Experiments in Living With Less

Many of us long for a simpler life free from the burden of our stuff, but we don't know how to achieve it.  We're overwhelmed, and we feel trapped in our current way of life.  But deep down, we believe that change could bring a huge payoff:  more time and energy, more money, more freedom, more generosity, less stress, less debt, and less distraction.  

How do we go about making that change?

All progress comes through experimentation.

Someone has an idea, and she tries it out.  That's how we learn.  So why not creatively experiment with a more minimalist approach to life to see whether the benefits are worth the effort?

The basic idea is to live without a particular possession or practice for a limited amount of time, and then decide if you can or want to do without it permanently.  A few examples might be going for 24 hours without a smart phone, or going a month without TV, the microwave, or eating out.  You might try limiting your wardrobe for several months, or removing a piece of furniture (like the desk you only use as a clutter catcher) to see how you do without it.

In our hyper-consumerist culture, we rarely consider the concept of "enough."  Author Patrick Rhone explains it:

Enough comes from trying things out.  It comes from challenging your preconceptions.  It comes from having less, trying more, then reducing to find out what is just right.  It comes from letting go of your fear of less.  It comes from letting go of the false security of more.

Many of us are blessed to have no experience of living with too little.  We don't know what it's like to be in need, so we don't really know where "enough" begins.  We generally focus on increasing what we have, not reducing it.  That perfect Goldilocks balance may be difficult to find, but it's worth it.  How many shoes, outfits, plates, or chairs are enough?  How many social or other activities?

You can experiment by storing some excess items temporarily while you decide if they are truly needed.  I use the corner of one closet for this; sometimes I also use the trunk of my car.  This gives me time to make a decision about possessions before taking the final step to remove them permanently.  They're on hold for a predetermined time (usually a month or so), after which I reassess them.

I've done this with clothing, blankets, artwork, furniture, collections, sets of dishes, and the TV.  Some people have done this with a car, a boat, even a room in their house (just close the door for a month).

A fast helps us focus on what we truly value.

Think of it as a fast.  The point of fasting is to give up something (often food, but it can also be a physical item or an activity) so we can pay closer attention to our deeper hungers and desires.

So why not try experimenting with less?  

  • Temporarily resign from one commitment.  
  • Make coffee or tea at home and skip Starbucks for a month.
  • Observe one "buy nothing" day every week.  
  • Choose one day a week when you don't drive your car – bike, walk, or stay at home instead.
  • Try vegetarianism.
  • Take a break from social media.  
  • Declutter the unused "good" china and the china hutch.  

Give yourself at least a month to live with the experiment, and then evaluate.

  • Did you miss the item or activity?
  • What were the positive effects of not having/doing this item/activity?
  • Were there negative results of not having/doing this item/activity?
  • What have you learned about yourself?
  • Do you want to make this experiment, or a modified version of it, permanent?
  • What will you choose for your next experiment?

It's not deprivation, it's research.

Experiments are fun because they're all about discovery and growth.  And there's no real failure in an experiment because all results are data.  If something doesn't work the way you hoped, that's simply data that lets you try another behavior to see if it works better.

I wrote a little book* filled with short and longer activities that encourage you to experiment with simplifying your life.  You can find out what's hard, what's easier, what works or doesn't work for you, and what you might like to make permanent in six areas:

  • physical clutter
  • digital clutter
  • your mindset
  • your schedule
  • your finances
  • your personal well-being

Big changes come from tiny steps taken over and over.  The Minimalist Experiment can make a positive difference in your life.

This blog is reader-supported.  If you buy through my links, I may earn a small commission.

Updated July 2022


  1. Great article! After making the decision to downsize, I boxed up my good unused stuff China, Chrystel, and extra casserole dishes, pots, and pans, and silverware, and hid them away. Then while doing more decluttering research, I finally took out the boxes and took one last look, and prayed with thanks and love that I got to use or have them at certain times in my life. I reboxed and took them to a resale store, Mary's House, that uses the money of sold items for the local Children and Women's shelter, I have never felt so relieved and happy as I drove home. I prayed that whosoever bought the stuff, will have joy and many great memories, and the shelters would use the money wisely for the children and women! I have not missed anything I sent, and I feel so blessed to give away good stuff, instead worn out items.

    1. Hi, Lynda. Isn't it a great feeling to give away something that's just gathering dust in your home, knowing that it will bless someone else! One of the things I've learned over the years of my minimalist experience is that I am so privileged and have so much. For me, it becomes a responsibility to be generous. And that is always a source of happiness!

  2. Love this article! I don’t relish storing anything while I do the challenge, but that’s far better than the current state of clutter in my home. I dream of downsizing to a smaller home, but without a major clutter cleanse that won’t be happening anytime soon. Thank you for the inspiration

    1. You're welcome, Natalie J. Hold on to your dream; picture it as you declutter little by little, and let it inspire you.


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