Stuff. We spend a lot of time worrying about stuff, acquiring stuff, and being unhappy with our current stuff.
I was doing some research on the best ways to be happy with less and looking for out of the box thinking on the subject. I stumbled upon Taoism, which is interesting but might be a little heavy for what I want to accomplish.
Ultimately I want to be happy with less, or put another way, not feel like I need more stuff to be happy. I want to just be content with what I have and appreciate everything in life more.
The Taoist would suggest that wanting nothing means you have everything.
This is ideal, but come on, we are use to a certain way of life and that’s likely not going to change.
Before going into more depth, I want to start by suggesting you have an honest conversation with yourself. In order to be happy with less, it is important to identify which areas of your life are causing you to feel unfulfilled.
It could be money, as that is the root of most people’s perceived problems, or it could be lack of time due to keeping all your stuff in shape and working properly.
Ask yourself these simple questions:
“What is your least favorite part of the day?”
“If you could snap your fingers and ask for anything, what would it be?”
“What do you secretly want, but are afraid of committing to?”
These questions will show you which stuff you can start to get rid of and which stuff you should keep.
You could of course sell all your belongings and commit to the Toaist way of life.
Or you can start with these simple, yet creative, ways that I brainstormed to allow myself to be happier with less.
1. Understand what in your budget isn’t absolutely essential
This seems pretty obvious.
But when was the last time you sat down, listed out all your bills, looked at where your extra money goes each month, and thought…wow I am doing great with budgeting my money.
Likely the answer is not in recent memory.
I would encourage you to sit down with a pad and pen and jot down everything you spent money on in the last 3 months.
Cross off anything that isn’t making you happy.
For me, it was cable. Of course cable is one of the easier things to cross off a list because it’s not required for happiness.
I shed $80 a month on my budget and now read and write more (which makes me happy).
2. Commit to a workout program that doesn’t require a gym membership
For the longest time I had a gym membership. I trained myself to get in the car and drive to the gym. I had a habit of when I left the house with workout clothes on, I was going to get a workout in.
But what did I do when I got to the gym?
I usually warmed up with push ups, pull ups, and light squats.
Then I would run on the treadmill for 15 minutes (they have TV’s which makes tip number 1 easier).
Then I would do some light dumbbell work.
But I don’t NEED a gym for all of that
I realized that what made me happy was just getting in a little cardio every day.
I asked some friends what they did for workouts and decided to switch up my habit.
Instead, I take a job outside when the weather is nice. I will still do my push ups and squats, but now I do them after my run (which is a great challenge).
I save money on not having a gym membership, I save time by not driving to the gym, I am able to get a workout done faster and have seen a lot of cool trails along the way.
An app like MapMyRun is create for keeping you motivated to keep running as it tracks your overall miles.
3. Do you need a car?
This is probably the toughest idea I came up with.
To be 100% honest with you, I didn’t sell my car. But I will explain my thinking here shortly.
We all think we need one.
But I was shocked when I sat down and started calculating how much my car actually cost me.
First off, I am lucky, I haven’t bought a new car since right out of high school so mine is paid off.
But that doesn’t mean it’s free.
I looked at insurance, parking fees, gas and regular maintenance on it and was surprise that it averages around $100 a month.
This might not seem like a whole lot of money (because it really isn’t).
But money isn’t really what makes me unhappy about my car situation.
I live in a bigger city with a lot of traffic.
One of my least favorite things is sitting in traffic (the car is a manual) and then trying to find parking downtown.
Once my lease is up on my apartment, I will be moving closer to downtown. I am considering ditching the car.
Here’s why I will be happier without a car.
I will purchase a bike, which gives me exercise, is way easier to park, and allows me to go places traffic normally makes me avoid (like across bridges).
I will start taking the Metro bus to places outside of downtown.
This will give me more time to read, write, listen to podcasts, and not be worried about getting over for me exit.
I will be happier to just sit, think, be creative, and enjoy the scenery.
With the extra money I save from not having a car (some, if not all, will go to Metro bus fares), but that is okay. Well worth it in my opinion.
