I first learned of minimalism through the minimalists. At first, I thought it sounded boring and unappealing, but the more I listened with cautious skepticism, the more sense it made to me. I’ve been on this journey for a year now, and while I wouldn’t call myself a hardcore minimalist by any stretch, I have changed some of my consumption-based habits. Most surprisingly though, I’ve learned a lot about how a minimalist approach to life can really enhance your personal sense of happiness. I share a few of my own discoveries below, but the best way to understand how it changes your perspective is to try it for yourself.
Minimalism is not about deprivation.
The Minimalists challenged me to think about owning less as an acknowledgment of having enough – a feeling we rarely have in our culture of accumulation. There are so many opportunities to consume, especially as women. There are seasons to dress for, purses for every outfit and the shoe options are endless. Follow any fashion blogger on Instagram and the invitation to “swipe up to buy” is relentless. I don’t know about you, but after a while, I find that constant pressure to shop to be really distracting. I also feel a sense of lack when I see beautifully styled wardrobes made of endless quantities of clothes. I start to wonder what I’m doing wrong and the comparison game starts to spin in my head.
Technology is another never-ending journey of upgrades. The average consumer is now expected to replace their phone every two years. Laptops and tablets are replaced every three years. The expectation to consume more is everywhere, but where does it end? If we decide we have enough, does that mean we risk being painfully out of fashion or completely disconnected through outdated technology? Does the idea of that risk make you feel deprived? Or perhaps something more threatening like panicked isolation or a sense of being left behind. Very often these feelings can exist below our level of consciousness, but the fear they provoke is palpable.
The point of minimalism is not to deprive ourselves or reject social norms, it’s to be more mindful about where we invest our money to ensure it’s giving us the best possible bang for our enjoyment buck rather than mindlessly responding to the temptations to buy more.
I’ve also realized this idea of less goes far beyond stuff.
I recently purged all my credit cards that offered zero benefits or had lousy customer service and signed up for a single Chase Sapphire card which not only gives me cash back, but the customer service is outstanding. Better yet, there’s only one bill to pay at the end of the month. I want fewer investment accounts for the same reason. It’s just easier to manage, simpler to track, less mail to open and fewer passwords to remember (omg, who else is with me on the password drama??).
There’s a sense of peace and ease in minimalism that feels expansive to me.
It’s the exact opposite of what you might assume a life of less to feel like, but the irony is that it feels like more. Minimalism isn’t about forced austerity or even being frugal or cheap. Very often opting for less means investing in better quality at a higher initial cost, but it pays off over time. The best example of feeling at peace is that I no longer feel a need to chase sales and buy things I don’t need just because it’s a good price. As a result, I spend much less time shipping returns or looking at clothes in my closet I never wear.
I also appreciate the style of minimalism.
The beauty of open space. The peacefulness of order. It makes me want to take a deep breath and relax. The less I have in my home and fewer distractions competing for my attention the calmer and focused I feel. Very often our attention gets distracted by thoughts about “things” that need to be organized, repaired, stored or cleaned. These small stressors add up to chronic anxiety over time.
What surprises me the most about minimalism is how good it feels.
It provides a sense of lightness with lots of possibility for freedom and transformation. Less stuff has lead to much less stress and anxiety for me and while it might seem a little scary to dive in, once you do, you find you never want to go back to your old consumption-based habits.