How to Cut Back on Consumption and Feel Happier

If you find yourself in over your head (literally) with piles of stuff, here are some great ways to clean out the clutter and cut back on consumption.


(White bear studio /

We all like to do a little shopping from time to time, to splurge on a new pair of shoes, a stylish jacket, or whatever catches our attention while window shopping or scrolling the internet. That first time we get it, it gives us a jump in confidence…

 But then the appeal quickly fades… What once made us feel all “shiny and new” ends up sitting in the back of the closet, forgotten and collecting dust. According to The Minimalist the average American household has over 300,000 items!

 Before you know it, you go to your closet, stuffed with clothing, saying to yourself, “I have nothing to wear!”

You can get easily trapped in the cycle sometimes. That irresistible urge to “Buy This!”, “Order Now!”. It feels exciting at first, until we’re bored and back looking for the next shiny new thing. Before long, we have a house full of stuff we don’t need and mounting credit card debt.

If you don’t relate to this, you just might be the exception. The average American owes $38,000 in personal debt, and two out of 10 pay 50 percent to 100 percent of their income just trying to pay all that money back, in many cases just to buy things they can’t afford.

But are we any happier for it? Apparently not. According to research conducted by the American Psychological Association, as materialistic values increase, so too do our insecurities and dissatisfactions.

The good news? It’s within our control to break the cycle. If you find yourself in over your head (literally) with piles of stuff, here are some great ways to clean out the clutter and cut back on consumption. Along the way, you might find surprising joy in living simply, without constantly looking for the next thing to order online.

Get Rid of Five Things a Day

Attempting to get rid of everything all at once will probably feel overwhelming especially if you ­– like many others — have over 300,000 items in the house. Start small by picking five things a day in the house that you can part with. Little by little, you’ll feel that small wave of relief as you unburden yourself with clutter. It’s a process so take your time by starting small.

(Wai stock / 

Recycle and Donate

One of the downsides of consumption is that it leads to so much waste, which has a terrible impact on the environment. But as the saying goes, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” So, don’t toss everything in the garbage, think of ways to donate or recycle instead.

Now, in some cases, it’s obvious when to throw things in the trash (you probably shouldn’t donate your old pair of undies). But in many cases, you can find ways to reuse your items, whether to sell them, donate them, or give them to friends. Here are a few ideas:

  • Recycle old electronics like smartphones, tablets, and televisions (don’t forget to remove/destroy the hard drive first!)
  • Sell items of value online or in a yard sale (and use it toward paying off debt)
  • Donate clothing and furniture to charities for the less fortunate
  • Invite friends over for a clothes swapping party

(Nature 1000 /

Life Isn’t About the Things We Own

When you narrow down your belongings, you start to appreciate the things you do have. You keep the things in your life that bring you joy and satisfaction and eliminate the extraneous. A piece of clothing, barely worn, suddenly becomes a wardrobe favorite. That beautiful painting in the hallway makes the room a little more special.

You may also feel lighter by freeing yourself from the clutter. With less stuff to search through, it takes less time to locate the things when you need them. You can more easily decide what to wear each day, as your closet only contains the clothing that you really want to wear.

At the same time, you realize how much money you have wasted on unnecessary junk. This can also help bring more intention the next time you decide to make that thoughtless purchase.

Cutting back on consumption doesn’t mean it’s wrong to buy anything at all. It means bringing more intention when deciding what you bring into your life. 

Letting go of things we don’t need helps simplify life and reveal what really matters, material or otherwise. Through this practice, you may realize that true joy doesn’t come from material possessions after all. What matters more are the meaningful experiences, opportunities to help others, and the connections we share with the people around us.

(Archi_Viz /