My introduction to minimalism was not intentional. However, the impact on me has been very rewarding. I am not a strict follower of minimalism but adhere to it loosely. Just dipping my toes in the water has had a dramatic impact on my ability to control my spending and finances.
I have only been focusing on minimalism for the last two years. The trigger was when my separation began. I only took with me what I could fit in my mid-size sedan. The last time my lifestyle had been this limited was when I moved out of my parent’s house over 20 years ago.
Over the 20 years since I had moved out of my parents’ house, I had continued to accumulate stuff. I would buy various things because I was bored, or just wanted to fill some hole in my life. Then I got married, had a few kids, and things continued to collect. I would hold onto items that I hadn’t used in years, just because I could see how I might want it or have some use for it down the road.
After relocating from Maryland to California, the housing market in Maryland was such that we could not sell the house. We knew we would be moving to a smaller space in California due to real estate costs in Silicon Valley. So, we decided to rent out the house in Maryland fully furnished, only taking about a quarter of our furniture with us. This led to some level of de-cluttering.
After living in California for about a year, we moved to Texas, still owning the furnished house in Maryland. We ended up furnishing the house in Texas. The end result was two 5-bedroom houses, fully furnished. In addition, I had boxes and boxes of stuff that hadn’t been unpacked after multiple moves around the country.
I sold the house in Maryland, disposing of all the furnishings in a fire sale, for pennies on the dollar.
When my ex-wife and I separated, I moved out into an apartment with only what would fit in the back of my car. I kept thinking that I needed to go back and get the rest of my stuff, but it just never seemed that important.
I realized that not having all that stuff was actually freeing. There was a weight lifted off me by not being encumbered by all those things. Eventually, I sorted through all the stuff, but this time I came at it with a different perspective. I wasn’t looking for reasons why I should keep stuff, but reasons why I didn’t need various things anymore. Over 20 boxes of stuff ended up being distilled down to about half of a box.
This experience has led to a new perspective for how I approach spending money and what I choose to buy. I talk about this in a personal finance blog because the biggest impact you can make to how you manage your money is your mindset.
Mindset for Personal Finance Success
Financial independence is built around a basic principle. Make more money than you spend and invest the surplus. All of the advice related to personal finance falls into three categories:
- Make more money.
- Spend less money.
- How to invest the surplus.
It’s not rocket science, but it is hard work and requires discipline.
The benefit to a minimalist perspective is the potential impact on how much of your hard-earned money you actually spend.
What does it mean to be minimalist?
There are people that take it to extremes and have only 50 personal possessions. Some people have no furniture and sit on rugs and sleep on an air mattress. Some people life out of an RV or a 300 square foot tiny house.
If that appeals to you, more power to you. However, that is most definitely not me.
My personal perspective on living a minimalist lifestyle is only buying and owning things that either specifically bring joy and happiness to my life or things that I derive a daily or weekly value from owning.
I no longer hold onto items that once had a use on the off chance that I might again need them. I have found that I’ll end up paying many times over the cost of storing or moving those items then just buying them again in the future if I really do need them.
Living a minimalist lifestyle is about being slow to buy and quick to discard. I became less impulsive on my purchases, taking a few days to think about purchases. Often I found that I’m making the purchases to fulfill some other need. Taking a few days to think over a purchase, I found the desire for the particular item wanes.
In the end, the amount of physical baggage that remains is greatly reduced. My life is less cluttered, I spend less money, and I have less anxiety having to move. It has enabled me to reduce the size of my home and I have found that I ultimately have less attachment to things in general. I’ve become less materialistic, valuing what I do have more.
Easing into Minimalism
Let’s start with a few tips to help you dip your toes into a simpler and more minimalist lifestyle.
- Become more mindful when making purchases. Avoid impulse buys and sleep on it for a day or two before making a purchase.
- Start incrementally, go through different types of items and find just a couple that you no longer need. You can always iterate and go back through culling repeatedly.
- Take it slow, don’t discard anything that is going to cause you anxiety. Just sleep on it and come back when you have reached a comfort level that you no longer want or need an item.
There is no reason to go crazy with it. Focus on becoming more mindful and purposeful in what you choose to buy and keep. It’s not a sprint, it’s a journey towards simplification and creating the life that brings you joy and contentment.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments. Have you engaged in a simpler and more minimalist way of living? How has it benefited you? I’d love to hear!