The minimalist movement — a lifestyle which opposes the Western consumerist ideal — has been gaining popularity in recent years, as more and more each day we are bombarded with hundreds, if not thousands, of advertisements all geared towards the same thing — convincing us to buy more. Consumerism in general has risen steadily since the Industrial Revolution, and it is doing so at an exponential rate. Since the 1950s, people across the globe have consumed more goods than the combined total of every person who existed prior to that.
This shift has been the result of carefully crafted marketing efforts, all aimed at teaching us to crave the latest and greatest, and we have been trained well. We believe the newest things are the best things, and the more expensive the better. Gone are the days when products were meant to last, since that is not a business model which makes for repeat customers. Most products these days are designed intentionally to fail after a certain amount of time; this is known as “planned obsolescence.” This tactic, combined with our manufactured desire for more stuff, has created a phenomenon called “perceived obsolescence,” where we perceive an object as no longer desirable not because it no longer functions, but because it is no longer stylish or trendy.
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But when you take a step back and look at all of the stuff you own, can you really say that it’s all worth the money and effort that goes into keeping it? And that everything you own has some use or provides some sort of value to your life? Did you really need the latest 3-D Smart TV or the boots that are fashionable this season? How would you feel without these items? Would you be okay? I’m willing to bet the answer is yes, and that you might just be a lot better off without them.
“Trying to be happy by accumulating possessions is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all over your body.” -George Carlin
Here are 10 ways minimalism can help improve your life.
1. More Financial Freedom
Less stuff means less debt and therefore more money. All it takes is a shift in perspective to realize that maybe that new phone, expensive jacket, or whatever it may be is just not that important. Viewing these expenditures as unnecessary can stop you from feeling like you need them in your life, and this simple shift can save you a lot of money — money which could be better spent on cultivating a healthy diet and lifestyle for yourself and your family, travelling the world, or even saving up for a house.
2. Less Stress
Having fewer possessions means having fewer things to worry about; you not only have less stuff to pay for, you have less stuff to take care of. We all know how great it feels to have a clean space that is free of clutter, and the fewer things you have, the easier this is to achieve. Your life will feel much calmer with less stuff in the way. Having less in general also means having less to clean!
3. Much Better For The Environment
The less we have, the less we have to throw out or replace. Consumerism is wreaking havoc on the environment, so paring down our lives can make a big difference for the planet. Not only do we avoid contributing to mounting landfills, but by decreasing our demand, we decrease the amount of products being produced, which means fewer resources are being expended and less pollution is entering the ecosystem.
4. Have More Time & Be More Productive
Fewer possessions mean fewer distractions and more time to be spent on things that really matter. Spending time with your friends, family, and loved ones, going for a walk or a hike, gardening, meditating, exercising, or yoga — all of these things can enrich your life more than a video game or fancy clothes ever could.
5. Set A Good Example
A minimalistic approach to life sets a great example for the people around you, including your children, family, and friends. If your loved ones see how truly happy you are without so many things, they may be inspired to start reducing, too. We need to be the change we want to see in the world, and this is one way to do it. Rather than preaching change, show it. Be a positive role model for your children and show them that we do not need to accumulate things to be happy and we do not need to do what society tells us to do. It is important for children to know that we can choose how we want to live our lives.
6. Ability To Live In A Smaller Space
Aside from the average size of houses having increased by about 1,000 square feet in the past 40 years, many American homes still don’t have enough room to store all of their owners’ belongings. Garages are filled with stuff instead of cars and storage facility usage is at an all-time high. If you didn’t need such a big space to store all of your possessions, you could have a smaller home or even a tiny home, which would make owning a home in the first place become a much more attainable prospect.
7. Not Feel Tied Down Or Burdened
From my experience at least, having a lot of possessions can create a feeling of permanence. The more possessions we have, the less likely we are to pack up and leave if we feel the calling. Having to pack and move so much stuff around is almost not worth the effort, so oftentimes we don’t bother and just stay put. How much of life are we missing out on because we are tied to our things?
8. Freedom From The Comparison Game
I saw a meme recently that said: “No one is going to stand up at your funeral and say ‘she had a really expensive couch and great shoes.’ Don’t make life about this stuff.” This is so true, but in our society if we do not have what others do we feel inadequate or less than them in some way. As a result, we are constantly striving to buy more, to impress others with what we have. Is this really important in the grand scheme of things? This is a great question to ask yourself.
9. Give Up Attachments To The Past
Sometimes we feel the need to hold on to things that only serve to remind us of the past — things that no longer matter and which are often tied to unhappy memories. Why do we sabotage ourselves in this way? The past is the past; leave it there. Some things we hold on to can bring up happy memories, but do you really need those objects in order to remember?
10. Be Happier
When you see the benefits of all the previous points in your life, I promise, you will feel happier. More importantly, you will realize that you absolutely don’t need possessions to make you happy; you will see that happiness lies within you and within the people you care about most. As Jim Carrey once said:
“I wish everyone could get rich and famous and have everything they ever dreamed of so that they can see that it’s not the answer.”
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