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Minimalism, and happiness

Back in 2004, I hiked most of the Appalachian Trail, which is a 2000 mile hike across the USA from Georgia to Maine. I went ultralight style, which was strongly influenced by Ray Jardine’s book, Beyond Backpacking. It basically meant that I thought extremely critically about every single thing that I put in my backpack because even an ounce or two can make a difference when it adds up to pounds. Even though that hike was over 10 years ago, that kind of thinking still influences me in a lot of ways since I almost always believe that simple is best. The best example I can think of to explain how this idea influences me today is with regards to my house:

There’s almost nothing like a good purge of stuff to make me feel happy. You know those clothes that have been lingering around the house for a year or more, never worn and just cluttering up the closet. Or that old sports gear for hobbies that you don’t do anymore. Or, kitchen appliances that seemed like a good purchase at the time but are just too annoying to take out and clean and actually use. Every few months or so, I purge this stuff, quite ruthlessly. And it makes me happy like almost nothing else does. It’s like I have a fresh start, a new beginning. As my house gets less cluttered, so does my mind, somehow.

Try it out! Here are a few tips I have to purge your house of stuff that you don’t really need.

1. Use the 1 year rule. If you haven’t used something in 1 year, you don’t need it.

2. Find a place to give away stuff, like old clothes and shoes. You’ll feel like you’re actually helping someone, instead of just cluttering up the landfill.

3. Avoid the temptation to shop and buy stuff to replace the stuff that you’ve just gotten rid of. I suggest waiting at least 3 months to see if there’s anything you actually miss from what you let go. There usually won’t be.

4. Get rid of media. Old books, newspapers, magazines, DVD’s. You don’t need this stuff. Sell it on Ebay, or give it to someone who will make good use of it.

5. Check for duplicates. 2 coffee makers hanging around? Get rid of 1. 4 tennis rackets, but only 1 person in your house plays tennis? Get ride of 2. 3 sets of dishes? Get rid of 2. Guests will be surprisingly okay eating off your everyday set, I promise.

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