Fewer scheduled activities, obligations and commitments. Less debt. Fewer ways to consume media. Most importantly for me, fewer possessions.
At one of my businesses I hired a manager to help run the day to day things. I stopped playing hockey as upon reflection running was bringing me more joy and two activities didn't represent a good use of my free time. We hired a gardener because yard work is probably one of our least favourite chores. We also for a time had a house cleaner though we've let that go. That was all well and good, in fact it was wonderful. I was able to concentrate more on my photography business, get more run training done and still have more time for my family than I used to have.
We tackled debt (or started too) by rearranging our mortgage so we could be out of it as fast as possible (5 years to go, and yes I'm counting) and paid off our credit cards. When it came time to replace our car we bought a simple inexpensive one that had decent fuel economy. We also took stock of our savings, in particular for our daughters education and retirement.
For media I simply stopped recording all the shows I used to watch. I hardly miss them. Yes I still have cable but I haven't been able to cut the cord from the baseball games I enjoy and our family likes to spend one or two evenings a week watching our favourite shows together. That seems worth it. I also had several magazine subscriptions including a lot of them on my iPad (I also gave up the iPad). It was strange how I felt this obligation to read them all. I cut them all out except for Canadian Running Magazine. I now have more time for that stack of books that I enjoy much more than short magazine articles.
The biggest transition came from reducing our material possessions. For me the struggle is electronic gadgets. I have this unreasonable addiction to owning them and acquiring the newest versions when they are released. Even the ones I hardly use. For the most part I've stopped this silliness though I did get the new Playstation 4 when I had a gift card that paid for the bulk of it and I recently bought a Skulpt body muscle/fat measuring device that was probably a waste of money. I'm not perfect.
Spending less on useless stuff though has resulted in more money in our bank account which is nice. We have spent the past year going around our home room by room and getting rid of a lot of our possessions. We managed to do the entire house last year except for our kitchen and the crawl space where we have storage. Both of those spaces have intimidated us due to their sheer volume of belongings.
Last weekend though we finally tackled the kitchen emptying it completely, cleaning the cupboards and then only putting back what we use. Why as vegans we owned a meat thermometer, a turkey baster and platter as well as bone handled steak knives is beyond me. We also had a curiously large assortment of casserole dishes and three different butter dishes. I completely filled my car with boxes and bags to donate items to charity and when I returned home felt a sense of relief. I really enjoy cooking and having a space organized with purpose and without clutter had an immediate impact on my stress levels.
It's odd to me how having fewer possessions can increase your sense of well being. I find myself reluctant to shop and finding no joy in the accumulation of objects. When I do shop I tend to search for things that will enrich my life in some way by helping me do what I love (running gear for example), be of high quality so it lasts longer and that fits my ethical belief system. While searching for our latest car it became important to me that we should have something with good fuel economy and without leather seats. I was less concerned about status and curb appeal than bringing something to the family that fit well with my values about the environment and animal treatment.
We aren't there yet. Not as a family, nor me as an individual. I still fall victim to impulses and desire but the more I live with and adapt to the concept of less is more, the more zen I feel about the whole subject. I have no deep desire to acquire things, schedule myself needlessly or to keep up with popular media. I know this journey we are on is right for us. Now we just have to conquer that crawl space.