How to Live Smaller and Happier

A young woman smiling outside a small house

We live in a world dominated by things. As you walk through Target, listening to radio ads, or browsing Amazon, constantly surrounded by the message that you need to buy more, you may ask yourself, is it possible to live smaller and happier?

The concept of minimalism has emerged to combat this idea. While there’s nothing wrong with buying a few new pairs of shoes or trading in your 2005 Honda for a newer model, we aren’t defined by these things. We don’t have to let our possessions control our lives (or demolish our budgets!).

Try these tricks to live a smaller and happier life.

Downsize Your House

Admit it, you feel a quick sense of pride every time you can nonchalantly mention your 3,000 square foot home. But what’s the real purpose of living in such a large space, especially if you don’t utilize all of it or it’s pushing your budget to the limits. Wouldn’t there be more pride in achieving debt-free status and giving a purpose to every inch of a smaller home?

Downsizing and moving into a smaller home isn’t an act of defeat or shame. Quite the opposite- it could be a decision that demonstrates your mission to live a simpler, happier life with these perks:

  • Smaller mortgage payment
  • More money in your budget to pay off debt rapidly
  • Grow your retirement fund
  • Pay off your lower mortgage in 15 years instead of 30

Downsizing isn’t for everybody, but it could be a powerful step in the right direction if you’re seeking a life that isn’t defined by square footage.

Play the Minimalism Game

Anything can be a game if you get creative! Find a friend who also sees the value in living smaller and happier and make a promise to play the Minimalism Game together. On the first day of the month, get rid of one item in your home. Just one! It can be something as large as your old, ripped up couch or as small as a frying pan you never use.

Now what? Sell it, donate it, or throw it out. Whatever you choose, that material possession must be out of your house (and your life) by midnight.

If this sounds too easy, don’t get comfortable yet. You need to get rid of two items on the second day of the month, three on the third day of the month, and so on, until it’s the 30th or 31st day. What begins as easy purging becomes a purposeful walk through your junk to identify what actually matters, and what’s just taking up space.

Only Own Things That Bring You Joy

We all know Marie Kondo. Or at least, we all know the memes about her on social media. Kondo created a lifestyle brand that inspires people to tidy their homes by tossing everything that doesn’t bring joy. She soared into the public eye with a Netflix special that left everyone in a cleaning frenzy.

More than anything, Kondo encourages these six basic rules:

  1. Commit yourself to staying tidy
  2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle and use it for inspiration
  3. Finish discarding items first, rather than storing or organizing
  4. Tidy up by category, not location
  5. Follow the right order (clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous, and sentimental items)
  6. Ask yourself if it sparks joy

Check out Marie Kondo’s ideas to find out more about how you can “tidy your space, transform your life.”

Recycle Everything

Trash isn’t the only place to throw unwanted or unused belongings. Recycling gives new life and purpose to old items. You can save a great deal of money and avoid the beckoning calls of consumerism if you take a few steps to recycle everything in your home. In addition to using recycling bins for water bottles, newspaper, and cardboard, consider these ideas:

  • Donate old books to Freecycle, Goodwill, or local shelters
  • Consign or donate clothes you’re retiring from your wardrobe or that your children have outgrown
  • Compost leftover food
  • Turn cans and jars into small planters
  • Refurbish old furniture to give it antique or rustic charm

You can even keep bits of pieces in a container for your children to use in their art projects.

Invest in People, Not Things

Sure, those Facebook pictures of your cousin on his new jet ski are pretty cool, but living a smaller and happier life means investing in your community and loved ones, not new items. Instead of buying a jet ski, volunteer to read to at-risk kindergarten children or join a study group at church. Take time to call your family members and reconnect. Make a point to give specialized attention to your spouse, children, or other loved ones.

These connections and achievements are infinitely more rewarding than anything with a price tag.

Don’t wait to get out of debt! Read this: A Complete, Step-By-Step Guide to Get Out of Debt.