Minimalism asks us to look inward and be honest about what our priorities are. Those things, material and immaterial, that aren’t adding value to our lives should be scrapped. The most well-known example of this is decluttering physical possessions. You can probably look around your home and find items you haven’t used in years. Being honest with yourself, why do you continue to keep these items?
Maybe you tell yourself you’ll need them within the next couple years. Maybe you will and maybe you won’t. In the meantime, they’re taking up space. If you donate the items (or sell them if they’re in good condition), someone else could be getting value from them instead. In the future, you can try to borrow from a friend or neighbor if that item is needed, or re-purchase if it’s a necessity at that time.
The basic tenets of Minimalism are:
- Living simply by paring down and focusing on what’s important. This applies to relationships, possessions, and anything demanding your time.
- Being deliberate with our actions and what we choose to purchase. Spend more time doing what we love and avoid the rest.
- Relationships and experiences are more important than possessions.
- Slow down and enjoy more. Focus on health, relationships, passions, and personal growth.
- Live sustainably, frugally, debt-free, and in the moment.
- Create more than we consume.
Paring Down on Possessions
For me personally, when I am surrounded by clutter I develop anxiety. The fewer possessions I own means:
- There is less to worry about when cleaning (and less to clean).
- There is less to draw my attention and consume time, leaving my mind free to focus on other matters.
- I’m consuming less and helping the environment in turn.
This is not to say you shouldn’t shop or live in a sparsely decorated home (unless you want to of course). The beauty of Minimalism is that it can be shaped and molded by you to fit your priorities, desires, and needs. The ultimate end-goal is a life that provides more freedom, time, and money for what’s important. How you get there can vary.
For instance, I derive immense value from my adventure gear for climbing, backpacking, camping, etc. This is not an area I would pare down. In fact, I usually end up adding to it. I spend a lot of my time engulfed in these activities and the items I choose to keep and surround myself with reflect that.
Own Higher Quality Possessions
With paring down comes the idea of owning higher quality things in regards to what we keep. Why buy 20 shirts you only kind of like when you could get 10 higher quality shirts that you love? Not only will they last longer, but you’ll feel more comfortable and confident in them. It’s not always the case but cheap prices usually correlate with a cheap product. Spending a little more for quality can be worth it.
Evaluating Your Relationships
Are the people you spend time with adding value to your life? Do they enrich you and make you feel loved? If not, you should re-evaluate the relationship. Life is too short to spend around those who put us down and don’t support our dreams, passions, or goals. I heard once that you become like the five people you spend the most time with. Choose five that support you and care tabout your success.
Should I buy X? Will my time be better spent doing this, or that? Be deliberate with what you choose to do. Impulse can lead us astray and cause us to be unhappy when we realize we didn’t want to buy that item, or perform that action, after all. Especially once we check our bank account.
Relationships and Experiences > Possessions
In 50 years, you’ll remember that time you spent having that epic snowball fight. Or the other time you topped out your climbing project amongst friends. What you won’t remember is what shirt you were wearing. Or that “must-have!” item you found at the mall. Building meaningful relationships and the experiences that come with them will always trump owning possessions.
Minimalism & Financial Independence
Choosing to live with less is friendly on the wallet since we see beyond the veil of consumerism. Our world is obsessed with owning more and more, idealizing celebrities who seem to have it all. Advertisements have latched onto every aspect of our lives in the World Wide Web, Podcasts, Radio, TV, Billboards, etc. They want us to compare ourselves and what we own to that of others.
We can’t avoid these ads but we can choose not to be sucked in by them. Minimalism and Financial Independence go well together because:
- It’s an easy way to save money. If you are buying less you don’t need as much money. You can pay off your debt faster, invest more, and become one step closer to financial freedom.
- You’ll save time. If you don’t need to make as much money you can spend time following your passions.
- You can retire earlier. Your nest egg can be smaller if you’ll be pulling less money from it.
- You can get a smaller house. With less to store, a smaller space can feel bigger. With how costly homes are this is a huge advantage.
- Higher quality items last longer. Less purchasing and re-purchasing of crappy products is friendly on the wallet and the environment.
Net Zero Lifestyle
As I keep paring down I’ve tried to stick to the idea of staying net zero. This essentially means that if I bring something into my space, I remove something else. A one-for-one swap. This can help keep clutter from building up again.
“This Can’t Work for Me Because I Have Kids”
One of the biggest concerns I have heard is that Minimalism cannot possibly work for families. While this is not a realm I have direct experience in, Joshua Becker of becomingminimalist.com has made it work with his family. (As have others!)
One Final Thought
Minimalism is a conscience, deliberate action you can choose to follow or not. You only go as far as you’re comfortable with. What works for someone else may not be the best for you. It started slowly for me and as I dive deeper into it, I notice larger benefits. Because it’s a form of personal growth, it’s a journey that continues to evolve as I learn more about myself.