Treasure Your Personal and Global Space

Have you ever thought about ways to lived a more minimalistic lifestyle?  What is minimalism and is it for you?  Does it mean extreme life changes? This blog might shed some light on being mindful about treasuring your own personal spaces and our stewardship of the global space around us. 

Making sense of STUFF

We all have stuff.  We need stuff to survive, we have stuff to make our survival more comfortable, and we have stuff because well, we have stuff.  We have things for basic survival (food, clothing, shelter, hygiene products, etc.).  We have things that make us smile, are crucial for our hobbies, decorate our rooms, facilitate our work and chores.  Then there are those things that add to the noise and havoc in our surroundings.   I know that you are probably thinking that tax documents definitely contribute to the unpleasant chaos in your life.  I would love to advocate their total destruction, but that would be financially unwise and an audit is definitely an unwanted nightmare. 

All the rest are the things that we need to ask ourselves (and those who share our space) do we really derive use, love, want, inspiration or benefit in some way.  In fact, these are the things that when we are on the verge of making purchases, we should ask ourselves the following: 

  • Is it truly needed? 
  • Will it be used and how often? 
  • Could I borrow or rent this instead if it will only be used once or twice?
  • Is it something that will elicit happiness, creativity, satisfaction in someway that justifies the purchase?
  • Is there room to store it?
  • Would I be willing to get rid of something that I currently have to make room for this?
  • Would I want to pay a mover to move it?

Think of these questions as your needs assessment.  For example, we need clothing, but how much?  Does that shirt flatter you?  Is that skirt out of style?  Do those pants still fit?  We might need a car to get to work, to buy groceries, zip off to our workout, but is the extra car needed?  If you live in a place that mass transit is not readily available, and your household has multiple drivers, the answer is likely "yes, it is needed." Then of course it is okay to keep it if you can afford to do so.  Being mindful about what you really need and reducing intake will in turn minimize outflow into the waste stream.  This is a crucial step in being kinder to our personal and subsequently global space.

What is the Minimalism Movement?

The minimalism train has rolled into Portland and lots of folks are clamoring aboard.  A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to see the movie, "The Minimalists." This documentary recounts the journey of friends Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus as they discovered that their coveted "living the dream lifestyle" did not bring either of them their much anticipated happiness.  Working endless hours to afford bigger and better stuff rendered both stressed, debt-laden, anxious, guilty, burdened, and depressed.  They came to the conclusion that change was necessary.   The change involved down-sizing stuff.

Ascertaining More from Less

Joshua and Ryan define minimalism as "a tool to assist in finding freedom."  As in art and music, minimalism is typically defined as stripped down to the essentials.   They acknowledge that living the minimalistic life means different things to different people.  "Pursue a career, a house, a car, etc. as long as it allows you to focus on what will make you happy and purpose-driven".  With that in mind, the men claim that minimalism has helped them make decisions "more consciously and deliberately" about what is truly important.  They embrace their remodeled simpler, carefree lives.  They are free to experience their dreams.

Joshua Becker captivates an audience at the Lucky Labrador in Portland, Oregon as he shares his family's journey into the world of Minimalism.

Joshua Becker captivates an audience at the Lucky Labrador in Portland, Oregon as he shares his family's journey into the world of Minimalism.

In late June, I attended a minimalism discussion by Joshua Becker.  Joshua and his family briefly appeared in "The Minimalists" sharing their impetus for opting out of the consumer-driven grind and plunging into the pool of less is more.  In fact, Joshua was in town to promote his new book, "The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own."  Much like Millburn and Nicodemus, the Beckers have realized that a less cluttered life in all respects has granted them the freedom to live a more abundant, intentional life in so many other ways.  Joshua is so intent on the benefits of spreading his minimalism philosophy that his public speaking engagements are free, asking only that his costs be covered, if incurred.

Minimizing can also apply to the use of water, electricity, natural gas, and chemicals.  Using less means saving you more money especially when it comes to lowered utility bills.  The same goes for curtailing trash generation since communities often give reductions for smaller waste disposal bins.  These are examples of some benefits to you which then yield a positive impact on the environment via less pollution and resource consumption.

More than a Library

Before making unnecessary purchases, check if there are organizations in your town that offer household/tool/equipment/toy libraries.  Sites in East Portland, North Portland, Northeast Portland, and Southeast Portland and Hillsboro, OR offer community resources for borrowing tools for residents in those locations.  Kitchen Share Northeast and Southeast are available to residents in those areas of Portland offering kitchen tools and appliances for loaning and skill sharing. 

Looking to enhance your child's educational development? High quality toys and equipment are available for borrowing at PDX Toy Library in SE Portland. 

Why buy something that might only be used once or twice when you can borrow it for free and banish it from your space when done?

