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The art of living with less

As we enter a new year, it’s the ideal time to take a step back, and think about what we actually need in our lives, and what brings us happiness. The process of decluttering the home is a great place to start. Creating cleaner, more functional spaces helps focus the mind, and highlights the things that genuinely matter to us and those things we can do without. It can also have a profound impact on our health and wellbeing, and our relationships with friends and family. Or as author Mary Lambert puts it:

“living with less helps you to find your true self underneath the clutter, and follow your heart’s desires, which you may have neglected for a while.”

So if you’re looking to streamline your life, and make space for the things you love, here are our top three tips to get you started. 

1. Recognise the value of things 

Before the days of mass-production and consumption, objects were precious and used for as long as possible, explains Japanese writer, Nagisa Tatsumi, in his book ‘How to Get Rid of Stuff’. It was only once all possible uses for things had been exhausted that they would be discarded. Tatsumi advocates a more positive approach to discarding, with a focus on utility. He writes:
“Things are given life by being used. Keeping something because it would be a waste to get rid of is a kind of torture. Free yourself from the waste argument, and you’ll start to see the value of things.”

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A great way to do this is to make an inventory of the items you own - perhaps starting with a single room or a category such as clothes, books or stationary at first.

Lay out all your belongings in one space, and work out what can be easily discarded, recycled or donated and those items you use often and need to access regularly. By prioritising objects based on usage, you can start to identify things that have a purpose and genuinely add value to your life. 

2. Visualise the space you want to live in

When you imagine entering your home or work space, do you see it as a sanctuary, or a place where you feel calm? If the reality doesn’t quite match up, focus your efforts on the problem areas. Perhaps it’s the pile of shoes by your front door, or maybe your desk is overflowing with books or paperwork. 

Take a box and remove any items that you don’t use at least once a week or once a month. At the end of the month if you still have a pile of things in the box that you haven’t used, start categorising them as follows:

1) give away - either to charity or a friend 

2) put away - these are things you may need access to occasionally but can be stored out of sight for most of the time 

3) take away - items that are no longer usable or broken and can be either fixed, disposed of or recycled

This isn't a one-off process. It's a case of reviewing and streamlining what you have on an on-going basis, so that you can still flow through your home easily, and make space to relax or focus. 

3. Embrace the 80/20 rule

The harsh reality of living in a culture obsessed with accumulating stuff is that we use 20% of our things about 80% of the time. That pair of trainers you wear until they’re falling apart or your favourite coffee cup - these are the objects you want to cherish, take great care of and have within easy access wherever you are. 

Even if you’re not ready to launch yourself fully into minimalist living, you can still reap the benefits by tackling a small area first. Remember that for everything you remove, you’re making space and time for the things that inspire you, provide comfort and allow you to focus on making the most of the weeks and months ahead.
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