Living With Less: The Minimalist Movement

Minimalism is about much more than just getting rid of your things

By Amy Cavalier


Yard sale season is upon us. Time to clean out. Up for grabs will be everything from that ice cream maker you never quite found time to use and those clothes that didn’t quite fit right, to those crafts supplies for which you had such great intentions. All will be resold at a fraction of what you paid for them.

For a while after you clean out, you’ll feel lighter and finding things will be easier. Slowly, though, that extra space will be filled back up with that item your mother was getting rid of but you couldn’t bear to see go in the donation pile or that bargain you couldn’t resist. And by next spring, the vicious cycle starts again.

About two years ago, I decided to clean out for the last time. The process has been ongoing, but it’s getting easier to decipher the difference between actual “needs” and “wants.” As I prepare for yard sale season, I realize I have very little left to get rid of. Living with less is about much more than a clean house though.

With less stuff weighing me down, I am finding I have more time and energy to focus on spending quality time with the people I love and doing the things that bring me the greatest fulfillment. In addition to more money in my bank account, I’m finding it easier to be mindful and focused, and I’ve become more aware of the impact that my consumption has on the environment. As a result, I’m more motivated than ever to make my community a better place.

That led me to volunteer as the Rochester Minimalists Community Leader in May 2016. The Rochester Minimalists is a local group of like-minded individuals that meet once a month to share ideas and topics related to minimalism. We are one of many community groups started by “The Minimalists” authors Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn. The two have a blog, podcast and have penned several books about the lifestyle of minimalism, which they define as “a tool that can assist you in finding freedom.”

Some might watch their recent film, “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things,” and think that their lifestyle is unattainable or extreme, however, they emphasize the fact that “there is no minimalist rulebook.”

“We’re all different,” they write in their blog piece “The Irony of Minimalism.” “The things that add value to one man’s life may not add value to yours. So hold on to that hair straightener, those colorful socks, that collection of angel statuettes — but only if they are appropriate for your life. Only if they serve a purpose or bring you joy.”

There are, on average 300,000 items in the average American household, according to the Los Angeles Times — and one in 10 Americans rents storage space according to New York Magazine. In extreme cases, the inability to get rid of things can turn into compulsive hoarding — estimates show 6 percent of the population or 19 million Americans fall into that category.

The question you really need to ask yourself is, do you own your stuff or does it own you? Make this year the last one where you need to have a yard sale.

Amy Cavalier is the Rochester Minimalists Community Leader and an administrator of the Beechwood/Homestead Heights/Culver-Winton Buy Nothing Group. Join the group at a Free-For-All Freecycle and Yard Sale event to benefit Greenovations on Sunday, June 18. Rent a parking space to sell your things for $5 or give away your things for free! Visit for more information about Minimalism or to reserve a space in the June 18th Free-For-All event.

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