Keep It Simple
Acquiring things is a national pastime. According to Boston College sociologist Juliet B. Schor, the average American consumer bought one new piece of clothing every 5 1∕2 days in 2007. But we don’t just acquire, we amass: The storage industry currently nets more revenue than Hollywood. I used to be part of the club—until I embarked on a year of travel in South America. Planning for the trip forced me to get rid of anything I didn’t love enough to store—and upon my return, my passion for minimalism extended to everything from relationships to diet. In paring down not just belongings but habits and even mental clutter, I feel lighter and clearer about what matters most. These steps can help you get there, too.
Pack light » Shake the contents of your purse out onto a table. Now put back only what you really use. Immediate stress relief will result in the form of easier-to-find keys. Use this principle when you vacation, too—bring the bare minimum and enjoy a light bag and fewer choices about what to wear.
Downsize your social circle » Instead of juggling a million status updates and emails, make a list of two to three people you want to be closer with and invest time in these relationships. Reach out to them often by phone and make regular plans to meet up. A few deeper relationships nourish us more than 500 Facebook friends.
Have some “sole” food » Stay away from processed foods with long lists of ingredients, opting for those that have only one. (Or start with five ingredients, max, and then pare it down gradually.)
Never settle » As you look at your belongings, commit to keeping only the things you truly love. Start with the clothes in your closet: Reverse the direction in which everything is hanging (and so all of it faces the same way) and, after you wear an item, hang it facing the opposite way. After three months, slip what you haven’t worn (based on the direction it’s hanging) into a bag and donate it to charity.
Make your own minimal list » Come up with ways to de-clutter your life in the areas you need it most—e.g., check email once a day, cancel cable, take yourself off mass-email and snail-mailing lists, use distraction-free writing tools like ommwriter.com. The longer your list, the smaller the clutter in your life will become!