Articles and advice about downsizing abound. Becoming a minimalist, reducing clutter, seeking simplicity all are aimed at attracting interest in what is fast becoming a lifestyle. It’s very engaging, and some would insist necessary, particularly when certain details and difficulties resonate personally. Rather unsettling is how as a society we moved from where we were 50 years ago to where we are now.

Murphy’s Law or maybe some wise Grandma once said and it’s proven true; the more space people have, the more they fill. The same can be said of money. An individual or family gets along comfortably on a certain amount of income, later receiving a raise. Within weeks, that added money is absorbed by spending choices, leaving incredulous persons to wonder, “how did we manage before the raise?” Maybe it’s part of the human condition, this feeling of always wanting more.

While one group is busy downsizing, another group is spending hard-earned money each month renting storage units. Not because of a temporary situation like moving, but because of owning too much stuff that doesn’t fit into their apartment, condo, or house. Storing seems simpler than sorting to alleviate the situation. Basic consumer economics indicates the importance of making certain one’s possessions fit into one’s living space. If they don’t, it’s beneficial to reduce belongings rather than pay to put them somewhere.

Back in the day, families were larger in number, houses were smaller, storage units had not been invented, and people didn’t need to downsize possessions. Bedrooms, bathrooms, closets, televisions, radios, and a whole lot more were shared. Individual ownership, particularly for children, was not a typical option. When something broke, it was repaired, not thrown away. Recycling wasn’t talked about, it was lived. Instant gratification was not an issue. People planned, scrimped, saved, and then bought. They didn’t buy first and then wonder how they’d pay for it.

On a personal note, I remember wanting a certain skirt from downtown Bergner’s. My parents could have afforded to purchase it for me, but my mother wanted me to learn financial responsibility. She introduced me to layaway requiring a dollar deposit from my allowance. Eight weekly payments later that skirt was mine. It was worth every smaller pleasure I gave up to buy it, with the lesson never forgotten.

We have become a society of consumers. Today with a credit card and a few clicks at online sites, hundreds of dollars are spent in seconds on clothing or collectibles. The tendency is to buy wants with little regard to needs or ability to pay. Such spending depletes our resources and time. Often those impulsive purchases are used or worn just once or never.

Joshua Becker, author and blogger, believes fervently that “Society says you need lots of stuff to be happy. They are wrong,” and adds, “Minimalism for me is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it.”

We can learn to want less and cherish more fully what we have.

“Simplicity is not about deprivation,” Becker insists.  “It’s about greater appreciation of things that really matter.”

The choices are individual, and learning to choose with intention results in fewer possessions and greater satisfaction and serenity for living the life we desire.

Sandra Dempsey Post

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