Happier Without

happier withoutThe consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things. -Elise Boulding

What a wonderful quote, and so true! We’re constantly bombarded with the message to buy, buy, and buy some more—it’s hardly ever suggested that we might find greater satisfaction in not owning something. Yes, you read it here, week in and week out; but I’m just one tiny voice questioning the status quo—hardly a match for the marketers and advertisers that command so much of our visual and auditory attention.

So after three years of blogging, I’ve been inspired to look back and celebrate the things I’ve learned I’d rather not have. I’ve included links, and hope you enjoy my walk down memory lane. Better yet, I’d love it if each of you would share one post (or more!) with someone else via email, Twitter, or Facebook.

My website stats say I had 93,971 unique visitors last month (!)—imagine if all 93K+ of you passed on the minimalist message to someone else? We might actually create a ripple effect to drown out some of the more-is-more rhetoric, and introduce a greater audience to “the happiness of not having things.”

So here they are: 15 Things I’m Happier Without (and you might be, too!)

1. Television. In Life Without a TV, I wrote about how my husband and I gave up our television when we moved overseas in 2009. See my No TV Update: Three Years and Counting to learn how we feel about pulling the plug.

2. Couch. During our time in England, we lived without a couch—for seating, we used two Ikea Poang chairs instead. Although we’ve now been reunited with our sofa-in-storage (and need the seating for frequent guests), I’d still prefer to do without.

3. Desk. Last year, I shared a photo of My Minimalist Workspace: a windowsill and floor cushion. From the time I was a child, I’ve never really been comfortable at a desk. I wrote my book, The Joy of Less, on the floor. :)

4. Bed frame. In My Tiny Apartment Tour, I gave readers a sneak peek into My Minimalist Bedroom. A mattress on the floor is my idea of a serene oasis!

5. Other furniture. While I thought we lived with The Bare Essentials in England, we downsized to just a coffee table and mattress in our Empty, White, and Beautiful summer sublet. If you want some instant decluttering gratification, I recommend ditching a piece or two of furniture—here are 15 Pieces of Furniture You May Not Really Need.

6. Curtains. Ah, how I love Naked Windows! Our current house has translucent fabric shades on the street side, but the back-facing windows are bare as can be.

7. Collectibles. In my post On Not Collecting, I wrote about dissolving a cocktail shaker collection, piece by piece, on eBay—and how I never again wanted to own 10, 20, or 30 of something. This holds particularly true for any kind of valuables; I’d much rather have Nothing to Steal.

8. Books. Physical books, that is. When I moved abroad and became separated from my favorite tomes (which were too heavy and expensive to ship), I became a huge fan of ebooks. I dream of someday having a completely digital library.

9. Hobby supplies. I’d rather not have a closetful of craft supplies, or garageful of hobby and/or sports equipment. Therefore, I try to focus on Minimalist Hobbies—leisure and creative pursuits that don’t involve the acquisition or storage of a lot of stuff.

10. Specialty kitchenware. I’ve pared my kitchen essentials down to a few versatile pieces (What’s in a Minimalist Kitchen?)—just enough to cook and eat our favorite foods, without relying on restaurants or takeout.

11. Heirlooms. I suspect I’m not the only one who could do without a relative’s “treasures.” See The Top Ten Ways to Declutter Heirlooms to learn how you can gracefully part ways with grandma’s china.

12. Large wardrobe. I began my minimalist journey with two closets full of clothing, and eventually pared down to a suitcase. Last year, I shared with you my 10-Item Wardrobe—the pieces that get me through the majority of my daily activities, in every season.

13. Mail. Stopping the postal deluge gives me far less paperwork to deal with; here’s my advice on creating a Minimalist Mailbox.

14. Perfume. When I learned about the health risks of perfume (and the environmental impacts of its production and distribution), I went fragrance-free. Perfume is One Less Thing I need in my life.

15. Gifts. I’m blessed with everything I need, and prefer my friends’ and family’s presence over presents. If you feel the same—and dread accumulating more stuff over the holidays—you may enjoy my Gift Avoidance Guide.

