Beth Deyo is a freelance writer and healthy-living enthusiast focused on finding true happiness while calming the chaos of everyday life.
What do you think of when you hear the words minimalist living?
If you’ve been exposed to some of the most common misconceptions, you may envision stark and barren rooms, boring lifestyles, and an obsession with counting the number of possessions you own.
While extreme minimalism sometimes focuses on owning only the absolute bare necessities, the essence of the lifestyle is about simplicity.
Think about how many physical items you currently own. Is it 100? 1,000? More?
How many hours a week do you work so you can make the money you need to buy more stuff? Is it really worth it? Are you truly happy?
Maybe the minimalists are on to something. Can we really feel happier by living with less?
Examining Our Attachment to “Stuff”
Most of us believe the more money and possessions we have, the happier we’ll be.
Whether we realize it or not, we’re constantly comparing our achievements to those of our neighbors and friends and measuring our self-worth by how much we own. We collect things, thinking they will make us more interesting, and we hold onto stuff we don’t need “just in case.” Having plenty of possessions around us gives us a sense of security when facing a decidedly uncertain future.
Releasing our attachment to physical items and incessant drive for achievement isn’t easy, but it is possible. The first step lies in taking an honest look at your life and deciding to make a change.
Benefits of a Simpler Lifestyle
On the surface, owning fewer possessions brings simple benefits like always having a tidy space that’s easy to clean. On a deeper level, it also creates a fundamental change in the way we think and feel.
Paring down our possessions means we no longer have to spend as much time cleaning, organizing, storing, and maintaining our things. We experience less stress, fewer distractions, and have more energy. As a result, we’re able to spend our time and money on the things that truly matter to us.
How many of us are working ourselves to exhaustion trying to get that promotion so we can buy the fancy car, take luxury vacations, and give our kids the latest electronics they’re dying to have.
When we get the things we think we want, do they really make us happy, or just raise the bar for the next shiny, new status symbol? When does the rat race end? Is there a reason why right now never feels quite good enough?
Getting Comfortable Living with Less
Everywhere we turn, we’re faced with companies trying to sell us stuff. In fact, it’s estimated that Americans are exposed to up to 4,000 advertisements every day. It’s no wonder we’re conditioned to feel like we always need to acquire the latest, greatest thing.
For most of us, the desire to buy new things is nothing more than a habit. The good thing about habits is that they’re fairly easy to break. Here are some tips to help you stop the vicious cycle and learn to be happy living with less.
Rethink Your Desires
Next time you start thinking about the things you want, dive a bit deeper. Consider whether you truly want the items or you’re just in the habit of thinking so.
Consciously try to cut your list of desired items in half, keeping only the most important ones. This will help ensure you only spend money on things you truly need or legitimately expect to bring you long-term happiness. Learning how to live on less means you can use the money you save for things that really matter.
Splurge on Experiences Instead of Stuff
No one expects you to completely give up spending money or to stop pursuing joy. However, when you have some disposable cash, consider using it for experiences rather than purchasing more physical items.
Going on vacation, spending a memorable day with your family, or crossing an item off your bucket list will bring more joy than the latest piece of technology or that cute new pair of shoes. Your physical items can wear out, break, collect dust, and cost money to maintain, but the memories you make continue to make you happy throughout your lifetime.
Remind Yourself That You Already Have Enough
It’s one thing to cut back on buying, but true happiness begins when you learn to feel content with what you already have. Keeping a gratitude journal is an excellent way to remind yourself of how fortunate you are. Once you get in the habit of appreciating what’s right in front of you, your whole life will change.
While you may never become a thriving minimalist, taking even small steps to simplify your life can make a huge difference. Keep practicing living with less, and eventually, your old, chaotic life will be nothing but a distant memory.
© 2018 Beth Deyo
Beth Deyo (author) from Bradenton, FL on July 25, 2018:
@Goodpal - Thanks for reading, and thank you for your comment. I absolutely agree! That's why I love the term "Minimalist(ish)" - it's all about balance and moderation. We can benefit from a minimal mindset without giving away all of our possessions and living in extremes.
Goodpal on July 24, 2018:
Perhaps the right approach to rational living is to keep desires under pragmatic control. Trying to live the ideal of "minimalist" is living in self-misery or self-imposed denial. Allowing the mind to crave for the 'whole universe' is another extreme. It is similar to living like an ever "hungry ghost!" The point of balance lies somewhere in the middle and it is likely to be different for different people.