Feeling overwhelmed? You’re not alone. In fact, statistics show that 70% of modern citizens feel like there is “not enough time in the day” even though working hours have steadily decreased over the last seven decades.1 But if that’s the case, why do we feel crazy busy all the time? Let me tell you: Because people these days are convinced that happiness is about status, money, and possessions. And while modern tools definitely help in order to live a better life, chasing more ultimately leads to misery.
You’ve heard that before: We are now living in the most exciting era in the history of humanity, the era of great change and accelerating innovation.
And it’s true.
We can have things delivered to our doorstep in a manner of hours. Your cheap smartphone can order food and navigate you in a foreign country. Cool clothes and nice furniture cost pennies.
Basically, without a lot of resources, you can live like a modern god.
Yet, we’re rarely satisfied.
Despite all of the things money can buy, most people are feeling worse than ever before.
Two words: modern busyness.
There’s so much going on around us. Things like keeping up with your inbox feels impossible. Trying to pick a new can car, a new couch, notebook and even deciding which toilet paper to buy can drive you insane because there are way too many options. But worst of all, we feel this constant pressure from the outside world. This crushing tension that we need to do more, be more, and have more.
Fortunately, there is a remedy that we can employ to cure ourselves from the modern busyness to become more productive and satisfied with our lives.
Instead of trying to instill happiness in your life by acquiring more stuff, do the opposite: have less.
Yes, it might sound counterintuitive but it works. That’s why millions of people today are talking about minimalism.
What Is Minimalism?
I’ll spare you the sugar-coated version. Where I say that minimalism is about intentional living, purposefulness and finding clarity – that’s a total BS. You can be a minimalist and still lack purpose or direction. You can even be a minimalist and still not live intentionally.
Most people think that being a minimalist is about owning zero stuff and dressing like a monk. Sitting on the floor and eating air for breakfast and dinner. Meditating and journaling. While these things might be part of the “minimal living,” they are not the main focus.
Minimalism is about understanding what’s really important for you in your life and removing everything else.
Why You Need Minimalism In Your life?
You might be thinking, “The hell with this minimalism thing. Everyone is talking about how I should be more intentional and mindful. I don’t want to be a minimalist. I want to have stuff!”
I fully understand you.
Minimalism has become a bit of a buzzword lately.
I want to vomit, too, when I hear people say things like, “you need to live more mindfully.”
But if we distract our minds from these exaggerated definitions we read online about the word minimalism, consider the current situation we’re all in, we can easily spot how this concept can be beneficial – even life-saving.
The Modern Problem
Here’s a quick example:
You’re a modern guy/girl. You probably love gadgets, techy stuff. But not only. You also love fashion. You love to go out. To travel. To show off your latest stuff on social media.
Congratulations! There’s nothing wrong with you. 95% of the people currently existing in the world are living for the same things: status and possessions.
But while the above things sound ok-ish, something horribly wrong happens when we when our lives revolve only around getting more things.
Since companies operate to make a profit, they continuously produce new stuff in order to compete with others on the market and to satisfy the desires of the masses.
And what happens when there’s a new phone, a new fashion line, or Dubai is, again, a trending destination to visit?
That’s right, you’re eager to go.
You’re eager to spend your hard-earned cash to buy a new phone and share that on social media. Then, to buy new clothes. Then, to buy a new wristwatch because your current one is 2 years old and people already know you have it.
But that’s not all…
You probably often wake up with the desire to buy something new just because you’re not feeling fine today. You’re not alone. A lot of people to that, too. It’s called Retail Therapy.2
And since people are programmed to avoid pain and move closer to pleasure, and modern gadgets promise these things, we start associating the act of buying with good feelings.
When you feel down you think that you should buy something new to feel good again.
In essence, it looks like this:
That’s actually the plot of all pharmaceutical commercials:
Your head hurts?
Take a pill.
And since it’s working, other companies follow the same technique:
You’re not feeling cool?
Buy our newest shirts.
This cycle repeats all the time.
At first, there’s nothing wrong with getting the stuff you need to survive. But as the years pass, your house becomes an exhibition of artifacts. A crowded place where all of your drawers and walls are stuffed with things you once liked.
But instead of removing them, you hold on to the old things while acquiring new ones.
Eventually, both your house and your mind gets cluttered.
How Minimalism Helps
The main goal of the minimalist lifestyle is to help you become satisfied with what you have rather than what you want. To figure out what’s important for you and stop playing the comparison game.3
To pause for a moment. To consider everything you have – this includes physical possessions, relationships, and projects – and decide what’s really important for you. Once you know, to cleanse everything else that doesn’t “spark joy” as some modern gurus will say.
When the excess is removed, the vicious circle from above transforms into a virtuous cycle:
Along with that, a couple of other good things happen in your life. Or in other words, the main benefits of minimalism are:
- Less stuff = less stress: “Messy homes and work spaces leave us feeling anxious, helpless, and overwhelmed.” says Sherrie Bourg Carter Psy.D.4 In contrast, when there are fewer things around, our mind is at peace. We won’t have to constantly arrange and re-arrange our wardrobe our spend hours looking for our favorite t-shirt. When the stuff is gone, there will be more room to move around. But not only. This also applies to the work you do. When you focus on doing one thing, instead of 100, you’ll do better work, faster.
