Minimalism is a hot topic these days. With the popularity of Marie Kondo’s show and concerns about the impact of out-of-control consumerism on the environment, many people are looking for an alternative way of living that does not center on the accumulation of material goods. While I don’t consider myself a hard-core minimalist, I've found many benefits from adopting these principles to my life. I am happier owning less and I find it much easier to resist buying things due to hype or brand name because of my minimalist mindset.
If you are looking for a way off the consumerism bandwagon and want to save time and money, the ideas of minimalism might be for you. Here are the basics to help you get started.
1. Be intentional about what you bring into your life (and what you remove from it). One important element of minimalism is intentionality: making decisions about how you spend your time and money with thoughtfulness and consideration, rather than simply going along with what is popular. This requires you to tune in to what is most important to you and what will bring value to your life. It also requires slowing down and putting some space between the urge to buy and handing over your credit card number.
Intentionally removing things from your life is another way to cultivate a minimalist mindset. Look at the things you own with fresh eyes and ask yourself if you find them useful or beautiful. Cull your Facebook friend list so that the people who remain in your feed bring positivity to your time online. And check your habits and behaviors for things that are not helpful and work toward changing them.
2. Reject society’s standard of success that more is better. The idea that buying more stuff is the answer to all our problems is ubiquitous in our society. By some estimates we are exposed to 5,000 advertisements per day, and the purpose of these ads is to get us to spend our money on material goods. A lifetime of exposure to these messages warps our beliefs so that we think these things will make us happy, but research shows that once we reach a certain comfortable amount, increases in income do not correlate with increases in happiness. Any of us who have lived in a cluttered home can see that accumulating more does not necessarily add to our quality of life, and it can actually become a detriment.
The principles of minimalism encourage us to get off the treadmill of earning more just to buy more. But how do we get there? Shifting your thinking to notice the benefits of less takes work, but it can happen. Instead of thinking about paring down in terms of lack, think about what you are gaining: more space, more money, more free time, and more peace. Start small and clear out some space in a closet or bookshelf and just live with it for a while. See if it makes you feel a little better, a little less overwhelmed.
3. Consciously craft a life according to your personal values. Minimalism is about figuring out what is most important to you and then creating a life around the things you value most. This requires doing some self-reflection to figure out what your values are (here is an exercise that I found helpful). Once you have determined your values, take a look at your life and ask if the things you spend your time, money and attention on reflect your most important ideals. How can you tweak things to get closer to a life in line with your values? This does not have to mean sweeping changes like quitting your job or dumping your significant other. Small tweaks like reading a book at night instead of scrolling on Facebook can have a big impact in the long run.
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