Today we’re talking about minimalism and how it can help your life. Think back to your childhood: Did you need a bunch of stuff to be happy or could you find happiness in a pile of library books, a single bag of building blocks, or adventuring on your bike until the sun went down? That’s what minimalism is going to help us find again—that happiness from within that we got as kids when we didn’t have all the excess we do now.
We went to visit an aunt and uncle when I was a kid. We were there for a whole weekend and all I had to do was watch TV, read some books, a very fat poodle to walk, and a big bag of clothespins. Poor little poodle, it started to hide when it would see me coming! But then I would use the clothespins like Legos to make all sorts of designs. Kids are inventive!
In today’s world of consumerism it’s not surprising that many of us have a lot of excess things in our homes. We’re taught to want more, more, and more. Some people even define success by being able to afford a lot of possessions – a lot of EXPENSIVE possessions. Check out my post on Women Who Always Have Money.
Sometimes we feel like we have to keep up with the Joneses. But buying bright shiny objects, or other items that you don’t need or won’t use simply drains your wallet, adds to your stockpile of treasures, and depletes your mood when you discover months down the road that you haven’t used these items and have wasted hundreds or thousands of dollars in the process. #keepingupwiththejoneses
That’s not to say that material possessions are bad. They’re not. But when our pals the Joneses are starting to lead you to bust your budget, that’s when you start having a problem. It’s time to make some changes.
Keep in mind that minimalism doesn’t have to be complicated and it doesn’t mean you need to constantly deprive yourself. All it really boils down to is this: Reassess your priorities so that you can get rid the things you DON’T care about in favor of the things you DO care about and that bring you the most happiness! It’s all about going with your priorities.
For instance for my husband and I, travel is a huge priority, but many other things are not. We will happily drive older, slightly junky cars, stick with outdated cell phones, and skip expensive home upgrades in favor of setting aside money for travel. That’s a form of minimalism right there. We are voting with our dollars for the things that bring us the most enjoyment.
The Minimalist Approach to Stress Reduction
Surprisingly, you can have some control over how stressed (or stress free) you are. Don’t fall into believing the myth that you can’t do anything about stress because there will always be work responsibilities, family responsibilities, debt, and people needing you and your time. This is true, there will always be things in your life demanding your attention but you CAN do something about it—and embracing a slightly more minimalist lifestyle is a great place to start.
First, let’s briefly talk about what minimalist living means. There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to defining this. It’s going to be a different mindset and experience for each individual so keep this in mind if you start doing any sort of research on the topic and find yourself feeling confused about what it is and isn’t.
The easiest way to think about minimalism is this:
It’s purging all the things in your life you don’t need or don’t use – leaving you with an less cluttered home and a simpler life. We all learned a lot from our pandemic year about what we actually NEED and what is most important to us. This also means letting go of that overbooked schedule. It’s all about breaking free from the bondage of commercialism and not believing any more that you have to have the newest phone, car, or clothing trends to survive.
This doesn’t mean that having material things is wrong. Even minimalists still need things. It’s just important to figure out which things are essential and which you can live without. That’s the first step in decluttering – see my post on how to use Post-it Notes to Declutter ANYTHING. for an quick way to sort out your items easily.
How Does Minimalism Reduce Stress?
Think about your current situation. Is your living environment so cluttered that half the time you can’t find what you’re looking for? Do you have a large house you despise cleaning because it takes so much time? Do you find yourself staring at a closet full of clothes but stressed because you just don’t have anything to wear? You aren’t alone by any means. At least half of all US families are in this same boat and it’s no pleasure cruise!
Do you have mountains of debt? The money for all this STUFF didn’t come out of thin air. Have you made some poor purchasing decisions? We all have at one time or another, but YAHOO (You Always Have Other Options). Check out my post on 6 Ways to Overcome Your Shopping Addiction
All those things put a lot of pressure on you and cause a great deal of stress. The point is that minimalist living reduces stress because you’ll be getting rid of the clutter, and starting to enjoy all the extra space you’ll create in your home. That is automatically soothing to your mind, surprisingly so. Hopefully, you’ll start clearing you calendar of things you don’t enjoy doing. Kids sports and activities used to be so fun, but now they can be massively overwhelming and EXPENSIVE.
My teenage great-niece does those competitive cheer performances. It’s very hard on those growing bodies to be jumping around and throwing each other like that, it takes up a huge amount of time for practices and competitions, and there are several out-of-town competitions each year. It’s SO expensive, and leaves her little time to just be a kid, and maybe do some homework! Parents – feel free to push back on demanding coaches and other leaders. These are your kids and this is their only childhood. Have a voice in their lives!
As you go through and purge possessions you can sell things to pay down your debt, too. Other things you can donate to local charities or foundations that help those in need and feel good about what you’re doing. Doing all these things will reduce your worry and anxiety which of course means less stress!
Here’s the bottom line. A minimalist lifestyle is an easy way to reduce stress and may include any or all of these ideas:
- Downsizing living arrangements
- Getting rid of cable or excessive subscriptions
- Downsizing your wardrobe to some degree (that’s hard, I really LOVE my clothes!)
- You don’t need the latest iPhone or new gadget. Wait until yours breaks
- Say no to commitments that are toxic
- No more “retail therapy” or recreational spending for things you don’t actually need (includes Amazon!)