- Less stuff = more money: When you’re satisfied with what you have and stop obsessing about obtaining new luxury items, guess what happens? You save more money. And the savings will allow you to pay out your debt and finally start investing in yourself.
- More free time: What happens when you stop comparing yourself with others? When you’re careless of what’s new and trending? That’s right, you end up having more free time. You finally have enough hours for doing your favorite activity and spending time with people who really matter for you.
- Better focus: When there are a lot of material things laying around your eyes are constantly trying to process all of them. A similar thing happens when there are a lot of thoughts inside your head. If you have too much on your plate, you’ll feel overwhelmed and unable to concentrate. But if we remove both the physical and mental clutter, we’ll have room to breathe and finally able to focus.
- Increased productivity: There are literally hundreds of tools online that promise to increase your productivity and transform you into this insanely effective dude. But things rarely work like that. Surround yourself with tools and gadgets and you’ll end up spending more time figuring out how they work instead of actually producing something. In contrast, when you focus your time on doing just one project, with only the essential things you need, you’ll create better work for less hours.
- Quality life: If you stop stuffing your body with sugar and fat, you’ll feel better. That’s a fact. Well, minimalism works in a similar way. When you stop worrying about possessions, status, bigger houses, and bigger cars, you’ll find joy in what you already have. You’ll escape the modern busyness and finally feel good yourself.
While the internet is crowded with articles about the benefits of living a minimalist lifestyle, the above things are the main gains when you decide to cleanse your life from the extra stuff.
Ready to bring order in your disorganized life?
OK, let me show you an easy to follow, step-by-step program, to get started with minimalism:
How to Apply Minimalism
So, how to apply minimalism in your life?
There are a lot of guides, books, courses, how-tos, mini-courses, videos, and downloadable PDFs that can show you how to transition from an overstimulated person who’s interested in feeds and acquiring more stuff to a less distracted guy who’s totally OK with not being famous on Instagram.
However, you don’t need to read all of the stuff available online. I mean, it’s not rocket science to throw away the garbage and focus on the most important thing in your life. You just need to do it.
Yet, some people struggle with how to start. Hence, the following steps:
- Step 1: Figure out what’s important. Gaining control over your life and adopting the minimalist approach comes down to this: understand what’s really important for you – like the main thing you want to do for the rest of your life – and rid yourself of the other junk laying around. Yes, junk food, junk things, even junky people. But before you start unfollowing people on social media, as I did, stop for a moment and think about your main thing. Your one thing as the author of the book The ONE Thing, Gary Keller, suggests. Don’t proceed till you’re absolutely sure what’s your main goal in life.
- Step 2: Start removing the excesses. That’s the fun part. Here’s where you put your yellow gloves, take a couple of trash bags and you start throwing away stuff that don’t align with what you wrote above. You’re no longer working in a big fancy office? You should consider throwing (or donating) your suits and your shirts. Get crazy here. If it’s not useful, remove it. If there are sentimental items laying around but you no longer find them useful, take a picture of these things and print the pic.
- Step 3: Organize what remains. Once you’re done with the decluttering frenzy, organize the remaining things. Start with one location – the bedroom, for example – and move on to the next area only when you’re done with the first. If you spot a duplicate item along the way, toss it.
- Step 4: Create a system. Unfortunately, people often declutter but end up with messier homes than before starting. They either keep the “just in case” items or they consider the empty shelves as a green light to fill them with new junk. You should be very strict and prevent piles of things from entering both your home and head. For instance, if you’re already working on a side-project, don’t start something new just because it sounds cool and trendy. Stick to your values and diss everything else if it’s not aligned with what you desire. Trends come and go while your values should be for life.
- Step 5: Adopt a minimalist mindset. Selling all of your possessions and sleeping on the floor shouldn’t be your main goal. The most important thing about simplifying your life is to rewire your brain. To understand that less is more. I know, this all sounds very meta and not really useful. However, that’s the most important thing about minimalism. When you’re feeling fine about wearing the same clothes every single day, you’ll no longer crave to go out shopping. Or in other words, cleansing the possessions you don’t need is a short term gain. Your main goal should be to totally remove the desire to look better in the eyes of others and to have more. When you’re OK with having fewer, but better items, goals, and friends, you’ll ultimately feel a lot better.
Some Closing Thoughts
Keeping up with the Joneses is an impossible and quite foolish goal to pursue.
There will always be someone better than you. Someone who has more: more money, more power, more followers online.
And while sometimes looking at what others have might motivate us to get better, in most cases, it is emotionally draining. Even worst, it causes stress, anxiety, and feelings of depression.
So, instead of keeping yourself busy, constantly occupied by thoughts about getting more, focus your time and energy on doing fewer things, having fewer things. By doing so, you’ll have more time to truly enjoy life.
- According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey, today the average hours are 38.7. While between 1870-1970 people worked around 42.8 hours a week.
- Retail therapy is shopping with the primary purpose of improving the buyer’s mood or disposition. Or in short, buying stuff, make you feel happier. The following study confirms that: The Benefits of Retail Therapy: Making Purchase Decisions Reduces Residual Sadness.
- The comparison game is the tendency to compare ourselves to others: The Comparison Game.
- From Why Mess Causes Stress: 8 Reasons, 8 Remedies.