“Courage is the power to let go of the familiar.” Raymond Lindquist
It can be a challenge to let go of things we’re used to having around, even for the seasoned minimalist. We get into the habit of doing things a certain way, using certain “tools” for certain tasks, and forget that there are other options. What if you were to broaden your perspective and see how many things you own you serve a function that something else you have could also serve, or even that serve a purpose that just isn’t relevant in your life anymore? What follows is a list of some of the biggest blind spots a lot of us have…and a couple that might be up for heated debate, depending on your priorities in life!
15.1 Microwave: What Is It Good For? Absolutely Nothing!
A lot households seem to have a microwave sitting around as part of the landscape. Some are used regularly, some collect dust in a corner with other unused appliances. If you have one for which the latter is the case, you know what to do! If, however, you’re in the habit of using your microwave to heat stuff up (cause hey! That’s what microwaves do!), consider this. Could you not heat things up just as easily in a pan, pot, or in the oven for certain larger things? Is a microwave in anyway an essential part of your daily life? Probably not. Even if you lead a packed life with kids and a high pressure job, taking 35 seconds more to warm up a meal is within the range of possibility.
Plus, if you’re not already aware, microwaves are not great for your health, to say the least. First off, they deplete the food your heat up of a lot of its nutrients. Lizzette Borreli explains in an recent article for Medical Daily that this is because “water molecules rotate rapidly in the microwave and in the food in high frequencies which creates molecular friction and heats up your food. This causes the molecular structure in your food to change, and as a result diminishes the nutrient content in the food.” Significant studies across the globe have shown that food is depleted on several levels when microwaved, from proteins being damaged to vitamins and minerals being destroyed. There have even been studies showing changes in the production of red blood cells in frequent microwave users. Several studies also show that purportedly “microwaveable” packaging often leak large amounts of toxic chemicals into your food, including polyethylene terpthalate (PET), benzene, toluene, and xylene and BPA.
They also may have negative effects on heart function. A study conducted by Dr. Magda Havas of Trent University found the levels of radiation emitted by a microwaves, as well as Wifi, affect both heart rate and heart rate variability. In a paper citing several studies on the effects of microwaves she states that “The early literature showing cardiovascular dysfunction among microwave workers, our study showing heart rate irregularities with pulsed microwave exposure at a fraction of international microwave exposure guidelines; the complaints of electrically hypersensitive individuals of heart irregularities; student complaints of heart flutters and a racing heart; and the increase in the rate of sudden cardiac arrest among young people to the point that schools are installing defibrillators cannot be ignored.”  With all these negative effects on health and nutritional quality of food, why on earth would you want to keep a microwave around when you can get rid of it, gain space, increase your vitamin and mineral intake from food, and reduce radiation in your home?
15.2 Drying Machines And The Isolation of Modern Comfort
Sure, it’s nice to be able to just toss your clothes in the dryer and forget about them ‘til they come out miraculously fluffy and warm. But in the grand scheme of things, dryers take up a lot of space and energy, and you don’t really need one! You don’t really need one because you can easily dry your clothes by simply hanging them on a line or on an indoor rack! It’s not rocket science, and it actually keeps your clothing in better shape on the long run (less wear on the fabric!). Hanging clothing outside (if you don’t have any pollen allergies!) can also be a great way to meet neighbours, as it implies being outside and accessible for small talk on a regular basis (t also means slightly more physical activity and fresh air, and in our day and age every little bit helps!). When you think about it, most of the things that we consider modern comforts actually als serve to isolate us in many ways. Cars, Tv’s, washing and drying machines…these all keep us inside, away from other people and have replaced various communal activities we would have done in the past. Obviously if you’re a single mom with four kids you might still want to have a dryer (on the other hand, hanging laundry can be a fun activity to do with kids of all ages!). But if not, you might as well free up some space!
15.3 TV: It Takes Up Space and Drains Your Brain
“The mood state Americans are in, on average, when watching television is mildly depressed.” Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi
The practical argument for getting rid of your TV is that it takes up a lot of space and you can watch most things on your computer nowadays anyways. Ok, so you may want the big screen experience. But there are lot of other reasons why letting go of your TV can be a good move in your life. In his book “Rewire: Change Your Brain to Break Bad Habits, Overcome Addictions, Conquer Self-Destructive Behavior,” psychotherapist Richard O’Connor gives some pretty good arguments for getting rid of your TV for good. He states that “the more television you watch, the more you see people who seem richer than you. Research shows that you will then overestimate the income of real people, and underestimate the value of your own. So the more television you watch, the more dissatisfied with yourself you become. You’ll spend more money. By one estimate you’ll spend an extra four dollars per every hour of television you watch. Of course, television is about drama, which means violence, infidelity, and amoral behavior, and you end up overestimating the frequency of these things in real life. You may conclude that the world is a less safe place than it actually is…”
So essentially, not only will you have some extra space, you’ll also be doing good for you mental health and your pocketbook. Not to mention, not having a TV is a great way to increase your social connections and family life…it forces you to actually interact with people and take up hobbies and pastimes instead of just vegging out in front of a screen after work (and keeps the kids, if you have any, from having the option of whining to watch more TV). Once you get rid of it your life will be vastly improved. And you can always go hang out at a friends place who still has a TV when you really want to see something on a bigger screen…or just go the movie theatre! Make an outing of your cinematic experience!
