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Minimalist living: when less is more

Live simply so we all may simply live. That's why big hair is passé.

I grew up in the 1980s, the decade when everything got bigger, bolder and more obnoxious .... and I'm not talking just about the hairstyles. This was the era when people started to buy the McMansion homes and gas-guzzling SUVs. The value of your social status was based on all the "stuff" you had. We manufactured more and more with less and less thought for the negative effect it had on our environment.

Fast-forward to 2016 and we've got ourselves in trouble. The vast majority of climate scientists agree that man-made climate change is real, it's happening now and if we don't act fast it may be irreversible. Sometimes it feels overwhelming, but there are ways to dramatically reduce our individual impact.

Here are some ways to live with less:

Clothing: One of the best practices that I have is to store my "off-season" clothes. In the spring my winter clothing gets packed away and in the fall, my summer clothes do the same. That forces me, twice a year, to go through my closet and donate what I'm not wearing. Best practice: If I haven't worn something in six months, to Goodwill it goes!

Decorations: Many of the decorations that we have in our homes hold no personal value. They simply distract from the real items that share our story and highlight our values. Grab a cup of coffee, sit in your living spaces and look around. What brings you joy? What is just "filler stuff?" Leave only the items that are most meaningful. Hint: Plants and books are great decorative items that will keep your guests interested in your space.

Children's toys: As adults, it's difficult to renounce the idea that "more is better." It's even more difficult for children to reject the concept. Advertisers know this and find ways to target the market. One way we can battle back is to unplug, get outside and explore, go to the library and museums. Learn through activities and reading.

Cooking utensils: There never seems to be enough storage space in our kitchens. Yet most of our grandparents cooked far more often, more elaborately in smaller kitchens. When it comes to cooking, simple is almost always better. Invest in quality pots, pans and utensils. Cooks Illustrated, the authority on how and why recipes work, is a wonderful resource to research the best utensils and equipment. In the kitchen, quality over quantity is the key!

Save $1,000: An emergency fund simplifies everything! We each have different abilities to save, but when we have money for emergencies it reduces stress. One less takeout meal or daily fancy coffee can start you on the journey of saving money and living simpler.

Try each of these one at a time and see if you feel a difference. Once you master each of these, you'll be looking for more ways to simplify and you just might live a life with less stuff, drama, debt and obligation.

Cara Overland

Cara Overland is the board vice president of Sustainable Twin Ports, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. She is trained in The Natural Step, a science and systems based sustainability framework.

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