When I used to think of minimalism, my brain would always conjure up an image of a white canvas with a few specs of paint, or the newest collection of some designer selling a white tee-shirt for $100. But as I entered the decluttering phase of coronavirus induced lockdown, I began to consider what it means to adopt minimalism as a lifestyle.
Being the self-aware individual I claim to be, I know that in the past I have had a shopping problem. I love buying things. Things make me happy. for that reason, I identified as a so-called shopaholic for the past 3 years of my life. The time that quarantine gave me allowed me to dive deeper into my spending habits. Once that was done, I knew something had to change.
The idea of simple living has been around for thousands of years, but the modern minimalist movement started around 2006 with bloggers like Leo Babauta. Leo, along with others, wrote about the benefits of decluttering and promoted the idea that we could find contentment if we focused on less.
Leo wrote in an early blog post in January 2007,
According to minimalists, by removing things from our lives that don’t add value or bring joy, we can experience a lot of benefits — like better financial security, reduce stress, it can help to clarify our passions, and allow for more quality time with family and friends. But only you can decide what’s worth keeping.
From Conspicuous to Conscious Consumption
An idea first noticed by the early nineteenth-century economist, Thorstein Veblen. He observed how the affluent spent money on things to publicly display their wealth, using it as a way to boost their social power and prestige. Oh how times have changed.
As packed malls made way for one-click shopping, goods became cheaper to make, advertisers spent billions to sell them, and our ability to boast our prestige moved to social media, there was a clusterfuck of a tornado that was pushing all of us in one direction: to buy more stuff.
Then these bloggers come along and talk about their experiments with simple living and all of a sudden, minimalism was making a comeback.
Two of those early bloggers were Josh and Ryan from The Minimalists And they noticed from the very beginning that minimalism had a PR problem. People naturally think it’s about going to the extreme: getting rid of everything you own down to a loincloth.
De-Cluttering vs Deprivation
Since everyone’s interests, values, and lives are different, we all own different things. And on top of that, our lives are constantly changing so what we own today might not be what we own tomorrow.
If we don’t make decisions about what to keep, by default, we will hold on to everything. And we’ll be left with sheds, storage lockers, attics, and basements packed with stuff.
The key though is to not take it too far. If you get rid of things that you truly enjoy, then you’re doing it wrong. So it’s funny ’cause people will inevitably like come up to us and they’ll be like,
“I love books and I’ve got a nice big library and I love the way the books smell, I love turning the pages, I love how they feel, I love lending them out to my friends and then we talk about the books later!” And I’m like, “Hey — keep your books! [laughs] It sounds like you get a lot of value out of your books.”
If you look at minimalism or any of these experiments as deprivation, that’s suffering and who wants to make themselves suffer? So minimalism should not ever be about depriving yourself of good things, of things that you love.
It starts with the material things but it doesn’t end there. The biggest question for you to ask yourself right now: how much time are you spending on stuff you don’t care about? Have you taken the time to get clear on your values?
If you don’t create your definition of success, someone else will do it for you.
I never really stopped to think about what it was that I wanted out of my life. I didn’t even realize it until it was too late that I was living my life for other people. It was looking at me look at this awesome job that I have! Look at this jacket that I have! I got 15 designer hoodies, I got 12 plants, there’s only one of me! It was about impressing the wrong people honestly.
This is where I found the biggest benefit in embracing minimalism. Sure it’s nice to have a clutter-free home, but I was able to completely change my focus and re-define my idea of success. Im going to graduate next year. Right after the global economic, social and health criss that is the cornavirus pandemic!.
I’m going to move back home to live in my parents’ basement with nothing in student loans. To me, it was no longer about acquiring things or achieving a certain status in society. For me, it was about finding work that I was passionate about. It was about being able to make a full-time living as a writer, spending more time with family and friends, and experiences, focusing on my health. It took a while until I was able to truly be content. To be happy.
Overall, minimalism is something anyone struggling with their finances should try. De-cluttering and living more intentionally has changed lives for the better, allowing us to pursue the things that are most important to us. If you do try it though, make sure you don’t get rid of some sort of sentimental irreplaceable heirloom. Simply live with less so you can live more!