- Live within your budget – credit card spending is basically spending imaginary money
- Sell or donate material things that are no longer needed or useful to your new lifestyle
The beauty of embracing minimalism is that you get to choose what works for you and leave the rest behind. It’s your life. Design it the way you like. That alone will dramatically reduce your stress levels.
Six Benefits of Embracing Minimalism in Your Life
In today’s culture, we’re constantly fed the message that we need more in order to live a good life. More electronics, bigger homes, newer cars, more clothes—the list goes on. We’re led to believe that having more will lead to happier and more fulfilled lives. If you make the decision to go against that norm, you may feel weird or out of step, but that’s OK. In the long run, you may have a happier life.
But the truth is, those who have embraced minimalism and learned to live and work with less often find they’re happier, more content, and living more meaningful lives. But that’s just the beginning.
Less Stress – This is by far the top benefit of minimalist living so it’s worth mentioning first. We talked about this already, but as you embark on this new way of life, you’ll find that having fewer things to worry about (both material possessions/clutter and time commitments) greatly reduces your stress level!
Less Clutter – Minimalism is about embracing a simple life and learning to live with only the things you need so naturally there will be a lot less clutter in your environment. Of course this also means that one of the first steps you’ll need to do is go through all the current clutter and get rid of the unnecessary possessions. Just keep in mind your vision of minimalism and why you’re doing it – this will help you stay on task as you purge things. And don’t forget, you can help others by making donations of your non-needed items to local charities and churches.
More Money – By moving away from the extreme commercialism that seems normal in today’s world you won’t fall victim to always needing more, more, more and more. The result of this means you’ll have more money and reduced debt. Imagine having the cash to take a fabulous trip, or to invest that extra cash into your children’s education— all because you resisted the urge to buy every new toy and gadget your friends buy.
More Time – Another essential part of embracing minimalism in your life is clearing the clutter of overbooked schedules and too much to do. You’ll begin to learn that saying NO is a complete sentence. Turning down the things you don’t enjoy doing, or those you feel obligated to do (even though you’re not) means you’ll free up your time. This will give you the freedom to do with your time the things that mean the most to you – spending time with family, friends, traveling, or volunteering.
Spend Less Time Cleaning Your Living Environment – The top two complaints about housework – cleaning in particular – is (1) it takes too long and (2) there’s too much stuff to clean/clean around. The good news is, embracing minimalism means these things won’t happen anymore. It’ll take far less of your time to clean and organize your home and office because you won’t have so much stuff to work with. Check out my post on Speed Cleaning.
Set a Good Example For Your Kids –Just as adults have easily fallen prey to the world’s message that we have to have more, more and more, so have our kids. In fact, most kids now-a-days live lives of entitlement, not knowing what it means to not have things in excess. Embracing minimalism, especially if your kids are little, will be a good example for teaching them about what is and isn’t important. Read my post on how Clutter Affects Your Children – it’s my most popular!
As with any major life change, don’t tackle minimizing your home and business at once. Create your vision and tackle each environment slowly but with purpose. As you make more changes and discover the freedom that minimalism provides, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start minimizing sooner.
Help Others by Switching to Minimalism
One of the biggest roadblocks to face when it comes to minimalism and getting rid of possessions is money. Not that it costs money to simplify, but the thought of all the money you’ve spent on “stuff.”
It can be a big eye-opening experience and may even cause people to hang onto things they don’t really need because they feel like they can’t “throw all that money away.” To put it bluntly, the money has already been spent so it’s gone and it’s a little late to start thinking about that now. You’ve already “thrown” it away and hanging onto unwanted stuff isn’t going to bring it back!
However, making the decision to move into minimalism can be a win-win situation. As you begin to clear the clutter in your life (and don’t forget to make a plan to not purchase more “things” unless absolutely necessary) you’ll also reduce debt, which is always a good thing. Think of the financial freedom your family and staff can enjoy knowing that you’re reducing debt by cutting back your expenditures.
As you start saying NO to things you don’t want to do or things that don’t feed your passions in life, you’ll find time to do the things that are more meaningful and important to you, like spending time with family or volunteering. Your family can learn what it’s like to have you present in the moment instead of plugged in to your phone and the recipients of your volunteerism will benefit from any time you can give them.
Now think about the impact your physical donations will have on other people. We’re talking about those in your local community who are less fortunate and could greatly benefit from the things you’re clearing from your life.
If you find yourself feeling anxious about getting rid of things and feeling like you need to hang onto everything, just in case, remember to start small. You don’t have to get rid of every single possession you own. Instead, decide what you can and can’t live without.
For example, if you’re going through a closet and find a box of clothes from a few years ago, it’s time to get rid of them since you obviously haven’t needed them during this time period. Think about this also when it comes to decluttering your home office. Do you have an extra computer, printer, or other resources you can donate? Ask around town if there’s a senior center or job training organization that can use electronic donations.
Simply changing your perspective about letting go of possessions and looking at it from the viewpoint of helping others will make you feel better about doing it. And I bet you’ll even start looking for more things to donate. Now you’re not only helping yourself but others too and that’s a huge win-win situation!
Here’s a video from very popular minimalist – Dawn, the Minimal Mom about how minimalism changed her family’s life.