4. You only have 2 legs, but you own 15 pairs of pants?
I have a friend who does really well with his budgeting. I asked him what he would suggest as a quick win for keeping my budget where I want it.
He asked if I buy new clothes often.
I said, I guess somewhat often.
He said that he doesn’t buy clothes unless he needs them for work. I thought that was interesting so I did some exploring.
I own 13 pairs of pants. Those include:
– 5 pairs of jeans
– 3 work pants
– 5 pairs of sweats/active wear type pants.
I have owned all of these for years, but they aren’t really necessary and some of them are rather worn and old.
I next looked at my shirts. The story was even worse.
I had shirts I hadn’t worn in YEARS and some that were too small.
Here is how to fix that and be happy with less clothes
I went through my closet.
Anything that was too small, I hadn’t worn this year, or that I had owned for more than 5 years (which I didn’t like anymore). I put in a box.
I taped up the box and put it in storage.
My plan is this…
If I don’t think to myself, “dang I wish I had those jeans or that shirt” within the next couple of weeks. I am going to donate the entire box.
The best part of this exercise, is the amount of closet space I have
It honestly makes picking what you are going to wear for the day much easier.
It forces me to do laundry more often, which is a good thing and it makes me feel happier seeing clutter leave my life.
Whenever I do buy clothes, it forces me to think more about it.
I don’t want to add something to the closet, only to end up boxing it up later.
My buying now has a repercussion.
If you want to go hardcore with this method, there is something called the 30 item challenge, which you can read about here.
5. Get creative with your gift giving.
I love my family.
I also love spoiling my friends and family.
I love seeing them get a gift from me that they have always wanted.
But that comes with a cost.
It seems like every month someone in the family or my friends has a birthday, anniversary, wedding, or a holiday that requires a gift.
When I have the money, I don’t mind spending it on them at all.
But I realized something.
What makes me happy is giving them something that I know they want and that they will appreciate.
The money comes second and if they only cared about the monetary value, then I need new friends (guess I am stuck with my family).
So here are two super simple steps I took to save a few bucks on gifts.
- Buy blank cards at a stationary store
- If a gift is novel and on sale, buy a couple of them
I use to not send a card with my gifts. But a personalized card is something I enjoy getting so I figured I better start sending them as well. Instead of paying $7.99 per card, I bought a box of 50 for $3.99 at a store when they were on sale.
A lot of my family members root for one sport team.
I am not saying buy them all the same shirt. But when the season is over, grab a few items, as they are usually on sale. You now have a go to gift for someone.
This frees up your mind space and worry about getting a gift. If you find a better gift later, that’s fine, you can always give it to them randomly.
People love getting random gifts.
The last small tip I have is give the gift of time.
Plan a weekend, a day, or a lunch that is something the other person has never done.
Take them on a hike, take them paddle boarding, drive them to the coast. Gifts that include a memory are well worth it for both parties.
What did you get for your birthday last year?
Now, what was your favorite vacation spot last year?
You will notice that some of these tips involve money.
But most of them involve time and clearing the clutter from our lives.
Our brain is an amazing machine.
Although we don’t consciously recognize what is processes every second of the day, it is always watching and listening.
That cluttered mess of papers, that unorganized closet, or that messy kitchen.
It wears on you.
Your brain thinks, I have all this stuff, but I am not happy.
You need to feed your brain the chemicals it needs to be happy.
So how do you feed it those chemicals?
Find little wins that declutter your life.
Try throwing away something that has been sitting around forever that you don’t use.
Give a gift to someone of something you don’t use.
They say you can’t miss what you never had.
I would say, you won’t miss what you don’t need.
Get rid of stuff, free up more time, and you will find that you will be happier with less.
If you enjoyed this post, I would love to hear what you have done to be happier with less.
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About The Author – Alex
I am on a journey of personal growth. I love learning about investing strategies and ways to actively improve my life. Follow along and connect with me if you are looking for a path to financial freedom and becoming the best version of yourself.