What do you think of when someone says the word minimalism? A year ago, I thought that minimalism meant wearing a capsule wardrobe made of clothes that weren’t my style, only owning some arbitrary number of possessions, or living in a tiny house with blank white walls, no furniture and three succulents. If you had asked me if I considered myself a minimalist, I would have answered no.
However, after watching Minimalism: A Documentary last winter (which I highly recommend!), I changed my mind. And if you currently think that minimalism is simply about capsule wardrobes and empty rooms, then this post is for you. It’s the first in a series about the what, why, and how of minimalism to encourage those at any point along their minimalist journey. In this first post, we’ll talk about what minimalism really is, why Eric and I became minimalists, and why it might be a good choice for you, too.
What is Minimalism?
I won’t spoil the Minimalists’ documentary for you, but the most important lesson that I took away from the film was that there are as many definitions of minimalism in the world as there are minimalists.
But despite the myriad minimalist lifestyles and reasons that people have for becoming minimalists, minimalism is actually quite simple at its core. It promotes conscious ownership and conscious consumption and extolls the freedom that accompanies such a lifestyle.
But “conscious ownership” and “conscious consumption” are so… vague, right? That’s the point. Some people become minimalists and realize what they really want to do is sell their house and travel the world. Others realize that all they really want is a house–so they cut out spending on what isn’t important to them to save for what is. Yet others are aware of the environmental impact of mass consumerism and reduce their overall consumption for ideological reasons. All of those people have become freer as a result of their choices. All of those choices are minimalism.
Which brings me to an important point: minimalism doesn’t require you to wear a capsule wardrobe if you hate the idea. You don’t need to only own 47 possessions or move into a 100 square foot apartment. Minimalism isn’t about deprivation and sitting around being bored, wishing you hadn’t thrown out your movie collection. It’s about learning to distinguish between what our consumer society tells you that you “need” to fit in/be happy/be successful, and what you really need to live your best life.
Why Did We Become Minimalists?
After watching Minimalism: A Documentary, Eric and I realized that minimalism meant something much different than we’d previously thought. We also realized that we had several goals for the next few years that minimalism could help us achieve, including:
- Saving for a down payment on a house
- Traveling the world before we have kids (Side note: We’re planning a trip to EUROPE next year and I couldn’t be more excited! Eeeep!)
- Moving to a new country
And, of course, simply sticking to our monthly budget and not accumulating excessive amounts of useless stuff while living in a small one-bedroom apartment.
One knows intuitively that more stuff does not equal more happiness. But especially when you’re just starting out in the world and finally have a steady income, it becomes very easy to think, “Oh, it’s just this one shirt/tech gadget/meal at a restaurant… I won’t buy anything else until next month.” Famous last words.
We decided before we even started preparing for our cross-country move that we didn’t want to live that way. We didn’t want to start off by making those mistakes that would compromise our financial future and prevent us from achieving our long-term goals. So we scoured my room in my mom’s house–where all of our stuff had accumulated over the years–from top to bottom (I’ll write more about this in the coming weeks!) and made some serious minimalist revisions to our original budget (more about this, too!).
Reasons You Might Want to Consider Minimalism
Why might you want to become a minimalist? Here are just a few possible reasons to get you thinking:
- You’re tired of spending hours every day cleaning and caring for your possessions
- You’re tired of the clutter that seems to accumulate again within days of a big clean-up
- Your closets and drawers are stuffed with things you rarely use
- You’re addicted to shopping, but want to break the habit
- You’re in debt and want to get out
- You want to travel, but don’t have the financial resources to do so
- You want to buy a house, but need to be saving more to do so
- You want to change jobs, but can’t afford it with your current lifestyle
- You want to start your own business, but don’t have the time and money to do so
- You want to reduce your environmental impact
The freedom that results from a minimalist lifestyle can manifest itself in an unlimited number of ways. But whatever their life goals are, more and more people are choosing minimalism as a means to achieve them–and you can, too.
Is minimalism going to fix all of your problems, and fix them instantly? No. (I wish!) But it will free up time, space (both mental and physical), and money for you to make your goals reality, even if they feel impossible right now.
Would you consider yourself a minimalist? And what’s one of your big goals for the next few years?