One of the best parts of my journey toward financial independence has been learning more about the concept of minimalism. For years I’ve known that it’s a problem that I live in a 3 bedroom house by myself yet full of stuff. But it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I started to do something about it. Minimalism-lite, I’ll call it. Cleaning out the overflowing closets and stuffed garage, but never really considering the other items I own because the clutter was gone.
The best (and most inspiring) resource that I’ve discovered is The Minimalists. I’ve read quite a few of the essays on their blog, subscribe to their podcast, and have read their book Everything Remains. They do a great job of spreading their message but doing so in a way that isn’t preachy. The basis of their message is that different items may provide value to you but not to them, and that’s okay. It’s about surrounding yourself with only the things that provide purpose and value. It’s this message that has allowed me to really embrace the concept of minimalism because it resonates with me.
Side Note: If you have any interest in minimalism, be sure to check out their documentary, Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. It also covers various subtopics such as tiny houses, Project 333, and meditation. The film is extremely well done and worth your time. You can find details here.
Looking around my house, there are so many items that I haven’t used in years. I’m one of those people who likes to keep things on hand, just in case I need them in the future. But the more I look at what these items are, the more I’ve come to realize that I likely won’t use them ever again. Giving them up won’t diminish my quality of life nearly as much as I think it will.
Here are my main reasons for embracing minimalism:
The Environmental Impact
There’s no denying that over-consumption has taken a toll on our environment, from the resources used to create the products we buy to the landfills that are overflowing with our discarded items. I don’t consider myself to be a tree hugger, but it really worries me that we live in a culture where everything is disposable, especially when you consider the fact that so many of these things aren’t actually needed or improve our lives in any real way while in our possession.
The more stuff you have, the more time you spend caring for it. Being the lazy person I am, this is a huge driver towards my decision to own and consume less. The idea that your stuff owns to you is a very real concept and it’s something I want to get away from. Who wants to spend their time dusting and cleaning and dropping stuff off at Goodwill?
While I don’t participate in Project 333, I essentially have one outfit for each day of the week, summer and winter. For example, I wear the same 5 shirts/sweaters and 5 pairs of pants/jeans to work each day. Then I have 2 shirts/sweaters and a pair of jeans for the weekends. I do have a few sweatshirts (I live in Minnesota, after all) for the winter and a skort if it’s really hot on a weekend day. I wear the same black shoes to work, Monday-Thursday and my basic generic Keds-like shoes on Fridays when I can wear jeans. I do have a couple of pairs of walking shoes to wear on the weekends and a few extra t-shirts but that’s it. My wardrobe is very basic and it’s an amazing feeling to know that I actually like everything in my closet. This has had the biggest payoff for me so far, so I highly recommend it.
No More Buyer’s Remorse
You know that feeling when you want something really, really bad? You finally get it and you’re so excited. Then a few weeks later you grow bored with it or a newer model is announced. Talk about buyer’s remorse. It’s then that you realize you should have waited or bypassed the purchase altogether.
When your main purchases are consumables, like mine are, there’s little room for buyer’s remorse. If I purchase a new flavor of tea that I decide I don’t like, I’m only out $3. A bummer but not really a big deal.
I’ve found that I’ve reached a point with technology where I have a very difficult time keeping up. Perhaps it’s my age (I’m quickly approaching 40) or my laziness or something else, but I just don’t have the energy to keep up with what the latest and greatest gadget is or the desire to own it. For me, it’s no longer sustainable.
Remember: It’s hard to regret a purchase that you don’t make.
Financial independence and minimalism compliment each other: Financial independence is about having the means to live out our dreams or lives as we see fit, while minimalism allows us to do so without being burdened with stuff.
If you feel overwhelmed or unhappy, minimalism just might be for you. It’s worth looking into whether or not consumption is driving your dissatisfaction. And remember, minimalism doesn’t mean living in an empty house with no belongings. It’s about removing anything in your life (possessions, activities, relationships) that doesn’t add value. It’s up to you to determine what’s important in your life, since no one can do that for you.