Less stuff = more happiness

I’ve lived with this mantra for over five years now, so I was obviously very interested to watch Graham Hill’s talk on TED with that title. He has summarized the benefits very well, but he doesn’t tell us what did he do with all his collections, possessions and stuff. Here’s my story and tips:

When I started the process of reducing my possessions and simplifying my life, I started with the biggest chunk – my collection of books. I realized I wasn’t going to re-read most of them. My hope that my kids would read them all one day wasn’t realistic because they don’t have the same interests as mine. So I gave them all away to friends or charity. I also got rid of the book shelf, so that the books I continue to buy must be given away soon after I finish reading them. Since the iPad, I only buy digital books. They are cheaper, easy to store/backup and environment friendly. You can increase the font size and brightness; you can highlight passages; you can call up a dictionary by just touching the word. And if you really miss the touch and feel and smell of real books, you can visit the book store once a while and get all that for free. I have also tried audio books, and they have their benefits too.

Then I was able to simplify my entire wardrobe to fit into ten hangers and one drawer – plus a small suitcase with winter stuff on one side and special occasion stuff on the other. I took most of the unnecessary clutter out of my life – excessive suits, shoes, belts, ties, watches (I’ve actually stopped wearing a watch), videos, CDs etc. I still need to finish scanning the photos and get rid of the albums. All of this means, I need less space for my possessions and less maintenance time. I can focus on quality instead of quantity/variety. I only buy things that I really need and have space for. If I buy a new shirt, an old shirt has to go.

My travel bag has got smaller and smaller, regardless of the length of the trip, and is now down to a small carry-on, without the additional backpack that used to go with it. I still take all the photos and make all the movies with my pocket Canon Ixus. That means I can pack easily and quickly, travel much lighter and move around easily. I have applied the same principle to my work i.e. office space and desk. It’s all easier said than done, but extremely rewarding and worthwhile. I believe it makes you more productive, more efficient, lighter and happier!

[Photo of my travel bags taken just now in the hotel room. The shoulder bag has the camera, spare battery, spare SD cards, phone, wallet, passport, charger, pens and few other essentials]

13 thoughts on “Less stuff = more happiness

  1. Again another inspiring little piece!! I am known for too much stuff! Hopefully one day I can break it all down to that suitcase and a smaller wardrobe!! But women never have enough clothes do they??!! Xx

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  2. Hi Mush. Great article – thanks for sharing. I started the practice of shedding the clothes a few years ago now and it is so much more stress-free. I used to have several sets of napery, crockery, manchester etc. and I’ve cut all of these down too and will only replace when absolutely necessary. I’ve got the rest of the family to give away stuff they’ve not used for 6 months too.However, I still have my several bookcases also hoping that my kids will read the great gems so at the moment books seem to be my only vice. My son bought me a Kindle for Christmas and loaded it with the autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi and it was awesome reading Gandhi’s experiments with material possessions and how he detached himself from his western dress and shaved his head. Not sure that I could go to that extreme!!1

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  3. wowww Mush you made my life much easier was packing for our new house and there are tons of books which Asad and me love. It is hard parting with them but I believe we will have to. NOW.

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  4. Thanks. Very frankly speaking, after reading this yesterday, I spent about 5 hours cleaning my drawers, papers, books, throwing away things i have not used since a long time…some given to Naila to donate to charity. Quite lighter today…and happier. I am patting myself on back. So keep sending your good emails. Farooq Shaikh

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  5. I have been decluttering since last year, and this article simply gave the routine drive a boost! Thank you Mush for putting it in an orderly guideline. In spite of being a woman, I have been able to stop buying clothes and accessories almost completely, unless compelled by job requirement. I have stopped shopping for fun and the bug has bitten my shopaholic husband too! Yeah! My decluttering has not only restricted itself to things, I have started saying “no, thank you” to a lot of social engagements too that stole my time away in the past, a lot of social “have to”s have left me! I can spend that time in my garden to experiment with organic local crop right in my backyard! I realized that this extra peaceful time is my real anti-wrinkle cream on the exterior and the calm-balm on the interior! I simply love it.
    Thank you Mush, once again, for your neat post!

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  6. i do travel alot now, n bring back so many wonderful gifts for myself & my customers too. so much happiness yaar. i am going to London for one month. cheers

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  7. Thanks for the post. This is a reminder for me to cleanup. I have been reducing stuff every 6 months, but do need to increase the frequency. Books – my challenge is to let go them!

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