Again, I’d be delighted if you’d share a post or two with friends and family. I think the idea of minimalist living is just beginning to gain momentum, and would love to introduce some more people to the lifestyle.

So tell us in the Comments–what are you happier without? Or here’s an interesting question: what was the first thing you realized you were happier without, that started you down a minimalist path?

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

Related posts:

  1. Housing Crisis
  2. A Kinder, Gentler Minimalism
  3. On Not Collecting

102 comments to Happier Without

  • One thing that I am happier without: Facebook. Account closed (not deactivated). Also, like many other facets of our life, I’ve been happier with less items in our kitchen. I’ve always had a smaller number than noted in the homes of friends/family. However, took it a step further to address items that can dual purpose, one set of dishes/one glass per family member, along with also ridding myself of accessory appliances that are rarely used (including a mixer).

  • Louann

    We have been decluttering for almost two years now, and the things I am most happy to have eliminated are:

    - nick nacks and ornaments
    - television
    - CDs and photos – now all digitalised
    - wardrobe: downsized immensely

    So liberating!

  • Rachel

    I am not a minimalist, but enjoy reading this blog and feeling inspired. Currently I have my wedding china weighing on my heart/mind. I would like to sell it but for guilt reasons (so and so gave us this piece, it cost so much money for so and so, it’s from our WEDDING!) I haven’t been able to part with it. Any words of encouragement? :)

    • Dimond

      Rachel, normally I would say just give it away or sell it, but maybe you’d consider using it as your everyday set (assuming you don’t). This way you can enjoy it & appreciate it for awhile & can always get rid of it in the future. So many times we save certain items for special occasions when they can be used all the time. You can also slowly get rid of some of it if it’s too big for your needs. Maybe find other family members or friends that would appreciate some of the pieces as well. You can always justify selling it if you can use the money for something better. This is still using the gift you were given, but in a different way. Just some ideas! :)

    • romney

      Another vote for just using the damn stuff. What are you saving it for? Its intended to be used. I discarded the silly pieces I would never use (coffee pots, tiny tea cups, giant meat dishes) and the rest is my everyday set now. Its more enjoyable to use the good stuff all the time, and saves space storing stuff we hardly ever used. I’ve given up on the concept of anything being only “for best”. Why should I be using the second-best when I have some really nice stuff hidden away in a cupboard?

  • Gail

    I was reading your ebook b4 popping over to your blog. Your book advocates several reasons to buy using cash. Another reason I use cash is that my purchase cannot not be tracked so marketers cannot send me ads tailored to my tasted based on past purchases.

  • Sarah

    I am so so happy not to have children. Life is so much simpler and sweeter :)

  • Andreanna

    But was that your CHOICE, Sarah? I would love a child, but I am unable to conceive and we cannot afford IVF :-(

    • Sarah

      Yes Andreanna, it was indeed my choice. I completely understand that some people want children and I’m very sorry for your struggles with conceiving. It’s just not for me.

  • Philippa

    Definitely happier without lifestyle magazines, particular ones aimed at women. I remember reading ‘The Beauty Myth’ years ago and it felt like waking up. Once I severed my awareness of all those transient trends, looks, products, gunks, things to spend money on I was much happier, and had more time and money. These days I am happier without a car. I had one as a teenager, and I hope never to have to have one again. We are lucky to live somewhere with excellent public transport, so I don’t have to face all the admin and repairs that come with a car again. I’m pregnant with our second child and hope that, like several of our friends, even with two children we are able to continue to walk and get the bus and train instead of buying a car.

  • Philippa

    Sorry Andreanna, my comment was pretty insensitive under what you’d written, I didn’t realise. I’m sorry for your situation – it must be very hard.