15.4 Cars: Let’s Face it, They’ve Got a Really Bad Rep.
If you’re lucky, you already don’t have a car! If you live in a rural area, then you may be stuck having one, but without some of the unpleasant side-effects of having one in the city (i.e. limited parking, traffic jams etc.). If you do have a car however, it’s one the big things you want to rethink if you’re aiming for a simple, minimalist life. Firstly because cars are huge money drains, whether it be for repairs or monthly payments or insurance. Unless you have no way of earning a living without a car, you will gain immensely by not owning one. Even if you have a job where you need to travel or transport equipment, it’s worth asking yourself if there are ways you could rideshare instead. Are there other employees you could travel with? Does anyone else work in the same geographic area who could transport you and your stuff? Are there in fact easy public transportation options that you haven’t thought about cause you happen to have a car? Or do you need a car infrequently enough that you could rent or sign up for a community carsharing group like Communauto?
When you have a car you don’t realize a lot of the hidden benefits of not having one. Aside from no longer dealing with parking, oil changes, maintenance, insurance etc., you also get a lot more exercise without even trying! Getting from place to place all of a sudden actually necessitates using your body! This has myriad health benefits over time. Not to mention the social benefits, as travelling by foot, bike or public transportation is a great way to meet people and be connected to your local community and neighborhood. You actually meet people by chance when you’re not in a car! All this on top of the obvious pro-environment side of things.
15.5 Books…Do You Really Need Them?
“All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.” Havelock Ellis
Ok. Getting into touchy territory here. Book lovers are often quite attached to their collections. The minimalist in you however has been screaming “get rid of them!” for who knows how long. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why and how you might pry some of those lovelies from their shelves. First off, if you own a lot of books you can probably find enough overlap in subjects between some of them (particularly in terms of non-fiction) that you don’t really need to own both. You may even own multiple copies of some things without realizing it. This can be a good first sort if you’re looking to downsize. Secondly, you probably have a whole shelf of books you’re “going to read sometime.” If you’re aiming for a minimalist living space you’re going to have to get ruthless with this pile at some point. How long have you been saying you’re going to read that book “sometime” for exactly? Set yourself a clear limit and if a book sits unread for X amount of time, get rid of it!
If you’re not sure where to get rid of books, most libraries except anything in good shape. More and more cities and towns also have community street book swap boxes where you can pass books for people to have free access to them! You may also want to think about whether you really need to own the books on your “to read” list. What about finding them at a library or borrowing them from a friend? Robyn Devine of becoming minimalist blog has a great article on breaking the sentimental attachment to books. One of her suggestions is to “Grab a notebook and start writing down your thoughts about each book as you take it off your shelves. If you can’t think of anything to say, you probably won’t miss the book if it weren’t there anymore.” 
You might also want to consider reading electronic books or getting a kindle…if you’re not attached to the physicality of books then this is a great solution. You could also try having both! For every book lover there will be some books that you just can’t (or won’t) part with. A reasonable goal is to try and cut down your book collection ‘til only those books are left. Anything you might read once and then never again can be borrowed from a library, a friend, read on kindle, or given away as soon as you’re done reading it!
15.6 Fast Track Through A Few Other Expendables…
There are several other things you may not realize you don’t need around your home. Printers often sit in corners collecting dust until those two occasions per year when you have to print something. It’s super easy to get things printed nowadays, so why keep it around? You also probably have friends who have printers that you can call up on those two days a year and ask for the tiny favor of printing out X document. On a similar note, you probably have a bunch of tools hanging around that you don’t use more than a couple time a year either. Anything you don’t use regularly doesn’t need to be kept around if you’re aiming for true minimalism! There are tool libraries in a lot of cities now, and again, you probably have friends, family, neighbors or colleagues who can lend you a hammer on the rare occasions that you need one. Finally, believe it or not, you don’t really need a toaster. Toast can easily be made in a skillet on the stove, or, for the DIY types, by folding a metal clothes hanger and putting your toast on top of it on your stove element.
15.7 Action Point Summary: Here’s What You Need To Do Now!
“Stuff doesn’t matter – boats, cars, fancy things don’t matter….what will matter to me, is the love of the people around me, and did I take a chance? Did I seize an opportunity to do something for people with the talents that I was lucky enough to be given? Did I make a difference in the lives of people who needed me?” James Comey