Swaps, Repairs, Time Banks and Other Community Resources

Renting or even swapping are other options.  Swap Positive in the Portland metro area provides venues for finding a new life for the goods you no longer need.  Playgroups, book clubs, hobby and craft clubs, and neighborhood gatherings are ideal venues to organize trades.  Need to find others who are interested in exchanges or hobbies?  Consider Rooster.  Rooster is a pay-it-forward online community of neighborhood members that reach out to each others for services, items, companionship, etc.

Repair exchanges are on the rise.  Dedicated volunteers give their time and talents to fixing broken items.  If you are in the Portland metro area, Repairpdx is one such organization that sponsors Repair Cafes.  Often food and drinks are available to encourage mingling while experts fix and instruct on how to make the necessary repairs.

Time banks such as PDX Time Bank is a membership community designed to share services in exchange for time dollars that can be used to purchase other services.

There are other organizations in the Portland metro area that offer a variety of bartering and donation services so be sure to search online since this is not all-inclusive.  If you live elsewhere, similar options may exist near you.  If not, consider starting one of your own and who knows what that might blossom into.

No Longer Your Treasure?  Make it Someone Else's

Choose to donate.  Your donations might: enable a teen to attend a prom dressed in stunning attire; professionally outfit a job-seeker for an upcoming job interview;  provide linens for a family's warm, comfortable sleep; spur a fantasy adventure for a child who is then inspired to read or create art; or the fix-ins for an elderly couple's next meal.  Construction and home improvement materials donated to charities such as Habitat Restore help to build and repair homes.  Your donations do make a difference.  Believe it or not, there are organizations such as Goodwill that will take tattered, stained, ripped and otherwise unusable apparel to pass along as textiles to be used again.  Check with them first before you head over there to ensure worn out items are still accepted.  Keep the cycle going.

Sell some of your non-essentials at a garage sale, Amazon, Etsy, Ebay, etc. then you will have a few extra dollars for some memorable experiences such as a night at the movies, a delicious treat, a special outing with a loved one or better yet a monetary charitable donation. 

Creativity is the Mother and Father of Invention

Find new uses for something that has been collecting dust.  An old basket can become storage for children's school papers and projects. Unused fabric might be used for an apron, covering for cushions, an artist smock, child's costume, etc.  Send along some old cutlery and dishes with your child as they depart for college.   A food carousel makes an excellent storage device for hobbies.  As you clear out your virtual spaces (and real ones too), avoiding the waste stream is paramount if possible because even recycling requires energy consumption and often pollution.

Despite the downside of recycling that I mentioned above, recycling is preferable to trashing for sure.  Purchase post-consumer recycled products where available.  Dispose of recyclable waste into the appropriate recycling bin.  Be sure to check your hauler's instructions as to what is accepted.  Contaminated loads can be rejected at the recycling facility and/or end up driving up the costs of disposal.  The recyclers can only sell what the markets demand.  If we pass along non-recyclables, it drives up their disposal costs which in turn are passed back to us.  In my area, while #1 PET and #2 HDPE plastics are collected, only specific #1s and #2s are acceptable.  Paper might be recyclable, but wrapping paper or other decorative papers often are not.  So be sure that you heed your hauler's or facility's requirements.  

The Last Resort

Lastly, when all else fails, there is the trash can.  Amazingly there is a couple in the Portland, Oregon area who generate one 35 gallon trash can per year or as one article claims one can in 16 months.  Twenty some years ago when Betty and John Shelly were pondering where "away" is when something is tossed away, they took the first step to reduce consumption which of course renders less waste.  They make purchases from the grocery's bulk bins, avoid disposable packaging as much as possible, compost, donate, repurpose, and recycle.  They reduced their garbage bill by approximately $400 a year by eschewing curbside service.  To learn more about how to reduce your waste visit the Shelly's website at

A New Reality

Start small if need be so you don't become overwhelmed.  Set up a staging area if you can to conveniently store boxes from whatever space you are currently tackling as you make your way through the culling.  Pick somewhere that you won't be tripping over bags and boxes if you do not finish in one day.  If you have ever moved, you have likely gone through this before and realized there was stuff that was not worth paying the movers to move.  Remember to include any off-site storage in this process.  Clear out that storage facility and start planning how to use that extra money each month.

When weight watching, you know that feeling of success when seeing the pounds drop off the scale.  I hope you experience the same elation as you shed the excess weight in your surroundings.  Fortunately cutting back on the intake of stuff is often simpler and less terrifying than cutting out food.  Is Minimalism for you?  It is probably not for everyone yet see if there is an idea or money saver that you find palatable for your lifestyle.  

The boxes have been carted off,  your home isn't bursting at the seams with the stuff you have intentionally decided you can live without, sit back, relax and enjoy the freshness and freedom of cleared, welcoming, unencumbered spaces.  And remember if you need a hand in rediscovering your spaces, feel free to contact The Practical Sort.  We will get you sorted.