Certainly never an easy topic. Learning to live without.
It probably feels better to think, I’ll just “Learn to live with less“. And that’s definitely the place to start!
I’ve used the analogy of dieting in comparison to budgeting before. It’s the same here…work your way into the changes and you’ll be more likely to stick with it long term, maybe even the rest of your life. Live with less and eventually it will be easy to slip into living without.
And before you start thinking about what you are losing when you learn to live without, think about what you’ll gain. More on that in a bit…
When I got remarried and my husband and I combined our families, I had a challenging time learning to live with less. I was accustomed to a certain lifestyle that involved eating out several times a week, decorating the house with adorable and useless things and buying cute clothes when they were on sale (regardless of if I needed them). After several rather upsetting talks with my husband about how we couldn’t afford the mindless spending, I did what any other gal in my situation would have done. I bought the stuff and hid the receipts! I tore the tags off new blouses, disposed of the evidence and snuck the new items into our closet.
And I felt lousy about it.
Since I was also the one budgeting for our household, I knew firsthand how our expenses were laid out and decided that I needed to change. We were in the process of saving for a home and anything I’d been spending frivolously before now went directly into our savings account. I felt so much better and a load of relief not hiding the spending anymore. I tell you this to let you know that I have learned to live without. It was hard. It took time. But it is possible.
Key note here: Learning to live without in your every day life doesn’t mean a forever sacrifice or complete abandonment of fun. If you have a goal in mind, you are learning to live without in order to advance upon and accomplish that goal. In our case, we forgo cable television and restaurant meals because we’re saving the difference for a trip to Disney World. We scrimp now so we can splurge later!
Game plan for learning to live without –
Purge what you don’t use, want or need. Be brutal. If you haven’t looked at it or touched it in months and you have no immediate plan for it, then ditch it. Have a garage sale, give it to someone who can use it or donate it. This first step was very hard for me. I come from a background of close family that had a hard time getting rid of anything (yes, bordering on hoarding) and it’s my natural instinct to keep it, “just in case”. But 99% of the time, I’ll never need it. We purge and clean so we can mentally start fresh. Only keep what you love.
Keep what you have in good condition. Now that you’ve narrowed your “stuff” down, you should only be surrounding yourself with things you absolutely love and use frequently or everyday. Maintain what you have by taking the best care of them. Keep your appliances in tip-top shape with regular cleaning (even in-between the buttons on the blender!). Put DVDs back in their case each time to avoid scratches. Clean up that spill from the carpet or sofa immediately before it stains. Fix the loose buttons on your sweater before they fall off. Take care of what you have and you won’t have to replace it as soon.
Take a look at your budget. Do you see any areas in your budget that seem a bit high? Any areas that you feel could be cut back upon? We took a close look at our budget and realized that we watch very little cable television. Why were we paying for 300 channels that we very infrequently watched? So we nixed the extensive cable and got basic (which gives us perhaps 10 channels) and a subscription to Netflix. Not only do we save about $50 a month, we also don’t feel chained down to the television or feel like to we have to watch it because we’re paying for it.
Borrow. If the time comes when you need something short-term, see if a friend or neighbor will allow you to borrow it. This is good advice before you make a large purchase (like a new bike, power tool or 8-foot kayak…speaking from experience here.). Borrow (with a firm return date) and see how often you really use it before buying one yourself.
Tweak Your Thinking.
I remember reading in a book something about paying bills that has stuck with me. The writer noted that each time she mailed a bill instead of getting upset about the money she was paying she would send the letter off with positive thoughts and mental thank yous. Thanks to the water company for the fresh clean water in her home. Thanks to the landlord for the safe and cozy home. Thanks to the department store for extending credit. It was her point of view that changed her thinking from a negative to a positive.
Learning to live without isn’t so much about what you lose, it’s in your point of mind and in what you gain when the excess is stripped away. It’s a simplicity that cannot be bought.
Back to what I’d said earlier about what you gain when you learn to live without.
- Time – Because I don’t have 300 channels to surf through, I’m more likely to have time to work on my hobbies or play with my kids.
- Appreciation- I am thankful for what I have already been blessed with…and try to remember this before I buy.
- Organization- Less to keep track of and so much easier to organize and clean.
- Creativity – If we don’t have tons of new toys, we’re more creative with what we do have.
Live with less and eventually you’ll find that you can easily live without. The photos accompanying this article are my own, taken of my family at La Jolla shores in California, about 30 minutes from where we live. It was a beautiful warm day in January when much of the country was covered in snow. It was a day that stuck with me because of its simplicity. A walk along the coast, wading in the water and watching the sunset. I was so happy I’d taken my camera to capture the moment.
Other helpful links about learning to live with less:
Andreabcreative – Learn to Live with Less: My 365 Experiment
Kanelstrand – Learn to Live with Less and Enjoy It
Gaiam – Learn to Live Simply
Tripping – How I Became a Minimalist