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Minimalism gains momentum

August 3, 2012
By MIKE HUGHES - The Scene , Times Leader

Items, things, stuff, junk ... let's face it, the majority of Americans have too much of it.

But in a consumer-driven society, that's basically the idea. You work to be able to afford stuff. When new, improved stuff comes out, you go out and by that too.

Many people have an insatiable hunger for "more."

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This minimalist bedroom is an example of the growing trend of how people are scaling down their possessions to include only the necessities.

The end result result usually is a cluttered house, a cluttered life and a drained pocketbook.

But why? Is this never-ending cycle of materialism really necessary?

No. For a growing segment of the population, it's not necessary.

As the pressures of society continue to mount and more and more people grow tired of keeping up with their neighbors and friends in pursuit in having the latest and greatest of, well, everything ... some have threw their hands skyward and ran screaming toward an alternative lifestyle.

It's called minimalism.

But what is it and how does one live a minimalist lifestyle?

Francine Jay, the author of The Joy of Less, describes minimalist living as:

"It's simply getting rid of things you do not use or need, leaving an uncluttered, simple environment and an uncluttered, simple life. It's living without an obsession with material things."

Jay explains some of easier to identify benefits are less debt, less stress, less expense.

There are countless others.

Take for example, you're bedroom. Or better yet, take mine for example.

I downsized and gave my daughter the larger bedroom since I'm seldom in mine except to sleep.

But when I looked around, I noticed a bed, dresser, chest of drawers and a nightstand ... all cramped within a smaller room with rapidly dwindling walking space.

It wasn't just furniture either. Inside, underneath, atop and behind the furniture, stuff was creeping out from all corners of the room, encroaching on my personal space.

I'm far from a hoarder, but I finally snapped back into reality and realized there was a plethora of things in my room I simply did not need.

The easiest way to dive into this "mess" was to slim down my wardrobe. So that's where I started.

As a man that describes his sense of style as "comfort," I noticed I had accumulated quite a collection of t-shirts. T-shirt and shirts, my go-to outfit for daily living.

Upon further inspection, I came to the conclusion out of this giant pile of shirts, I probably had worn between 10-15, tops, within the last six months. I'm sure a similar inspection of your closet would reveal the same.

So I decided to keep 10 shirts, a few pairs of shorts both for athletic and social purposes, one pair of jeans plus a few pairs of shirts and dress pants for work.

When finished, I had multiple bags of clothes to donate and five empty drawers staring back at me. The few items I decided to keep are now hanging in my closet with the smaller items folded neatly on a shelf.

With an empty dresser and chest of drawer now sitting unused, I hauled them into the basement to sell later. Now all that's left is a bed and a nightstand for the radio and alarm clock. It felt liberating. And while it may me more frequent trips to the laundry room it also means I can wash my daughter and I's clothes in one load.

But clothes are just one example.

Take a look at a modern house and you'll find multiple electronic items - computers, television sets, video games, etc. - all designed to keep you busy and indoors.

They also require monthly bills, maintenance and upgrades which, naturally, cost more money. The same goes for things like fitness equipment.

Why clutter your house with, say a treadmill, when you can walk out your front door and walk, jog or run for free?

Ever witness a family of five, all sitting in their own rooms watching television separately? Often times, a few or all of them are watching the same program yet, their they are, avoiding one another and glued to the idiot box.

Now take the TV away. That same family of five may actually be forced to communicate with each other. A family that spends time together and talks? Surely you jest?

The less "entertainment" you have in your house, the more likely you are to venture outside to seek enjoyment.

Another perk is that less clutter and less junk means less time spent cleaning, less time performing routine maintenance.

What you're left with is more time to do the things you love to do. If you're not sure what exactly that is, try out some new things. Rent a kayak. Go hiking through the forest. Take a class. Learn to dance. There is a multitude of opportunities available right outside your front door.

Hughes may be reached at



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