as bad weather when you dress for the weather. Except for minus 40 degrees celcius. That’s just bad weather.

4. My kids are more independent. We’re still kind of working on that one but I don’t chauffeur my kids around. They get themselves where they need to go by bus or cab or they walk.

5. I’m more socially aware. I used to live my life in blissful ignorance of the world around me. Now that I commute by bus I see people – all kinds of people. I’m reminded that I’m not the centre of my world. Sometimes I give my spare change to the legless man at the mall where I wait for the bus instead of getting myself a coffee. Little stuff like that matters.

6. I shop less. I rented a car not long ago to go out of town. I had it at home for a day and was astonished at just how much impulse buying I did. I’d really like a whatchamcallit. I think I’ll just run to Wal-Mart and get one. Wow there’s a sale on thingamabobs. I’ll get three. I’m bored so I think I’ll run to the mall. You don’t do stuff like that when it requires a 20 minute walk and you have to lug the stuff home. Have you ever paid attention to how much impulse buying you do at the grocery store? If I can’t fit it in my backpack or my wheeled cart I don’t buy it.

7. I spend my money in my neighbourhood. I found a dentist I can walk to. I go to restaurants nearby. I see a massage therapist just down the street. I go to a gym a few blocks away or ride my bike to one that’s a bit farther (thus taking care of my cardio.) I actually feel annoyed when I see a gym parking lot full of cars. Like, WTH?

8. I worry less. I don’t have to worry about the car breaking down. How will I pay for repairs? What if I need a tow? How will I get to work?

9. I feel in charge. I’m in charge of the stuff that comes into my house and the stuff that goes out. I don’t get that horrid overwhelmed feeling when I go into my basement and see piles of stuff I haven’t used in months or years.

10. I work less. I have one bathroom to clean. You heard me right. I have one bathroom. It takes me 10 minutes to clean it. So far, so good, but if we ever get food poisoning all at once things could get interesting. If that happens, I will just have to count on the kindness of neighbours. Nothing builds relationship like having someone throw up in your toilet.

11. I travel more. Less impulse buying and not owning a car means I have more money. I actually get by on a part-time income though it isn’t easy. The money I don’t spend on transportation, heat and power for a big home and impulse shopping, I spend on experiences like concerts and travel.

Well, that’s it. Time to go make dinner and stop by my neighbour’s house with some homemade Indian bean soup. It won’t all fit in my tiny freezer, and anyway, I want to say thanks for giving me a lift to the grocery store.

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