Have you ever heard of the term, “minimalism”? While I’m sure many of you have, I’m also quite certain that many of you truly have no idea what it means. You might have a visual of someone living in a tiny house and only owning 100 total possessions, or you might think of someone wearing clothes that very clearly just came from the thrift shop (yes, some of those clothes are simply hideous). While some minimalists choose to live lifestyles far below the poverty line, this is not the defining factor of the minimalist lifestyle.
As defined by theminimalist.com,
“Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important – so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.”
I currently live in a 3-bedroom, 2-bath house, but I consider myself a minimalist. Instead of buying fancy cars, a bunch of toys, and expensive lawn care equipment, I drive a paid-for 2001 Honda Civic, I have a one-stall garage that fits my car and everything I need for the yard, and I ride my bicycle for transport whenever possible. I enjoy keeping things simple, and for that reason I consider myself a minimalist.
Why You Should Consider Minimalism
So what’s the big to-do around minimalism today? It seems that we’re hearing about it a lot more recently than we ever have before. In my opinion, this is because 50 years ago, nearly everyone was a minimalist – it was common to live on little and remain within your means. Today, nearly everyone is entering themselves in the race to acquire the most stuff, to have the biggest engine, or to construct the largest house. Bigger is better in today’s world, no matter the expense. Therefore today, minimalism is weird. People that don’t have a yearning for stuff stand out like a sore thumb. It’s actually kind of sad because many of the happiest, most content people are minimalists, and we should all really be learning something from them.
So what is it that they know that many others seem to willingly neglect? What are the benefits of the minimalist lifestyle?
1) The less you have, the fewer things you have to worry about
For those of us that own a 2,000 square foot house, a car, a lawn mower, tools, and a small boat, life seems pretty normal right? But, compared to a minimalist that owns a small home, has no car, no lawn to mow, no boat to maintain, life is actually pretty stressful with all that stuff!
By living in such a large house, it takes a tremendous amount of time to keep it clean, you have to fix it up occasionally, and you feel the need to redecorate constantly. With a very small home, everything has its place, takes very little effort to clean, and maintenance is a piece of cake! Some minimalists do without a car, which sounds crazy, but think about the stress that they eliminate by getting rid of it. There’s nothing to clean, nothing to maintain, and nothing to worry about breaking down. If you live close enough to the city, you can just use your bicycle or your legs.
I could really go on and on, but the general point is clear: the fewer things you have, the more stress free your life becomes.
2) Fewer things means fewer expenses
Along with less stress, doing away with stuff gets rid of a ton of expenses! Let’s take a look at our list above and record the typical monthly expense for each item:
- House = $1,200 a month
- Car = $800 a month (payment+insurance+gas+maintenance)
- Boat = $500 a month (payment+insurance+gas+maintenance+slip rental)
Whoa, that’s $2,500! So what are the expenses of a minimalist? By owning a very small house (maybe even a tiny house), they would likely be able to cover the initial cost with cash, making their only expenses the property tax, maintenance, and utilities. Let’s say this totals to $250 a month. They have no car and no boat, so their total monthly expense is $250 compared to your $2,500, or 10% of your monthly expense.
3) Can willingly earn less
Whenever I bring these numbers to the attention of my friends and colleagues, they almost immediately point out that the minimalist has a reduced quality of life because he/she owns far less than the normal human being. This seems fair, until we get to this point: the ability to earn less.
Since the minimalist’s expenses are only 10% of the average person, they can earn far less and still survive quite easily in their day to day lives. So, if the average family earns $50,000 per year, but spends ten times more than the minimalist to survive, then the minimalist could really strive to earn only $5,000 a year and live a pretty decent life. By putting this into hours worked, if you work 50 hours per week to maintain your lifestyle, then the minimalist (assuming they earn the same wage) will only have to work 5 hours per week. The remaining 45 hours are theirs to do whatever they want with it. Is minimalism starting to sound a little more attractive?
4) Can more easily find your purpose
With all that additional time each week, the minimalist has plenty of time to relax, think, and do what makes them happy. Some thoroughly enjoy hiking and fishing and therefore fill their days with those activities. Others are incredibly interested in doing social good and find themselves volunteering for many different organizations. Still others learn to discover their passion and begin working at something they enjoy (as opposed to working for a big paycheck).
For those that are working the 50 hour weeks in order to earn the paycheck that goes toward all the payments, life is all about survival and includes very little thought about the future or about what actually makes them happy. They work incredibly hard to pay for stuff that they think provides them happiness, but in actuality all that stuff is only giving them temporary happiness while true happiness is evading them because they either don’t have the time to think about it or they have an extreme fear of losing all they have. So, many choose to continue juggling dozens of balls in order to keep a small fraction of happiness.
My challenge to you is to find your purpose and pursue it. You might have yourself in a financial mess right now (which may be holding you back), but even the worst messes can be corrected in five years or less with laser focus. Get out of debt, live simply, and don’t stop pursuing your purpose.