The Road To The Simple Life

by heather

If you’re a regular reader to The Greenest Dollar, then you probably know that I’m on the edge of making one of those “major life decisions”.

Since we haven’t decided for sure what we’re doing yet, I’ve been moving forward as if we have already decided, which means I’ve been getting rid of a large majority of our possessions.

I’m now on a first-name basis with the volunteers at the Salvation Army, and the ladies at the library are now all intimately familiar with my grand plans of living in a small shipping container home.

Yes, I’ve been donating like a mad woman.

As I’ve been clearing out our stuff, however, something really has begun to hit me: we don’t need that much to be happy.

I mean, we didn’t have that much to begin with, and now we have even less.  And you know what?  The more stuff I get rid of, the more fulfilled I feel on the inside. I don’t miss it at all.

It’s almost like an opposite reaction.  Instead of feeling loss and sadness as my “stuff” disappears, I feel liberated.  Instead of regretting “all that wasted money”, I feel happy that someone else is going to use it.

So, here are three lessons I’ve learned this week as I’ve started making strides to live the simple life:

1. Space is beautiful

I took a whole carload of stuff to the Salvation Army just from our living room this week; furniture, books, throws…lots of things.  Now, the room is much emptier than it used to be.  And, it’s fabulous.

Again, it wasn’t cluttered before this week, but now that there’s more space it just feels more open and creative in there.  I can breathe.  And, I can see the room better.  I couldn’t before, because that “stuff” was blocking my view.

The room sings now.  It’s beautiful and strong, and there’s not a ton of stuff that’s hiding the lines of the room.  I can see its character now.

Your own home might be hidden under piles of “things” right now.  You might be surprised to find out that the more you get rid of, the more beautiful your home becomes.  Its true character might start to shine through.

2. There Are Only A Few Things I Really Care About

I’ve been going through the house this week asking, “Would I take this to my shipping container home?”

Most of the time, that answer is “no”.

The more stuff I donate and pass on to others, the more I realize how special the things I have left are.  These things, the things I’m keeping, are truly close to my heart.  They’re inherently useful, they make me happy, or they beautify my life in some way.

I’ve been keeping this wonderful quote in my mind as I’ve gone through decluttering:

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

-William Morris

3. I No Longer Care About “Losing Money” On Past Purchases

I think this is a hangup for many, many people.  It’s when you want to get rid of that mohair sweater, but can’t bring yourself to donate it because “you spent too much money on it”.

There was a time, not too long ago, when I was hung up on this too.

“Oh, I can’t get rid of that,” I’d think.  “I spent good money on it.  It was expensive.”

Well, so what?  Just because you spent money on something in the past has nothing to do with what’s going on in your life right now.

That money, like it or not, is gone.  Forever.

Right now, I’m trying to pare down our things so if we decide to move, we’re ready to go.  That’s what’s truly important right now; that’s our goal.  Holding on to something that I spent  money on last week, last month, or last year won’t help me reach that goal.

This realization didn’t happen overnight, though.

How did I get there?  I finally made myself get rid of something expensive (the item in question happened to be a $100 Venta humidifier, which I bought last winter).

Once I finally let that first thing go, it was all downhill from there.  I was able to get rid of other “pricey” items that I’d been unwittingly holding onto all this time. And, I’ve still got more to go, but I’m on my way.

If you’re facing that same reluctance, then just start with one thing.  Give away one expensive item to charity, and then see how you feel.  If you’re anything like me, that one thing will help break down that wall of reluctance you’re feeling and enable you to let more go.

After all, your stuff is just that: stuff. Its only real value is what you place on it. And if that thing isn’t giving you anything of value, then it’s worthless.

Last Word…

Decluttering to simplify your life is not always an easy process.  But, it’s a worthwhile one. The more I do it, the better I feel.

For instance, I’m feeling less and less weighed down by my things.  It’s a wonderful, uplifting feeling.  I really enjoy getting rid of stuff now, and although I still have a long way to go to get us to “shipping container ready mode”, I’m not dreading the process.  This journey is just as valuable as the end destination for me.  Maybe, even more so.


Living the Rural Dream March 27, 2009 at 1:09 pm

It is such a liberating feeling to ‘de-clutter’ and really be forced to think about what’s important. When we moved out of our house and into our camper, space was minimal. We had to really really think about what ‘stuff’ we wanted with us. We’ve lived for more than a year now with minimal belongings and the strange thing is, we need even less than what we do have! However, we do still have a small storage unit back home where we keep things like bits of furniture/paintings etc – these are the things that we truly treasure though and that will make up our home – when we find one again! You would be amazed at how much we gave away to charity etc – we couldn’t believe how much useless ‘stuff’ we had accumulated in our house! Well done 🙂

Margaret March 27, 2009 at 5:47 pm

It is so liberating. I am also going through the same process and am loving it.


