Learning to Live with Less in 4 Easy Steps – by 2018 Movement Speaker Dante Love

Our speaker Dante Love is our guest blogger today. Read on to learn more about how to be minimal and live with less from Dante who is an expert in the tiny house movement!


Learning to Live with Less in 4 Easy Steps

Small spaces are hard. Living in them comfortably usually means constantly evaluating what you have, what you love, and what you can live without. Luckily, with a little practice and a few guiding principles living in a smaller space could represent a less expensive, more intentional lifestyle that’s well worth the trade-off.

My wife and I have lived in just under 700 square feet for just under 7 years, and she was the driving force behind my small space awakening. Here’s how we did it:


STEP 1: If You don’t Use it, Don’t Keep it

This one sounds obvious, but it’s actually the single hardest step towards small space happiness. So in the spirit of TEDxUCDavisSF, let’s start with a pop quiz:

Make a list of 50 things you own.

If you answered, “I don’t own 50 things.” Congratulations, you can skip the rest of this article.

But, if you’re like the rest of us and answered, “Honestly I have no idea how many things I have,” then you’ve arrived at the root of the problem. If you don’t know you have it, you probably don’t use it, and if you don’t use, you probably don’t need it.

Again, easy in theory, hard in practice. And there are lots of reasons why.

We inherit some things from people who are no longer with us. Letting go of their things – even if we don’t use them – feels like we’d be losing a piece of our connection to them. The important takeaway here is that your stuff is not your memories. Letting go of things associated with people we love, doesn’t tarnish their memory. In fact, I would argue the best way to honor those things is for you to allow them to transition to people who will use them.

Then there’s our ideal self. Our ideal self gets up at 5 AM every day and uses that treadmill or bike or fancy blender. The problem is our actual self, well, doesn’t. But we can’t get rid of that treadmill or bike or fancy blender – because that would be waving the white flag and admitting that we’re not actually our ideal selves. You know what, that’s okay.

Living in small spaces means living in the present. That means letting go of the past (bulky heirlooms that we feel guilty for letting go) and our alternate futures (our ideal selves).


STEP 2: Go Digital

Physical things just seem more important, don’t they? A card vs. an e-Card. A leather-bound book vs. its Kindle equivalent. A CD or a vinyl album vs. a digital download.

That said, digital libraries offer tremendous space-saving opportunities. For instance, did you know that if you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber, one of the best (and little known) benefits is unlimited photo storage?

Of course, with the proliferation of social networks and camera phones, printing new photos are probably the least of your worries. It takes work, but there are a lot of benefits to getting your older photos online too. Digitizing and backing up to the cloud eliminates the bulk, makes them much easier to search – if you take the time to name them properly or use detailed metadata – preserves the quality, and makes them easier to share with friends and family.

Done digitizing photos? Great! Time to get rid of your DVD (or BluRay) collection. Movies come and go on Netflix, but the overwhelming majority of films can be owned via iTunes or Amazon in HD for as long as you have an account.

“But I spent thousands on my collection, I can’t just get rid of it!”

Unfortunately, most of that value is probably gone. It hurts. But the other truth is that your collection is probably never going to be more valuable than it is today – so why not sell for the maximum value possible?

If you rewatch the movies in your library frequently, then I’d recommend exploring VUDU’s Disc to Digital program. For films you’ve already purchased, they will charge you a low flat fee (usually less than $5 per film) to buy a digital copy.

For those old DVDs, sometimes you can find a local video store that will buy rare or hard to find films. Amazon also offers a trade-in service that allows you to trade-in old movies, video games, and electronics for store credit. It’s a great way to turn an aging collection into something you’re excited to use.

For music CDs, burn your favorites to your computer or subscribe to a service like Spotify or Apple Music. Another fun fact for Amazon Prime subscribers, Amazon offers free access to millions of songs via AmazonMusic for no additional subscription fee. (There is an additional fee for AmazonMusic Unlimited, but the standard service has a lot of great music.)

Finally, books and notebooks.

For books, the Kindle store is a great resource. Also, a lot of libraries have begun eBook lending programs, similar to Netflix, so you may already have access to millions of books for free.

For notebooks, devices like the new iPad with Apple Pen, the Samsung Galaxy Note, or the Remarkable provide nearly unlimited pages, easier organization, and significantly less clutter.


STEP 3: Change Gifting Expectations

Now that you’ve regifted, donated, or sold a lot of things you don’t use and digitized your photos, movies, music, and books; it’s time to stop getting new ones.

If you’ve made it this far, you’re serious. This step is mostly a conversation with significant others, friends, and family. The idea is pretty simple: opt for practical gift cards and experiences.

For gift cards, practical is key. Depending on your grocery preferences, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Safeway are great options. Also, depending on the digital library you decide on, credit towards more books or movies offer opportunities to continue building your prized collection in a digital form.

Meaningful experiences can vary wildly per person. Most major airlines and hotels sell gift cards – so even if it doesn’t make sense to ask for a whole vacation, you can break it into small, giftable pieces around the holidays. There are of course concerts, spa days, classes – this list goes on.

The key here is to focus on creating memories. Be intentional about what you want and think critically about its place in your life.


STEP 4: 1 Bag in; 1 Bag out

The last step!

We’ve tackled what you have and what others buy you. The last step is to tackle what you buy yourself. Shopping is part of life. We all need clothes and various accessories to live a functional, happy life. The key here is simple: if you buy a pair of shoes, get rid of a pair of shoes. If you like (and wear!) all of your shoes and don’t want to get rid of any of them, don’t buy new shoes.

There are edge cases where this philosophy doesn’t work – moving to a new climate for instance – but generally speaking, if you bring in one new bag of clothes from the store, you should be taking out at least one bag of old clothes to donate.

Sometimes it feels like, as a culture, we stockpile stuff because we can. “Look at my empire of old, out of style clothes I don’t wear!” But the reality is this takes us full circle: If you don’t use it, don’t keep it!


Now it’s Your Turn

That’s it. You’re ready to live with less. Articulating the steps may be easy, but following them takes time and a lot of practice.

Luckily, I can say with complete confidence that once you pare down what you have and keep that list to a few essentials that you absolutely love – you won’t even miss that list of things you can’t remember.


About the Author

Dante lives in and builds small spaces via Pendant Homes. Come hear his talk “Redefining Housing for the House Hunters Generation” at TEDxUCDavisSF. Tickets available here.

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