Not everyone can afford to live with less. But a streamlined life doesn’t have to be trying to have as few material possessions as possible. 


I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with minimalism. Decluttering is simple in theory: identify what you don’t need, and get rid of them. In practice, I’ve started countless decluttering sprees but end up only moving things from desk to drawer, or merging all my papers into a huge stack. Marie Kondo’s mantra of only keeping what sparks joy may work for some people, but I’m not sure my university readings really care if they spark joy in me or not.


Living with less is also difficult if you’re not fortunate enough to be able to invest in quality items over quantity – maybe you just plain can’t afford it, or you can’t do your laundry often enough to have enough clean clothes or sheets, or buying items in bulk to save money means you’ll always have a stash of non-perishable food or household goods lying around. Plus, if you live in a smaller space, it’s hard shaking off the impression that things are cluttered even with fewer possessions.



If you’re in a similar position, but still struggle with turning a mess into organized chaos, maybe the solution isn’t reducing what we own, but to streamline our processes and find creative ways to manage our possessions. 


1. Sell


A bit obvious, but easily the best solution if you’re trying to upgrade from quantity to quality, but need to keep some items around because you’re still saving up for better replacements. Selling is a good way to generate cash from things you no longer want or need to keep. It’s made easier by the increasing number of platforms and services helping you sell anything from clothes to furniture to electronics.


2. Multitask 


Streamline by using items that serve multiple purposes. Not only does this free up extra space and cash (a lot of simple multipurpose products are much cheaper that specialized products), it also minimizes worries about the number of products and toxic ingredients we’re putting in / on our body or homes. It makes things so much easier when you just have one item to reach for instead of juggling bottles of products.


Here are some examples: 


Vinegar – besides adding it to our food for flavour or easier food preparation, vinegar has a range of health benefits. White distilled vinegar also cleans a whole lot of stuff at home – from bathroom and kitchen surfaces, to stubborn stains.


Oils, such as coconut oil and olive oil – can be used as cooking oils, and double as moisturisers for both skin and hair. Some even have SPF properties and can be used as sunscreen, or even shaving cream! Plus points for coconut oil because it smells divine. (Remember to test how your skin, especially on your face, reacts to the oil first!) I also use it to remove the sticky residue from price tags and other labels, especially when repurposing jars and bottles, which brings me to…


3. Repurpose


Jars or bottles like the ones pasta sauce or peanut butter comes in can be cleaned out and repurposed for so many things! Yes, it’s hip to drink out of jars now, but they can also store dried goods like sugar, rice and snacks, and small items like accessories, stationary and spare change. Even newly-bought jars can used in so many ways, allowing you to keep the same item for different purposes when your needs change.

Shoeboxes are another nifty repurposed storage solution.


4. Go digital 


If you’re reading this, I hope you have a legally acquired smartphone or laptop and Internet access. In which case, go digital! If you have print documents you must keep, scan them to save digitally and request electronic versions of future documents like bills and bank statements. Get books in ebook form, or borrow from the library instead.


5. Share 


If you’re lucky enough to have friendly neighbours, or friends or family living nearby, split bulk buys of non-perishables to save some dollar, while minimizing the amount of extra stuff you have lying around. This is also great for perishable goods you can’t finish on your own. 

Even better – declutter your schedule by coordinating to alternate grocery shopping! That’s half of your trips to the supermarket sorted for life (almost).