Mention the term ‘minimalist’ and people immediately imagine a monk-like existence devoid of any and all creature comforts.
Minimalism is not about making your life uncomfortable. It’s about ridding yourself of the superfluous and making space for things that matter.
Minimalists tend to focus on experiences, rather than stuff. For them, less really is so much more.
Once you get that happiness does not (as the marketing moguls would have us believe) reside in the things you own, your spending habits change. Suddenly having for having’s sake is no longer a consideration.
Okay, so what exactly are the benefits of downsizing and how does one get started on this journey? Let’s start with the advantages and then we’ll move on to the how-to part.
You’ll Have More Time
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“No thanks, I don’t want more time,” said nobody ever. The majority of us live for Friday and dread Monday. We have a million things we’d love to do, but we never seem to get to any of them.
For starters, there’s the job we need to show up for. We also have a home that needs cleaning, a car (maybe more than one) that needs gas, laundry that needs cleaning, grass that needs mowing, bills that need paying and filing. And that’s just the everyday of it.
Stuff is needy and time-consuming and the more we own, the more of our time it takes up. It makes sense (kind of) when you’re actually using something, but what’s the point of spending valuable time on things you don’t use?
In my own life, my wife and I noticed an almost instant increase in leisure time after shedding the majority of our belongings. We didn’t set out to become minimalists, we happened on the lifestyle by accident when the thought of our impending move led me to propose a crazy idea.
“If we lived in a furnished apartment,” I reasoned, “we wouldn’t need to lug all this stuff around with us.” It took almost no persuading to reach an agreement. Although pointing out that it would bring packing down to a bare minimum certainly helped my cause.
Of course, we still have chores to do, but they’re done in a tenth of the time it used to take us, leaving us free to do the things we enjoy, like going to movies, hiking and volunteering at a local soup kitchen.
You’ll Have More Money
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Make no mistake: stuff is expensive. There’s the initial outlay when you buy something new, but then there are the additional costs that we invariably forget to factor in when we’re in the midst of our buyer’s high. Which is why it’s so often followed by buyer’s remorse.
On a practical note, whatever it is we’ve just bought will at some point (either immediately or further down the line) need to be insured, cleaned, maintained, serviced and repaired. Some items require gas or electricity to work, which further adds to the price.
There’s another, more concerning, aspect to take into account, however. Stuff is expensive because of our constant need to upgrade. Call it keeping up with the Jones’s, call it being stuck on the Hedonic Treadmill, it doesn’t matter. It’s costing us and it’s costing us dearly.
You’ll Be Less Stressed
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When you’re swimming in surplus leisure time and cash, stress quickly evaporates. Suddenly you have options. You can quit the job you hate and take a chance on your side-hustle. You can consider taking up dance classes or painting or sign up for that marathon.
One day you’ll wake up and realize that you’re not living weekend to weekend or paycheck to paycheck anymore. You’re just in the moment, enjoying life to the fullest. In short, the stuff you own no longer owns you.
How to Become a Minimalist
Minimalism looks different for everyone. Everyone has a different story and a different message to share. Start by finding a virtual mentor (maybe even a couple) whose message resonates with you. Along with searching for ‘minimalist blogs’ on Google, you could also try looking for minimalist TED talks for further inspiration.
The next step is to start the decluttering process. Again, there’s a ton of wisdom available online, so search for a process that speaks to you and dive in. One popular approach is to play the mins game. Another is to declutter your home room by room. How you do it is up to you, just make sure you end up with less than you started with.
Stick with it and you’ll end up happier, richer and a lot less stressed. True story.
Photo Credit: Katii Bishop