Mel March 27, 2009 at 8:35 pm

Excellent post! Eliminating clutter is an excellent way to achieve peace and bliss. Also, I want to thank you for posting great information about shipping container homes. I’m truly inspired!

heather March 28, 2009 at 4:29 am

@Alice- I know what you mean; I’m finding that art is practically impossible to get rid of. I think we’re going to have to do the same thing, either get a small closet-sized storage unit until our mini home is done or beg relatives to put it in their basement and then come get it. 🙂

@Margaret- That’s awesome! It really is freeing to get rid of all that “stuff”.

@Mel- Thanks for writing in! It’s pretty amazing how many people are starting to get interested in shipping container homes. They’re so cheap and versatile, it’s hard not to love them!

RenaissanceRonin March 28, 2009 at 5:16 pm

Hi Heather,

Remember that one of the neat things about Shipping Container homes is the idea that you can “build” your furniture in.

A dining room table and chairs dominating the landscape? Nope. A Dining nook built into a corner, that also provides a lot of storage under those cushioned benches.

A huge sofa and chairs crowding your living room? Nope. A built in “sectional looking” seating arrangement, with storage under the cushions, and a storage table too!

A big ole bed floated in your sleeping space like the Titanic? Nope. A built in Captains bed, with drawers underneath, and in the headboard.

You don’t have to live like a monk, to live in a “shipping crate” (as you call them! I hope I’ve set you straight on that one!) LOL!

Think of that downsizing as “organizing.” Ingenuity will allow you to have lots of stuff, and places to put it…

That is all…

*radio silence*

Michele March 30, 2009 at 2:22 am

When my husband and I moved from London to Finland, we got rid of virtually everything we’d acquired over the years and I completely agree it’s a liberating feeling! One of the most enjoyable things that helped us on our way was our going away party. We put everything we hadn’t already donated, but still wanted to get rid of, in one part of the room and let our friends help themselves. It was lovely to see that our friends could find some treasures in our old things and it made leaving behind some memorable possessions much easier.

heather March 30, 2009 at 5:43 am


That’s a wonderful idea! Thanks for sharing it with everyone; I’m definitely going to have to do that.


Rando April 9, 2009 at 5:18 am

This was a great article with a lot of good information in it. I was also interested in the post made by “LIVING THE RURAL DREAM” because I have a 3-yr plan in place to downsize from a 1600 SF home into a 35 ft motorhome full-time. There is no better advice than hearing from those that have actually done it!

heather April 9, 2009 at 3:05 pm


That’s great!

Alice’s blog over at “Living the Rural Dream” ( is really fantastic. She and her family truly are living their dream, and I feel refreshed every time I go over there to see what they’re up to.

Good luck on your journey, and keep us posted!

Leah S May 14, 2009 at 9:26 pm

I haven’t been able to get #3 to work very well for me yet. In the past month we gave away a TV that we paid $800 for 4 years ago. Gave away a dumb purchase of $125. Gave away a working car (value around $1,000). Thrifted two crochet blankets that have at least 300 hours in them. Planning to get rid of three computers that have at least $5,000 spent on them. Plus countless of other items, like a sewing table, bookshelf, dozens of books, 50 yards of fabric, clothing and so on. And yet I’m still wallowing in clutter! I currently live in a 650SF apartment and we’re preparing to move to another apartment this month.

I think at this rate, I’ll just move the stuff I want or use into my new place, and whatever is left can get trashed. I’m pretty sure I’m not a pack-rat – I can see the bottom of my closet floor, I can access all my cupboards and shelves. I guess I’ll just keep trying. 🙂

heather May 15, 2009 at 5:49 am


You’re getting there! Simplifying and decluttering is definitely a journey, not a destination. Before I became a full time writer I was a professional organizer; I worked with some clients for a year or more, helping them trim down bit by bit. So, it’s not something that happens overnight.

But, keep at it! I promise that if you do some every day or every week, you’ll start seeing results. 🙂

Barbara Albright August 13, 2011 at 2:50 pm

“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify. Simplify.” – Thoreau

I taught high school English for years and hope above anything else that I left positive impression from Thoreau in those young minds. You sing like a modern day Henry David.

Love it.

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