As a kid raised in a family with an average income, I was constantly facing restrictions. Most of the kids around me had cool toys and gadgets while I was wearing my older brother clothes. When I was growing up, I swore myself that I will earn enough money so I can buy the things I was missing when I was young, and some more. When that finally happened and I was financially secure, or let’s say that I was doing all right, I had everything I ever wished: cool clothes, sneakers, gadgets, a car, vacations, my own apartment, I even bought a PlayStation. At that point, I thought that I should be finally happy because I have everything I ever wanted. That’s wasn’t the case, though. My mind still wanted some more. However, the more things I acquired the less joy I felt.
In this introductory article, I will present to you a lifestyle becoming more and more popular. Contrary to what the media share with us, it’s not about getting more. It’s about having less.
The lifestyle in question is a minimalist lifestyle.
In my opinion, the living with less lifestyle will soon become a necessity all around the world. More and more people start to realize that their huge houses and their closets full of clothes are not bringing the joy they wished. That’s why, more and more people prefer to give up on their material possessions, leave their big houses, and start traveling the world with nothing more than single bag on their back.
If you, too, like many other people around the globe, feel depressed and overwhelmed by all the noise blocking your feelings and all the clutter taking up your physical and mental space, then, learning about the minimalist lifestyle can steer your life in the desired direction.
Are you ready to dive deep into the realms of minimalism?
Ok, let’s go…
1. The Future
Before I unveil the real need for a minimalist lifestyle, let’s for a moment observe our past and our supposed future as a human species:
Past: Since the age of time, we were in constant pursuit of growth as individuals and to thrive as a group. Well, it’s not surprising. That’s quite normal in order for a species to survive and evolve. Homo sapiens was able to conquer the world as a breed and obey all other living things. Later, when countries were formed, people were trying desperately to obtain more land and more riches with the excuse that they’re doing this for their country, not just for themselves. This constant desire for more things led to a nation of people who desperately want to become rich and recognized by the fellow humans. That’s why so many people end up locked in jail and so many others are trying to obtain more power at all costs.
Future: Even though I’m not futurist, it seems like we will never quite enjoy what we have. The luxurious lifestyle is becoming much more affordable with each passing day. However, new updates, gadgets, fashion collections are presented each year, each season. This silently tells you that your things are becoming obsolete and you need to acquire new ones if you want to stay cool. These new updates are perfectly aligned with our constant desire for growth: “I want to grow as individuals and this will mean that I need to have the newest gadget. Otherwise, I’m not progressing.” Unfortunately, when we upgrade our device, or our wardrobe, the feeling of satisfaction doesn’t last long. Mainly, because a new update is already released for something else, and your mind is now focused on getting it.
2. A Day in Our Lives
Get up. Get dressed. Go to work. Eat. Go back home. Watch something. Go to sleep. Is that it? Wish it was that simple.
Immediately when we wake up and get up, we’re baffled. Facing a difficult choice that requires your undivided attention. What to wear? Such a simple question, yet, the choice is never so obvious.
And how could it be? When we open our drawer we face gazillion options. Even though our drawers are usually not that tidy as we show on social media, or clothes can be separated into several categories:
Category 1: I wore that yesterday (or sometimes in the past).
Category 2: Probably never even tried it but it doesn’t fit anymore.
Category 3: Old, with faded colors but they don’t fit anymore.
Category 4: The clothes I wear most of the time. Around 20% of the clothes I have.
Category 5: Clothes I don’t currently own but I recently saw somewhere and I need to have them because I’m currently making a compromise by wearing clothes from category 4.
While we stare at our pile of stuff and decide what to put on, we make a mental note to go shopping so we won’t have to wear the same clothes every single day. Of course, we never get rid of the first 3 categories because we’re convinced that there will be a point in our lives when we’re going to wear them.
The scenario above is even worse if we have to go to a dinner party or a club. We scream “I don’t have nothing to wear” at our wardrobe like it’s going to magically produce a new set of clothes for the evening. I’m sure that women will understand even better.
My bedroom looks like a massacre when my girl is preparing for a night out. Clothes everywhere. Hair iron. Hair dryer. Hair and makeup products scattered over the cabinet. And when she’s finally ready, she’s still not convinced that she is beautiful.
We face similar choices every step of our way: What to eat. What kind of car to purchase. What kind of phone to buy.
3. The Problem
Tall, big building with small apartments where the people living inside are sharing the small space with their own possessions.
There is rarely a place to park outside, yet, car companies are producing new models like crazy. There’s barely any room left in your own room but you’re still eager to purchase something new. Something that will supposedly make your life complete and satisfy your craving.
No matter how many things I own and how great they are, there was always something missing in my life before. Basically, I was trying to purchase happiness through most of my life. I thought that I need a ton of clothes in order the people around me to like me. I thought that I need a slick car in order girls to like me and want to have sex with me. I thought that I should go places and upload daily on social media in order to keep up with the rest of the world.
There was this constant pressure from the outside world. A voice, whispering the following: “You’re not good enough till you get…” And no matter how many things I bought and acquired, the voice was still there. Still making me buy and telling me that “I need this or that in order to finally feel complete.” Of course, it never happened. I was never at peace but I was also afraid of stopping.
At a certain point in my life, I was disgusted and disappointed with myself. I was throwing money at things and I wasn’t getting the desired solution – happiness. I realized that if I kept living this way I will soon be broke or in large debt.
If we look at the dictionary, and skip the part where people explain that minimalism is a movement in art, we will see the following for a minimalist:
In general, minimalism is a lifestyle, a concept where people focus their efforts and thoughts towards the most important things in their lives and intentionally remove the ones that distract, divert, make their life more complex than it should be.
