The Pros and Cons of Streamlining Your Life

Time management

Excessive Consumption and Accumulation

Owning the right, yet fewer material things creates the opportunity, and room, for pursuing your passion. The movement to rid your home and life of things you don’t need is gaining traction. Deemed “minimalist” these people support a lifestyle of owning only what they need to live a more productive life and nothing more. In return they have the time, money and energy to focus on other things that make them happy.

The average American home contains 300,000 items, a number which has nearly tripled over the past 50 years. We have so many things that one in 10 Americans need to rent a storage unit. Our clutter is taking over.

By taking the time to look at your possessions and make decisions about what is used and not used you can find a better quality life/work balance.

Below is a list of things you can sell, discard or donate right now:

  • The extra buttons that came with your most recent cardigan purchase.
  • Holiday cards (whether blank extras or the stash from last year).
  • Magazines you’ve already read, or never will read.
  • Expired medicines and ointments – you can’t use expired medicine.
  • Old batteries or batteries that are leaking fluid.
  • Instruction manuals to appliances you know how to use.
  • Near-empty liquor bottles with only a little bit of liquid left.
  • Cables, cords and wires that come with your electronic purchases.
  • Toys and clothing your child has grown out of or no longer use.
  • Seasonal clothing you don’t plan on wearing and clothing in general that you have not worn in the last year.

Just over three percent of the world’s children live in America, but they own 40 percent of the toys produced annually. In addition, the average American woman owns 30 outfits. In 1930, the average American woman owned nine.

In general, before the middle of the twentieth century people had an agrarian life style and reduced leisure time. It took more time to just make a living, grow your food and the like. People worked from sunrise to sunset seven days a week. After the World Wars, the industrial revolution and the growth in work reducing inventions, people in those eras began to accumulate more things that helped them reduce their workloads to have more free time to play and enjoy their lives. For example, they bought vacuum cleaners and purchased washing machines and a dryer that are so common today.

In the middle of the twentieth century, people purchased radios and televisions for entertainment during their newly found free time. As time moved into the last quarter of the twentieth century, the growth in leisure time became stagnate.

With the  combination of a lack of growth in leisure time, yet the continued accumulation, and consumption of goods to try to live a more productive life the way your parents and grandparents did has led to learned excessive consumption. We pursue through the accumulation and consumption the things we think e of things would make our work week shorter and our leisure time greater, without an actual reduction of weekly work time or an increase in our leisure time or time off. It is only the increase in the amount of time that allows us the time to pursue other interests as our parents and grandparents were able to do.

The efforts to reduce our work load through consumption have failed. Why? For two reasons. First, as already stated, there is no extra leisure time and second, one you may or may not be aware of and is among the most basic of human neurological needs, the need for basic survival through accumulation and survival safety through socialization. Much like squirrels save acorns for the winter in order to survive, or lions live in prides, dogs travel in packs and the like.

This quest for more time has led to excessive consumption and accumulation based on good intentions. This quest is not evil nor is it greed, rather it is derived out of a basic neurological program from birth to survive and meet our basic social survival needs. Marketer’s use this information in such a way that through their advertising methods, it makes us buy an item we may not need or ever use.

However, unlike our parent’s era, for us, there is no longer any excess capacity of time to be gained in this manner. We can only gain it by way of a shorter work week. Thus, we purchase because we momentarily believe that a purchase will make our lives easier or happier by reducing our work load and affording us increased leisure time, satisfying our most basic yet inherent biological social and survival needs. Excess consumption and accumulation then leads to a realization after a purchase, that you did not gain the full benefit of the purchase.

It’s not that the idea of the purchase was not good. You can’t achieve the end goal of happiness through accumulation and consumption without reducing your weekly work load and increasing the amount of greater leisure time available each week. You have to have the time to use the items you purchased, whether the item you purchased was to decrease your work load or increase your happiness.

By understanding the dynamics of the issue, it now becomes a choice and a question of quality of life, balance. You must recognize your personal time boundaries and choose to buy only those items that actually reduce work and increase the quality and enjoyment of one’s life with in the leisure time available to you each week.

Less Can Be Better

In addition to cutting down on the amount of unused things in your home, another strategy for streamlining your life is downsizing your home. The tiny house movement is gaining momentum and families downsizing into trailers and RVs by choice is becoming more popular. The benefits of downsizing your home speak for themselves:

  • Less to maintain
  • Less money more financial freedom
  • Less time spent cleaning (and arguing with your spouse about the dirty floors)
  • Mentally freeing
  • Small environmental footprint
  • Encourages activities (outdoors, or in the community)
  • Develop closeness and a more intimate living environment with your family

When you spend less time decorating, cleaning, organizing and maintaining your home, you can spend more time doing things you enjoy with people you enjoy.

Living With Less

This philosophy of “living with less” or rather, maximizing the quality of your free time can be applied to your life without a drastic move or a mass purging of your belongings. At its very core, maximizing your life for quality by streamlining your life is prioritizing the less fulfilling tasks after your passions. Perhaps you want to spend more time outdoors? Perhaps you want to funnel your funds into travel? Whatever your passion, being more aware of how the quality of your clutter and environment affects your priorities can help you live a more balanced and fulfilling life.

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