  • Dimond

    -I’m happier without:
    -Having pots & pans & many other things associated with cooking food since I eat a raw vegan diet. I have much less kitchen items than most for that reason & because I don’t need much. Many raw foodists take out their stove & use that space for other purposes such as extra counter space or a dehydrator.
    -Doctors & Medicine: The main reason for my diet is my health, yet it also saves a lot of wasted time & energy & rarely are you better off with medical care even if you think you are.
    -Shampoo: I usually wash my hair with conditioner (aka co-washing). Another idea can be for body & hair cleanser to be the same product (also shaving if you still do it). Using natural personal care products, many items are multi-purpose. You can get a moisturizer that can be used for your hair as well. Or a multi-purpose hair product that conditions, adds moisture & hold.
    -I’m not a fan of nick nacks & other useless things in my home. I like a sparse home, with little furniture, the walls decorated & maybe a few other things around to create a nice atmosphere. Yet with plenty of space to not to bump into things and to be able to dance in every room. ;)
    -Smaller Wardrobe: I keep downsizing which is much better than trying to create the never-ending one that women are taught to have. I’m trying to eventually create a more versatile one that is still interesting for me. Panty hose & dress shoes-I barely had a reason for these especially since I can’t fit into dress shoes properly.
    -Multiple Home Cleansers (esp the toxic ones): I usually make my own with white vinegar & other ingredients.
    -Wearing nail polish/getting nails done. The polish look nice, but I no longer can justify the maintenance for something that lasts for only a few days, if that. I may try some of the natural ones in the future or just stick with keeping them bare.
    -Less Pens & other similar supplies (unless it’s used quickly)
    -Very Little Mementos: I keep very little unless it’s extremely important to have in my current life.
    -Car Maintenance/Gas: working from home helps, plus I just enjoy being home more than being out (other than when I’m taking walks).
    -Words: I often use a lot of abbreviated sentences leaving out things like the. This post is actually a bit more words than normal.

    There’s plenty of other things I’ve never had that others do because they’re not necessary. I have very little compared to most people. Luckily I don’t have much of an attachment to things.

  • MJ

    This is just the confirmation that I needed/wanted. We are getting down to the short strokes of our belongings and a wee bit of doubt was creeping in that perhaps we’d gone too far. No, not at all, in fact, according to your list there’s still room for improvement. I am loving the space we’ve created, the emptiness. Such a milestone to embrace the emptiness, finally.

  • I agree with regard to Facebook. Why I ever wasted time on that is beyond me, and I don’t think a member of my family has a ‘page’ anymore.

    I have to say…..Sarah’s comment about kids was in poor taste. I feel compelled to point out that you may not know how sweet it can be to have children if you haven’t had them. You’ve got me on the simple side, though. No doubt about it. But goodness….I can’t think of anything sweeter than a child. They’re worth every complication imaginable.

    • scc101

      As a childfree woman in her mid-thirties, I’m glad that Sarah posted about her decision not to have children and that she affirmed it as a positive in her life. It’s refreshing to have someone like me represented. The childfree are so often told that we don’t know what we’re missing or we’ll change our minds or something else a bit condescending.

      This isn’t to minimize the very real pain of someone who has trouble conceiving. But I’d like to think we can each speak positively about our own lives without having it judged or invalidated.

      • Ellen

        Brava! I echo the “no children” comments.

        I am also someone who has elected to remain childless.

        You cannot “return” a child, like something you bought at the drugstore, should you decide “Oops, bad idea”!

        I’ve never understood the casualness with which some people enter into matrimony and electing to raise a child/children.

        “Know thyself.”

        Please, let’s NOT be afraid to be truthful, people!

      • romney

        Have to agree on the clutter front at least. My boy is a clutter magnet! Between all the stuff he accumulates and leaving it strewn across the floors and all the work of having an extra person in the house…well, it sure makes it harder to be a minimalist. As with any household task, its much easier if you don’t have to work around other people, be they children, housemates or a herd of cats!

    • SS

      Mrs. P,
      Those of us who have chosen not to have children are not saying that having a child is not the sweetest experience for you or others who love being parents. For some however, the sweetest joy comes from loving spouses and extended family, volunteering and donating to those in need, and being fulfilled by a career that we enjoy and allows us to have resources to share. Not everyone wants the same things or is fulfilled in the same way. I don’t feel compelled to tell you about what you should want or might be missing, but I do feel compelled to speak up for Sarah who expressed her view about her life, and in fact responded with compassion and sensitivity to Andreanna who has a very different situation than Sarah’s. Sarah did not denigrate her suffering or devalue her for not feeling the same way.

