Most of us can only handle stacking, storing and stepping over our stuff for so long before we start to feel claustrophobic. We go on a cleaning spree and give (or sell) it all away. But that's only a temporary fix. Living small requires a more permanent shift. You might find it hard to believe, but there is a growing demographic of people convinced that no person needs a house full of possessions to survive. These aren't tent-dwelling hippies, but successful, intelligent individuals and families who have rejected the stuff-cluttered life for something more meaningful. Here are some of our favorites.
Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus - The Minimalists
On the brink of turning 30, Millburn and Nicodemus (pictured above) discovered that working 70-80 hours a week for a corporation and buying more stuff didn’t fill the void. "In fact, it only brought us more debt and stress and anxiety and fear and loneliness and guilt and depression," writes the duo. So, they quit their jobs and took back control using the principles of minimalism to focus on what’s important in life. Since then, they've written hundreds of articles aimed at helping others embrace a life that's free from material and emotional cumbersomeness. Millburn claims to own around 288 things (even though he doesn't really count his stuff).
Dave Bruno - Author and entrepreneur
Bruno is the author of "The 100 Thing Challenge," the chronicle of one man's efforts to come to terms with his own consumerist nature and pare back his possessions to the essential (and then live that way for a year). Along the way he discovered some interesting things about why he felt driven to acquire things, along with the interesting negotiations that we conduct with ourselves when contemplating an unnecessary purchase. Now, Bruno's radical downsizing challenge has become a grassroots movement embraced by thousands around the world. He calls it "a way to stop participating in irresponsible consumerism and start living a more meaningful lifestyle that is economically secure and that blesses people."
Heidemarie Schwermer - 69-year-old grandma
We often dismiss lifestyles of few possessions as something reserved for college kids and bohemians, but who ever said age sentences us to a prison of clutter? For more than 16 years, Schwermer, a former schoolteacher and psychotherapist, has lived without money. After running a successful swap and barter shop, she quit her job in 1996, giving away all of her possessions except what could fit into a single suitcase and backpack, and moving out of her rental home. Since then, she has been a nomad, trading gardening, cleaning and even therapy sessions for food and a place to sleep. She's written several books about her adventures, giving all advances and profits away on the street, or to charity.
Andrew Hyde - Author and vagabond
A self-professed vagabond and minimalist, Andrew Hyde once sold all but 15 things and then traveled to 79 countries. (Photo: Aimee Giese)
Andrew Hyde is passionate about community, writing, travel and startups. He's started three companies, circumnavigated the globe and written an incredibly successful book about travel. He is a self-professed vagabond and minimalist, and as of this time last year, the owner of a mere 15 material possessions (not counting socks or underwear, thank goodness). “Minimalism is equally easy as it is boring to do,” he writes on his blog. “What shirt today? The one I didn’t wear yesterday. Once you get used to simplicity, the complex normality others have becomes the audacious thing.”
Adam Baker - Founder of Man vs. Debt
In 2008, Adam Baker and his wife, Courtney, decided to sell everything they owned, pay off $18,000 in consumer debt and travel the world as a family. They began sharing their journey publicly in early 2009, and that's when ManVsDebt.com was founded. The Bakers reduced their possessions to what fit in two backpacks, and spent more than a year traveling in Thailand, Australia and New Zealand. Then, they came back to America, and started helping others learn how to do the same thing. He also helped produce "I'm Fine, Thanks," a new, feature-length documentary that's a collection of stories about life, the choices we make, and the paths we ultimately decide to follow.