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  • Abby

11 Habits that Allow Me to Own Less Stuff

As I mentioned in last week’s blog post, I’ve been decluttering. I’m hoping to do one last big declutter before I move in a couple of months, and from there, I’m aiming to living a fairly minimalist lifestyle.

Throughout this process, my naturally introspective self has noticed that I’ve already honed quite a few habits that allow me to minimize the amount of stuff I own.

Here they are:

1. Do laundry weekly

During my childhood, my laundry wasn’t washed very often, and I wasn’t allowed to do it myself. This meant that to have enough clean clothes to last until the laundry was done, I needed to own quite a few weeks worth of clothes.

It took me quite a while to realize that this was a large part of why I owned so many clothes. I thought it was normal and necessary to own enough clothes to last you several months without doing laundry. Turns out, that’s totally unneeded.

My fiance and I now wash our clothes weekly. This means that I return to a full wardrobe every 7 days, so I only need 7 days worth of clothes. Granted, I’m not quite that minimal and own a bit more than that, but I would start running out of clothes in 10 days to 2 weeks.

This small amount of clothes is much more manageable than the literal heaps that I used to have, and it’s still plenty for me since I wash them often.

2. Do the dishes every other day

I’ll keep this brief because the idea is the same as #1. By regularly doing the dishes, my fiance and I assure that we always have clean dishes to cook with and eat off of. We have to own way fewer plates if they’re being washed regularly.

3. Clean out the fridge weekly

This is a newer habit of mine, but it has served me well. Every Friday, I do a very quick sweep through the fridge to see what’s in there. I pull out anything that is looking a little sad, shuffle things to the front that haven’t been used lately, and make a mental note of anything that should be used up soon.

This takes only a few minutes to do, but it is so helpful when it comes to using up all of our food, buying only what we need, and not letting things go to waste.

It’s so easy to let food expire in the back of the fridge or go out for dinner when there’s some yummy leftovers that you forgot about. By keeping track of what food we have, we waste less, buy less, and eat better.

4. Planning meals ahead of time

I mentioned in a recent blog post that, though meal prepping doesn’t work for me, a bit of planning is a huge help. At the beginning of the month, my fiance and I brainstorm a handful of meals that we’d like to make in the coming weeks. Then, before a trip to the grocery store, we choose two or three that we’d like to make and buy the ingredients for them.

This helps us to eat healthier, make sure we have the ingredients we need for the meals we want, and prevents us from buying random extra stuff that we have no use for. It only takes a few minutes each month, but it helps us eat a wider variety of food while giving us plenty of flexibility in our meals.

5. No unitaskers!

If you’ve ever watched Good Eats, you’ll know what I’m talking about. A unitasker is any item that only serves one very specific function. They often come in the form of “helpful” gadgets, especially for the kitchen.

First of all, most of these gadgets are truly terrible at their supposed function, and second of all, all of those functions can be performed by regular, non-unitasker items that you already have. Usually that item is a knife or scissors.

When you’re tempted to buy something they because you think it will help you accomplish a task, ask yourself how much time you’d supposedly be saving by having this item and how many tasks this item is capable of doing. If the answers are “maybe a few minutes” and “only one,” don’t buy the thing.

6. Having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card!

I’m a huge advocate for the library. As you likely know, I’m a big reader. I read 30 books in 2019, and I’m aiming for 52 in 2020. If I were to buy and own all of those books, it would cost a lot of money and take up a lot of space. Though I love books, owning them doesn’t bring me joy.

I wouldn’t be able to read this much without a library. Plus, library cards are freeeeee!

On top of all of that literary goodness, many libraries let you borrow things like board games and museum passes. Some even have makerspaces, 3D printers, trivia nights, and all kinds of other interesting things to explore. Did I mention that it’s free?

7. REFUSE, reduce, reuse, recycle

Nowadays, so many organizations and events like to give stuff away. Go to any convention, sporting event, or concert, and you’ll probably be offered t-shirts, koozies, lanyards, shot glasses, pens, stickers, bags, water bottles, and notebooks. I can easily tell you exactly how many times that I have actually needed, used, and liked one of these cheap trinkets: none.

The first step in reducing waste is to refuse. Refuse to take papers that you don’t need. Refuse t-shirts when you already have dozens at home. You don’t need more pens, either. You are allowed to say “no” to all of this stuff. It’s better for the environment if you don’t take it, and it significantly reduces the amount of pointless clutter in your home.

8. Store items digitally when possible

Gone are the days of post-it notes, photo albums, bills, notebooks full of phone numbers and addresses, paper to-do lists and physical planners (though admittedly I did just buy a new paper planner).

All of these things can be stored digitally, leaving you with way fewer pieces of paper to keep track of.

Now, I’m not saying that you can’t have any photo albums if you truly enjoy the medium and want to keep a couple around that you look through on occasion, but there’s no need to keep physical copies of all of your photos. The same goes for my paper planner.

It’s up to each of us to determine where to make exceptions. If you think better on paper, have a few notebooks handy. But ask yourself which of these items can be digitized easily.

For instance, I have dozens of notes in my Google Keep (think post-its but digital), and there’s no way I’d ever be able to make use of that many physical pieces of paper. The same goes for my to-do list. Todoist is my current method of keeping track of what I needed to do, and it’s much easier to use than a list on paper.

9. Only buy things that you love

Tell me if this sounds familiar: you need a new item of clothing. Maybe it’s a white button down, maybe it’s a winter coat, whatever. You’re on the search for a new one. Over the course of of few months, you buy two or three that a decent, but don’t find any that you really love. Then, you find the perfect shirt.

Suddenly, you have several similar items, but because you only really love the last one you bought, the initial mediocre versions never get worn. They become clutter.

I avoid this issue by waiting until I find an item that I truly love. Unless you’re really desperate (i.e. starting a new job tomorrow and really need something to wear), shop around until you find something that you love. You’ll know it when you see it.

10. Ignore sales

If you grew up in a household that lived for a good deal, this one can be hard to get used to, but it’s a valuable lesson to learn.

If something that is usually $50 is on sale for $30 and you buy it, if you weren’t already planning to buy that thing, you didn’t save $20, you spent $30. It does not matter how good of a deal something is if you weren’t already going to buy it!

This is all just a marketing tactic. Companies want you to think that a deal is too good to pass up so that you’ll buy it whether you needed it or not.

This isn’t to say that you should never buy something during a sale. If you already needed the item, buying it on sale is great! But if you didn’t already need it, buying it just because it was on sale only creates more clutter.

11. Don’t buy souvenirs

I know that in the moment, souvenirs can seem like a great way to remember a fun vacation or memory, but in the end, they just become clutter. And not only are they clutter, they’re sentimental clutter, which makes them way more difficult to get rid of.

Rather than buying trinkets as a memento of a good time, take photos instead. Or, even better, just immerse yourself in the experience, stay present, and enjoy it fully.

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