live with less – trust in ‘enough’

tips for new minimalists

One of the main reasons we’re tempted to keep & hoard is the belief that things will be ‘useful someday’. I’ve had endless examples: the dusty kitchen appliance I’d stopped using, the ugly, unworn socks from the multipack, the spare rolls of red christmas string. One day we might well need new socks, or emergency string, and be glad we kept them!

Minimalism says, get rid of those things. Have enough socks to wear and use right now – seven pairs, say – and keep nothing more. When those socks become worn and need replacing, then buy some more.

For a lot of us, it’s the fear of not having enough that makes us hold onto things. Perhaps it’s because there was a time when we truly didn’t, and that’s hard to forget – it seems outrageous to throw away things that we’ll need to buy in future in a different guise. There’s financial guilt, environmental guilt, the guilt of having too much when others have too little.

Minimalism is not a first world problem – it’s the solution to one. Having too much stuff is entirely a problem of privilege, though nobody’s fantasy of abundance is hoarding away ugly, unwanted and broken things, lest times get hard again. This wasn’t what we dreamed about when times were tough, these cupboards and drawers of unloved possessions. We’re confusing the past and the present.

We need to trust in abundance to live presently with the life we have now – and enjoy it. When we let go of our fear of the good stuff running out, we stop panic buying and keeping more than our share. Our lives become less cluttered, and we can focus on what really matters. We can give away our extra possessions and  feel safe and happy – because our possessions are not our security, anyway. Spare socks won’t save you from poverty, but a healthy, positive outlook just might.

Yes, your current things will wear out, and someday need replacing – but that doesn’t mean you have to hold on in anticipation. I’m learning to throw those spares out into the world, live with what I need, spend less time tidying and sorting, and spend a little money when that time comes. & I reckon it will be ok.

5 things to do with unwanted socks

1. Donate them to charity. Your unworn embarrassing slogan socks are someone else’s hilarious gift.

2. Make sock puppets with the littles.

3. Repurpose as a cleaning rag or steam mop cover.

4. Send them to these rare weasel-like mammals for their chicken dinners.

5. Throw them in the bin. Modern socks were not made for darning and longevity, so let go of your guilt and chuck/recycle them when they’re done. It’s good for the economy or something, anyway.

How do you feel about getting rid of things that might one day be useful? Do you think it’s possible to only keep what you need?

  • Nadia

    Totally agree with pretty much everything, even though I am a true sock lover! Having cupboards full of unsorted crap messes with me head. Always feel great after a good sort through and filling a giant bag for the charity shop.

    • Haha, a sock lover! Totally the same though – I feel those secret heaps of crap in the back of my mind all the time. Somehow, no matter how many times I clear them, it all sneaks back in!

  • My husband is a bit of a hoarder and I really struggle with letting go of things due to the “fear” and sentimental value – so this post really is speaking to me!! I’m trying to implement a more minimalistic approach at home. We only ever buy enough food to keep us going through the week and no more, and manage perfectly well that way – just need to apply this to things like clothes, books, cards etc! I’d love to reach a stage where we only keep what we need, but I’d settle for only having things we like rather than things we think we ought to have. Your way of life is a bit like #goals for me at the moment 😉 x

  • Totally! It’s never finished – every time I think I’ve got there it’s time to start again!

  • I love the phrase about having too much stuff is a problem of privilege. I’ve been struggling with this for a while. Part of me argues that we need the stuff because Diana is only 3 months old and you just never know what she might need, but the other half says I want her to grow up knowing that having just enough is plenty.

    • Yes to all of this! I feel this struggle often: I don’t want to pass on the idea that stuff = security and happiness to Orla, but at the same time it still really does to me, and she will only learn from watching. I go round and round in circles on it all… xx

  • Thanks Danielle! I’m glad the socks thing is your example too, as I wasn’t sure if i’d gone on a strange tangent with the whole thing there… You make such a pertinent point though. Saved string and spare socks and possessions won’t really help anyone, sadly. x

  • Two wins for me this week! I finally threw out the broken microwave I thought I was going to return, and I threw out an old (ugly) loveseat my dog had torn to shreds, even though it would have added another place to sit to our living room.

    I really appreciate your point about trusting that you’ll have enough. There’s a passage in the Bible where Jesus tells His followers that He’ll make sure they’re cared for and to not worry about what tomorrow will bring or keep from you. I’m a Christian myself, so I try to live by mantras like these, and hearing that same principle from you helps it make more sense and helps it sink in a little more. Thank you for writing and sharing this!

  • For me, I also think about how yes, those holey underwear (or whatever it is) still technically function, but I deserve better. I think that allowing ourselves to acquire new, nice things instead of putting that money towards the kid/the family and just getting by with good-enough is something that a lot of women, especially mothers, struggle with.