By Marcia Love
The Internet is a very distracting place. It could, for example, take you away from your task on a Saturday afternoon when you’re trying to finish one last story before deadline.
And that’s how I stumbled across something interesting. A family living in a 200-square-foot home. We’re talking mom, dad, two kids and a dog. I was impressed – doubly so because their tiny little house was incredibly adorable. Here was a family that wasn’t putting a whole lot of value in material things.
Most of us learn what it’s like to live in a small space with just the essentials when we leave home for college. Coming from a home where my mom was the kind of mom who had everything “just in case” – from every colour of thread and type of scrap fabric imaginable to empty shoe boxes and drawers stuffed with odds and ends – this was a challenge for me. I liked having what I needed kept close by; a thrifty way to live.
Now, however, I’ve made it a game to see how much stuff and space I can live without. If I, as OCD as I am, can live in a 20×20 foot dorm room with an ADHD roommate, I like to think I can live almost anywhere. And I can be happy with very little.
I’ve gone from a 1,600-sq.-ft. house to 700 sq. ft., and it was a surprisingly easy adjustment for someone who’s used to having a lot of space.
My only regret now is I don’t have a spacious living room to dance around in to Taylor Swift’s new album – but that hasn’t stopped me from trying.
It’s been a fun experiment to see how little I can live with, and if it meant saving money, I think I would gladly accept the challenge of living in a cosy little house – just maybe not a claustrophobic 200 sq. ft.
Several years ago, friends of mine miraculously escaped an early-morning blaze that consumed their house. They managed to save several important items, but the majority of their belongings were destroyed. Always one to look on the bright side, Harmony later told me that while the fire took so much and so many memories, it also rid her of all the “junk and clutter” accumulated over the years. She could now start fresh with only the essentials. (Like I said, she’s really able to look on the bright side.) After all, it was “just stuff.”
That’s a line many people have said after losing their belongings to a disaster. But we often don’t think of it as “just stuff” until it’s gone.
There’s something very comforting about having stuff, and something thrilling about getting more of it. But there’s also something very satisfying and liberating about getting rid of it.
The rule I go by is if I haven’t used it in the last five years, I probably don’t need it. Why did I still have all my notes from high school English class? Why did I keep that stack of old magazines with the articles I thought I’d one day like to read again? And why did I hang onto those arm-warmers and that Spongebob Squarepants T-shirt I haven’t worn since I was 17? (Because they’re awesome, Marcia, I told myself as I shoved them back in my old trunk. They’ll come back in style someday, right?)
Stuff is nice, and it’s good to have comfort, convenience, entertainment and things that are visually appealing. But the status of having a gorgeous mansion doesn’t make you happy. Neither does jamming that big, beautiful house with a six-person jacuzzi, 100-inch plasma TV or stylish antique furnishings.
More stuff doesn’t always mean less boredom, and it definitely doesn’t solve loneliness. Sometimes it only creates stress.