Minimalism (PT 1) - Stuff

For the past few years, I've been focusing on this concept called minimalism and it's slowly changing my life.

What is minimalism?

Minimalism is simply living an intentional life with less -stuff-. It is focusing your time and energy on things that are important to you and letting go of the rest of it (including material possessions). It is organizing your life in a way that works for you.

I could go on and on about minimalism - and I will in subsequent articles. But today I want to focus on the organizational/consumerist side of minimalism.

Recently, I've been purposefully getting rid of all my extra stuff to try to focus on the more important things in my life. I've been trying to simplify my life, gain financial freedom, and work towards a more sustainable future. I'm still in the middle of this journey - I'm nowhere near done. But it's been such an enlightening process that I figured I'd touch on it today....hopefully to inspire you to take a look around at all of your possessions and see if the life you're living is fulfilling.

The problem with stuff

I don't know about you, but I've got a lot of stuff. I've got a million pens. I've got kitchen utensils I've only used once. I've got things I don't even know I have, stashed away in cupboards. I've got books I've read once and have no intention of ever picking up again.

Why do I need all this stuff?

Really. I don't use all that much in my day-to-day life. I use my phone, the computer, the tablet, the WiiU, the microwave/stove, the shower, the magic bullet, the bed/couches, some clothes, and the car/bike. The rest of it? I'll pick up once in awhile at best. At worst? I'll forget it exists until I'm rifling through the closet.

This extra stuff adds nothing to my life. It just takes up physical and mental space that I don't have room for.

This is especially detrimental to me because I'm such a disorganized person. Living in my old apartment was a nightmare because I'd always lose my keys. There was so much stuff there that I'd spent 10 minutes a day searching over and under every knick-knack to locate them. It was frustrating and exhausting. Before I moved I was introduced to minimalism and I pared down a lot of what I owned - now in my new place, my keys are pretty much in one of two places and I get 10 extra minutes a day to enjoy stress-free. And that's just one of the many positive experiences I've had.

The solution to stuff

Get rid of it. All of it.

OK, not all of it...

Just most of it.

Oh yeah, and don't buy more of it to fill the new space you've created.

I've systematically been going through our apartment and donating/chucking all of the things that we don't use. Conversely, I'm thinking hard about our purchases and what we bring home. Do I really need this? Can I afford this? Will this thing be useful for a long period of time?

If the answer is no to any of those questions, then I won't buy it.

And damn, that's hard. I won't pretend it's easy and I just flipped a switch and now I don't want anything. I want a lot of things. I want that cute mug with that quote on the side of it even though I have like 5 cute mugs already. My first reaction is to buy it. But when I stop to think about it, I know I don't need it and it would bring me a fleeting feeling of happiness. Instead that money would be better spent somewhere else - like helping C get through school or put in our mutual fund for retirement or on a vacation.

I go through the exact same mindset when I get rid of the things I already have. I ask myself, "Do I use this?" If I don't, then probably someone else can find more use in it than I can. So, it gets donated or thrown out. I'm not sentimental about these things, because they're just things. If I find in the future that I really need something, then I can always buy another one, right? Things don't inherently have value until we give them value.

But everyone values different things and that will change what you decide to keep/spend money on. For example, C has a bagillion Magic cards. Do I care about Magic The Gathering? Hell no. Does he? Big time! He plays once a week with his friends, enjoys reading online forums about strategies, and loves trading them. Would I ever ask that he give them up? No way! They add value to his life. The same goes for me and music. I pay $8 a month for Spotify premium because it's worth it to me. I won't give that up because it brings value to my life.

The Benefits of Less

I've talked about a few of the benefits of consuming intentionally, but I figure laying it all out in bullet form may help you justify throwing out your extra crap and buying less. So here we go.

1. Healthier for the environment

Buying consciously means you won't be throwing away so many things you don't need. You can vote with your wallet and support businesses that align with your values and beliefs.

2. Save money

When you don't make so many spur-of-the-moment purchases, you have more money in your pocket. You can invest that money, put it into a TFSA, put it towards your mortgage, etc.

3. Easier to clean

Guess what? If you don't have a ton of stuff, it makes it way easier to re-organize and clean your place. Go figure.

4. Improve relationships

When you can't use stuff as a crutch for happiness, you begin to focus on the relationships around you. Instead of living for material objects, you start living for your family, friends, and others.

5. Create gratitude

When you stop looking at owning stuff as the end goal of life, your focus turns to being thankful for having your basic needs met. It also helps you notice all the good things outside of material wealth.

6. More focus

Clutter and stuff can be overwhelming and distracting. When you don't have a ton of random junk around your house, you can focus more on the important things.

7. Less stress

You don't need to make as much money if you're living a fairly simple life...and that means less stress in the long run. You don't need a huge house, the newest car on the market, or closets filled with designer clothes. Less expenses means less stress.

8. More freedom

Less expenses also means more freedom. If you hate your job, you can find a new one that's more meaningful to you. If you want to spend a year traveling, you can do that. If you want to start a family, you can. You're no longer held back by mindless consumption.

9. Be a role model

This is especially important if you have children. Do you want your children to grow up thinking material wealth will answer all of their problems? Do you want them to work 60+ hours at a job they hate, ignore their spouse and kids and health, and generally just be miserable for a bunch of meaningless stuff?

10. Focus money on the things that bring joy

You begin to see what things make you long-term happy when you spend your money intentionally. What you direct your energy at, grows. Guide your money/energy in a positive direction.