Our modern society teaches us that our possessions define who we are. This consumerist approach to life dictates what we buy, how much, and how often. We have an unchecked obsession with comparing ourselves with others, especially when it comes to material goods, like cars, new technology, or a revamped closet full of the latest fashions every three months.
This dangerous mindset pervading modern society has lead to overconsumption of resources and goods that burdens the planet and allows for economic systems to take advantage of its workers. Not only does the planet suffer, but our spirits suffer as well. No matter how hard we try to accumulate wealth, material possessions will never spiritually satisfy us. By leading a more Minimalist lifestyle, we can shift our values, aligning them to create a more environmentally fulfilling, socially just and spiritually fulfilling world.
What is Minimalism?
Minimalism teaches us to move away from this mindset of consumerism, material possessions, and too many distractions. Minimalism sweeps away the excess in our lives so we can live lightly, not weighed down by things or time constraints.
At its core, Minimalism as a lifestyle is about reduction. It is a lifestyle that encourages living with less. That means fewer possessions and much less clutter. But on a deeper level, this also means shifting your life to live with fewer negative thoughts and less stress. Time, which is arguably the most valuable resource you have, is taken up less by unneeded appointments and obligations that do not serve you.
Going Beyond Stuff
So what happens when we get rid of all this stuff? The results go way beyond having a neater kitchen. When we free up our space, our minds, and our time, we have room to focus on more important things. You gain breathing space to live intentionally, removing everything that distracts you from your values. You will have time and clarity of mind to ask yourself what things, people, and activities are most important to you. You’ll start getting creative with the resources you have and questioning if you really need a certain thing before you buy it.
Striving towards a more Minimalist lifestyle can help you slow down, consume less, but enjoy life more often and more deeply.
Losing Possessions, Gaining Freedom
Once you open your life up to focusing on what you value most, you gain an immense sense of freedom. The innovative creators of the lifestyle blog, The Minimalists argue that,“Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. Real freedom.”
Your possessions will slowly be replaced by greater joy, better relationships, and more money to spend on valuable things, like experiences. Thomas Gilovich, a Cornell University psychology professor who has been studying happiness as it relates to experiences and possessions for over a decade says, “There are three main reasons why doing something brings about more pleasure than owning something: experiences become part of our identity; they promote social connections with others; and they don’t trigger the kind of jealousy or envy we often get when thinking about someone’s material things.”
Society can benefit greatly from this paradigm shift of less consumerism and more intentional living. By consuming less, you can restore the balance of consumption, leaving more resources for our neighbors and future generations. Minimalism can help redefine society and change the materialist dream of the modern world that promotes environmental degradation, separation, and social injustice. By reducing your consumer habits, you have less impact on the natural environment. By recycling and reusing what you already have instead of buying more, less resources are being used.
Interpretations of Minimalism
There are some Minimalists out there who are calling for people to drastically alter their lifestyles, like paring down their possessions to 100 things or moving a family into a tiny house of 300 square feet. However, Minimalist lifestyles are all very different, depending on who you are and what your situation is. One way of practicing Minimalism may not appeal to another person, but that’s ok. The beauty of Minimalism is that there are so many interpretations of the lifestyle and anyone can adopt its principles, even if only in small ways at first. There are many ways to explore the lifestyle and the guiding principles it touts. Anyone can incorporate Minimalist elements to their life, even entire families.
Simple Steps to Get Started
Minimalism doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Start slowly and really think critically as you evaluate what is most important to you and what you really don’t need. Here are 10 small things you can do to start incorporating Minimalism into your life now.
- Write down all the reasons why you want to start a Minimalist lifestyle. This will serve as inspiration for the journey ahead. Consider your priorities and values in order to guide you in the process.
- Discard duplicates of things you have in your home. You often don’t need more than one of an item. You can donate items, so other people can put them to use.
- Declutter one easy space whether it’s a drawer, a room, or a closet.
- Start with just 15 minutes of decluttering. Set a timer, and dedicate yourself to doing as much as you can in the short time you allot yourself.
- Travel lighter. The next time you travel, pack fewer items of clothes than you normally would. As you travel with less, you’ll see what you really need to live joyfully, and can take action to remove unnecessary things from your home when you return.
- Simplify meals. Begin the week by planning a few meals to repeat for the next several days. We waste too much time and energy trying to think of different meals to prepare every single day of the week.
- Stop comparing yourself to others. Just because it seems like everyone has the latest device doesn’t mean that you need it or that it will make you any happier. Choose to devote yourself to the experiences, the things, and the relationships that are valuable to you, not anyone else.
- Once a day, place one item in a donate box. Try it for 30 days. If it feels right, keep going.
- Recycle one item that is beyond repair. You don’t need to keep broken things around. By recycling it, maybe someone else can use the item in another way.
- Unplug for one hour each day. Each day, make time for yourself by completely detaching from all electronics, including the phone and television.