Take a look around my bedroom and you might think that I’ve lived there for two days instead of two years. A small couch I bought for $35 at Habitat for Humanity sits under a loft bed. To the left, an IKEA floor lamp illuminates a tray table just large enough to stash my computer on. Makeshift shelves house clothes, toiletries, and a dozen books. A towel, a purse, and a fuzzy teal bathrobe hang from hooks on the back of the door; in the wintertime I wear the bathrobe so often that my housemates refer to it as my “uniform.”

I can move quickly and easily without needing to rent a storage unit or a moving van; as an unmarried twenty-something with five moves under my belt in the last five years, I can’t overstate the usefulness of that ability.

This isn’t all the “stuff” I own- a basement closet at my parents’ house contains baby blankets, letters, shoddy college papers, and some early pots, and a bookshelf in my studio houses old issues of ceramics monthly and more nonfiction titles- but it’s all the stuff I use on a regular basis.

This dearth of possessions is intentional on my part, and it’s not because I can’t afford a new couch or I don’t have space for a desk.  I buy and keep things that I love or need, I regularly purge things that have outlived their usefulness, and (with a few exceptions- my smartphone comes to mind) I don’t spend a lot of money on personal possessions.

These principles result in a lifestyle that’s simple, agile, and clutter-free. For example, I can move quickly and easily without needing to rent a storage unit or a moving van; as an unmarried twenty-something with five moves under my belt in the last five years, I can’t overstate the usefulness of that ability. And buying secondhand furniture for cheap makes letting it go when I no longer need it painless. I think of it as the “Habitat for Humanity Rental Program:” when I moved from a one-bedroom apartment into the group house where I currently live, I simply called Habitat and asked them to pick up the furniture that I had purchased from them the year before.

This intentional minimalism is a common attitude among young people; for proof, check out this photo series of millennials posing with all the stuff they own.

Looking at these photos, you’ll notice that virtually everyone in the series has a computer amongst the rest of their stuff. When I recently asked some friends which three objects they would “rescue” in the event of a house fire, “my computer” topped many lists, including mine. (Objects with sentimental value like childhood stuffed animals and difficult-to-replace objects like passports ranked high as well.) Some people wanted the stuff that was on the computers (back up your files, friends!) but many wanted the computer itself.

This makes sense: recent advances in technology have transformed the personal computer into the modern multi-tool. Ownership of a laptop (or even a smartphone) renders a variety of previously indispensable possessions like dictionaries, rolodexes and day planners unnecessary and redundant. As a result, our generation actually needs less stuff than generations previous. (Check out this cool video created by a company called Best Reviews about the Evolution of the Desk for a visual representation of this process.)

Want to jump on the minimalist bandwagon? A variety of methods and ideologies for effectively purging your possessions have cropped up in recent years. The most popular is Marie Kondo’s “The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up,” which requires you to ask yourself which possessions bring you joy and then fold your shirts in a weird way. A few of my friends have used her method; it seems effective but time consuming.

If that’s not your cup of tea, simply find a method or a principle that works for you. I like to do informal purges about twice a year: once right after Christmas to make room for new stuff, and once more in the summer or early fall. (I like seasonal purges because I can switch out my winter and summer wardrobes at the same time.) Furthermore, I like to keep the 6-month principle in mind when I’m getting rid of stuff- if it’s been more than six months since I’ve used something, I usually feel comfortable letting it go.

An old boyfriend with a permanently nomadic lifestyle utilized the principle that all of his belongings had to fit in his car. (Luckily he drove an old school Toyota Four-Runner) When he could no longer close the trunk, he knew it was time to get rid of some stuff.

Another friend participated in a month-long minimalist challenge where she had to get rid of the same number of items as the day of the month, so on the 1st she got rid of one thing, and on the 8th she got rid of eight things and so on. This works well for people who struggle to get rid of things, because it starts slowly and builds.

Here’s the thing: I’m all for responsibly recycling, donating, or disposing of your stuff when possible, but I also believe that your old, broken or otherwise unusable crap is better off in a landfill than in your living room (or basement, or attic) if it’s not going to be used in either place.

Minimalists Joshua and Ryan talk about the “20/20 principle” on their website: the idea that we should get rid of “just in case” items as long as we can replace them for less than $20 in less than 20 minutes from our current location.

Another bad habit (logical fallacy?) that I’ve noticed surrounding possessions and the purging of them is the notion that it’s “bad” to send things to the landfill, so instead we should permanently store (but not use!) objects that are effectively trash. (We all know that person who collects tarps with holes in them, or old magazines, or wood scraps, or every Talenti gelato container they’ve ever purchased, and justifies it with the idea that “maybe they’ll come in handy someday!”

Here’s the thing: I’m all for responsibly recycling, donating, or disposing of your stuff when possible, but I also believe that your old, broken or otherwise unusable crap is better off in a landfill than in your living room (or basement, or attic) if it’s not going to be used in either place.

Speaking as a ceramic artist, I think there’s something to be said for the occasional purchase of beautiful, well-made things. It pleases me to watch someone hold one of my mugs or hear that it has become a daily companion for their morning coffee. Furthermore, I enjoy the infrequent, carefully selected luxury purchase: the $20 avocado colored moleskine notebook, or the aqua tango shoes from Buenos Aires, or the fig chevre from the farmers market. This habit only becomes a problem when that “occasional purchase” turns into a monthly or even weekly occurrence.

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