    • Thank you all for your thoughtful comments. I still find Sarah’s comment in poor taste and offensive. I do, however, respect everyone’s choice to decide for him/herself regarding children and admire the courage to make a sometimes unpopular choice if it’s right for you. I don’t believe everyone should have children or that life cannot be sweet without them. And please….be truthful….as you all have. The offensive I take to the comment is merely one woman’s perspective.

      Mrs. P.

      • SS

        Mrs. P,
        Thank you for your open and honest reply. You have every right to feel how you feel and I’m not trying to convince you otherwise. I wish the public in general was more able to openly discuss sensitive opinions as we just have here. There are so many extreme views in the news that it polarizes groups instead of fostering dialogue and cooperation.

        Signed with an olive branch and figurative cup of hot cocoa extended,

        SS

        • Minimalist Housewife

          I would like to add one thing…. I totally respect that having children isn’t for everyone and I think it’s a good thing when people recognize that being a parent isn’t for them. However, children are people, not things, and I find it strange when people include them in their “things”.

        • I happen to love both olive branches and hot chocolate. :)

          I appreciate and love discussions such as these….they’re thought provoking.

          Mrs. P.

    • Mims

      I am not child free by my own choice, in fact my heart is one big,raw, open sore of grief over it. But I do have friends and relatives who are child free by choice and love it. One of my sisters for example has never wanted to have children and has never regretted her decision. That doesn’t mean that she doesn’t love children, she loves her job as a child psychologist and she is the most loving and devoted aunt her niece and nephew could ever have. I also know of people who never should have had the children they do have because they just can’t cope.

      Author Elizabeth Gilbert got a lot of flack a couple of years ago when she said something along the lines of that there are three types of women, women who are born to be mothers, women are born to be aunts and women who shouldn’t be left within ten feet of a child and that your strenght lies in knowing which category you belong to. Personally, I think that she nailed it.

  • runi

    There is a lot of stuff I’m happier without, but having less furniture is on my mind right now because I just finished the “weekly cleaning”. Very little furniture to maintain PLUS when you get ready to clean the floors, it’s a straight shot with the broom (or vacuum or swiffer, whatever you use). Same with mop. Not much to sweep under or go around. Each thing you don’t have is one less thing to worry about.

  • Abby

    I’m happy without a car. I can’t say I’m “happier,” since I’ve never owned one.

    Regarding bed frames, I used to be indifferent to them, but since having a major run in with mould, I am 100% in favour of bed frames. It’s important for air to circulate.

  • Forgot to mention I don’t have any social media accounts and never have. If I ever do it would be used sparingly.

  • Sam

    I’m happier without a big fridge, I have one that fit under the counter.
    I live in a city and don’t need to ‘stock up’.
    When I used to, a lot of it would go bad before I had a chance to use it anyway.

  • Sam

    Oh and I’m happier without facebook too, so much more fun to share your photos with your friends in person!

  • Anna

    Happy to not have children: I know I couldn’t have lived so simply otherwise.

  • Enfants

    All you anti-children posters: imagine if YOUR parents had been minimalists – you may not be here to post nor enjoy your minimalist lives. Just a thought.

    • jo

      You make it sounds like those posters are against children – they just don’t want to produce their own!
      Which is a good thing. Only make a new life if you are prepared to care for it. A child should always be welcome and wanted.

  • nicole 86

    I wish I could live as a nun in an abbey without any belongings except for two gowns, but books for free in the library !

  • [...] inspired by Miss Minimalist’s Happier Without. (I also just stumbled across her post about moving the holidays away from consumerism and gifts.) [...]

  • [...] / Con / Senza Mi ispiro più o meno liberamente a questo post, in cui MissMinimalist elenca una serie di cose la cui eliminazione l’ha resa più felice. [...]

  • Thank you for this. I feel so inspired. I have a history of living with less stuff and being much “happier without” but somehow the stuff found it’s way back in to my life and I am ready to let most of it go again.

  • [...] this week to read a few more posts. Today I was really inspired by Miss Minimalist’s post Happier Without where she lists 15 things she is happier [...]

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