Minimalism is doesn’t simply mean “throw away everything and go live somewhere in the mountains.” No, it’s more about realizing what are the things you really need. The important things. The meaningful relationships. And remove the ones that are simply taking space, money, and your time. For different people, these things will be different, and that’s ok.
For me, minimalism was about learning to live with 20% of all of my things and throwing away the other 80%. This idea is inspired by the famous Pareto principle.2 According to this method, 20% of the input creates 80% of the result. Let me give you an example:
In 80% of our time, we ware 20% of our clothes.
In 80% of the time, we eat 20% of the food in our refrigerator.
In 80% of the time, we interact with 20% of the things in our apartment.
In 80% of the time, we interact with 20% of the people we know.
If I think about it for a minute, you’ll see it’s true. You’ll see that you’re wearing the same clothes day in, day out. You eat the same meals. You talk to the same people…
Or in other words, you’re rarely using 80% of the things around you.
I learned about this principle a long time ago, but I never give it much thought up until recently.
Until I found about the minimalist lifestyle. I was sinking into stuff that I was rarely using. Keeping relationships that weren’t going anywhere. Occupying my mind with thoughts that weren’t of importance. I needed a change and these two: minimalism and the Pareto principle, where the perfect combination for my dive into the lifestyle of less.
So, what’s the point of the other 80%, right?
That thought hunted me for a while till I’ve started to remove things laying around in my apartment. At first, it was strange to throw away things you’ve kept for so long but after a few trips to the dumpster, you feel a relief.
5. Benefits of Living With Less
For me, it all started last year, 2017. When my girlfriend bought me a bicycle for my 29 birthday. Most of my friends and colleagues brag about their cars and my initial thought was that the people around me will mock me. A childish thought, I know. Why the hell I should care what the others think of me as long as I’m happy?
Nevertheless, my mind was worried that my social status will suffer.
I started anyway, though. I started going to work with the bike. I was amazing.
I have forgotten the experience of riding and feeling the wind gently touching my skin. It’s much cheaper, practical, and easier to ride a bike than a car. I was saving money on gas and I was also able to skip traffic and arrive at work in a much shorter period of time.
The idea of the car is to get you from point A to point be, but at what cost? You’re constantly stuck in traffic. It’s expensive to maintain a car. Not to speak two cars like most of the families have. You pollute the air we breathe.
This simple change gave me another perspective, another way of thinking: “What else can I do to simplify my life and make things work for me, not enslave me?”
It was becoming obvious that the more things I had, and the more people I was trying to please, the less time I had for myself and my own desires and goals.
A bigger apartment requires more time to be cleaned. More clothes mean more time to choose what to wear and more time to arrange your drawers. More relationships mean more time to sustain them.3 I slowly started to cleanse things from my life that were only holding me down. I didn’t wait long to see positive results.
Adopting the minimalist lifestyle comes with a lot of benefits, here are just a few:
Less stuff: It simply makes a lot more sense to endorse your favorite possessions and remove the ones you don’t need. Otherwise, it’s like keeping a pile of junk in your apartment. Less stuff means more space and more space gives you more room to breathe.
Better finances: There will be always something you need if you don’t control your mind: new TV, new car, a new pair of jeans, it doesn’t matter. If let your mind to constantly think about the things you don’t own, instead of enjoying the things you do own, you will never be truly content with yourself. Realizing you don’t need a bigger TV or a better car will break the chains and allow you to save some cash.
Stronger relationships: Focusing your efforts and time towards the people you most adore and care about will make these relationships stronger and everlasting. It’s simply impossible to have a hundred BFF’s. Trying to maintain more than a dozen relationships will only bring discontent for both parties.
Pragmatical: The main purpose of a car is to get you from point A to point B. The reason we desire the latest Mercedes Benz is the tiny voice I mentioned earlier. The voice that tells you that you’re not good enough until you own the newest model. Minimalism makes you a more practical guy and allows you to focus on the functions, instead of the looks. This lifestyle is about buying a practical car – even if it’s not the most visually pleasing vehicle on the market.
Focus: When you learn to step back and stop your mind from wandering around, constantly seeking “something else to buy or do,” you can afford to live a life in a more authentic and focused way.
Purpose: Life focused primarily towards obtaining physical things is a life wasted. We often end up wishing, fighting, working for a new car or a bigger house, yet, when we reach that goal we’re yet again unsatisfied. Instead of searching for a new thing to purchase, ask yourself a more valuable question: “How can I contribute?” How can contribute to the world? To my city? To my neighbor? Minimalism makes room for doing something valuable. Something with greater purpose.
At first glance, living a minimalist lifestyle looks really simple: You throw away 80% of your possessions and you can call yourself a minimalist. I wish it was that simple. The hardest part of this journey towards more focused and content lifestyle is conquering your mind.
You can throw away everything and still dream about luxury cars and designer clothes. Not that owning good stuff is bad. It’s actually much more practical to buy high-quality things than purchasing knockoffs that will break in a few weeks time. It’s bad because we leave our consciousness control us and tell us what to do. But it should be the other way around.
After spending more than 20 years in pursuit of material possessions, I’ve decided to make a major change in my life and start living a minimalist lifestyle. After only a few months into this simple way of living, I realized that I was chasing the wrong things all this time.
Now, the fewer things around me helped me realize that I don’t need much to be happy.
The things you own end up owning you. It’s only after you lose everything that you’re free to do anything.” Chuck Palahniuk