Recently, I have been contemplating what minimalism and living a minimalist lifestyle means. People are shocked when I tell them I live in a space that is less than 500 square feet. I am perfectly happy in my less than 500 square foot home and am finding that perhaps I have too many clothes (and need to do a purge to get rid of some of it). Some people say that minimalists are individuals who own less than 100 items-period, that minimalists do not own homes, do not own a car, do not have cable, or do not have a ton of stuff they are attached to. Others say that minimalism is a style of furniture, of clean lines and less clutter. My boyfriend recently got rid of his television set (he also lives in about 550 square feet) because he says he doesn’t use it.
What Exactly is a Minimalist Lifestyle?
Time Magazine explained minimalist lifestyle quite well, basically it is the opposite of accumulation of ‘too much stuff’ and seeking happiness from within rather from external material goods. The Minimalists is a blog by Joshua and Ryan, who were driving luxury cars, living in big homes, who had tons of stuff but weren’t happy. They discovered the minimalist lifestyle and state that minimalism is a tool for you to find freedom- it is getting rid of life’s excess in order for you to focus on what’s important in life. The luxury cars, the Chanel purse, those may make you happy momentarily, but lasting happiness likely exists elsewhere (though some people may beg to differ).
A Minimalist Gradient
Personally, I believe that there is a gradient of minimalism. I don’t need to shop to make myself feel better, I know that a new purse or handbag doesn’t make me happy (what makes me happy is eating half a can of Pringles sour cream and onion chips but I digress). I have a lot of clothes and shoes (some of which have been in my closet for 10 years and I still wear) and some dresses that I really should get rid of. I do have a television but I don’t have cable. I have a lot of travel books that I collect and can’t get rid of and like to display. I would probably fall on the medium-minimalist gradient. I do worry that I will accumulate more stuff if/when I have children.
The Guy Who Got Rid of his Mortgage in Three Years
Sean Cooper has definitely gone viral. He’s the guy from Toronto who paid off his mortgage in three years. He became mortgage free at age 31. However, he worked many many hours a week, lives in his basement suite, didn’t own a car, and ate Kraft dinner plenty of times. He also did not go clothes shopping and did not take a vacation (with the exception of a bus trip somewhere) for the three years he set out to achieve his goal of paying off the mortgage. Some people frown at that sort of ascetic lifestyle, and others want to emulate it. I think he would probably be on the higher end of the minimalist gradient, and possibly happier because he knows that he doesn’t need to accumulate ‘stuff’ to make himself happy. He now has financial independence and the freedom to feel content that he doesn’t have a recurring monthly debt that is hanging over his head.
How to Become More Minimalist
More and more people are adopting the minimalist lifestyle. How does one become ‘more minimalist?’
Think about what’s important to you. Is it family? Relationships? Integrity? Freedom? Think about how you get achieve more of these values.
- Evaluate the space that you really need.
- Go on a self imposed shopping ban.
- Get rid of stuff (I’ll really need to do a good Spring clean of my apartment)
- Think twice before you buy something
- Don’t live in more space than you need (because you’ll be tempted to fill it with space occupying furniture)
- Value experiences, not things
- Try and live the lifestyle of the rich and famous and frugal and think about lifestyle deflation rather than lifestyle inflation
Readers, would you consider yourself a minimalist? Where do you see yourself on the minimalist gradient?