I have always been a fan of minimalism, even before The Minimalists released their podcast and made minimalism mainstream. I think I got it from my mum who has been described by family as ‘throwing away anything that hadn’t been used in the last five minutes’. She came from a generation that didn’t buy a lot of stuff because things used to be far more expensive (and higher quality) than they are now.
Even though she didn’t have a lot of things, she always managed to find something to get rid of which meant our house never felt cluttered. To me this was just normal until I started going to other people's homes and realised that having lots of stuff was the real ‘normal’!
I’m thankful to my mum for modeling a minimalist lifestyle to me. Even to this day my friends comment on how little I own, and how little I take when going travelling. So I thought I would share with you my three favourite things about minimalism and why living with less stuff will make you feel lighter and freerer.
1. Less stuff means more clarity
When stepping into a cluttered home I immediately feel overwhelmed and cramped. Your living space directly impacts on how you feel. You may not notice this because your environment has become normal to you but that doesn’t mean it’s not having an impact upon how you feel.
Constantly ignoring the pile of papers on your desk, the unworn clothes in your wardrobe and the stash of cosmetics under the bathroom sink expends energy whether you realise it or not. Seeing those things over and over is a constant drainer whereas having a clean desk top, wardrobe and bathroom cabinet creates a sense of peace and order in your home.
Have you ever wondered why you find it difficult to relax at home? Are you able to sit in a chair and read a book, or do you find yourself thinking about all the things that need to be done around the home? I find that much of my ability to relax at my home (even though I work from home) is because I don’t have piles of stuff everywhere. I can be at peace knowing my home is in order. It may not be spotlessly clean but I know the big stuff is sorted and so I can relax and enjoy my living space.
2. Buying less has taught me about myself
In my early 20s I became more concerned about my environmental footprint and set a goal of not purchasing any new items for 12 months. I started making my own clothes and buying stuff from the opshop.
What I didn’t anticipate is how much I would learn about myself and my motivations for buying stuff. I realised that very rarely did I ever buy anything I actually needed. I either bought it because it was convenient or based on how it made me feel.
In my year of not purchasing I realised that instead of using friends and networks to source an item I would just buy it because a) I didn’t want to spend the time or the hassle of finding a friend who had the item b) I didn’t want to inconvenience a friend by having to borrow something of theirs.
The truth is that my friends are very like-minded and would have been happy for me to borrow their lawn mower, for example. The problem was more about how I felt about it, how would I be perceived? An inconvenience, a hassle, a tight arse? I discovered that often the reason I didn’t ask a friend if I could borrow an item was because of my pride and self-perception.
Our parents generation didn’t have the money to go and buy whatever they needed, they often had to rely on their networks. This in turn created a greater sense of community which we no longer have to the same extent because we are far more financially independent. I often feel embarrassed to ask if I can borrow something because the expectation is to ‘go buy your own’. This feeds into the consumerist mentality and an individualist society.
I also learned that 85% of my purchases were emotionally driven. In the past I could easily convince myself that I needed something and could justify just about any purchase. Once I cut myself off from buying stuff I soon learned I wasn’t buying stuff because I needed it, but because I wanted it. This took me on quite the emotional roller coaster when I realised I could no longer mask my emotions with shopping.
3. The benefits the environment
The average Australian produces 1.5 tonnes of rubbish every year.
Shopping is now cheaper and easier than it has ever been thanks to consumer goods being made in cheaper parts of the world. I’m not even going to talk about the environmental cost of transporting items from thousands of kilometres away.
Production of cheap goods encourages people to buy a lower quality product that doesn’t last long and all too quickly ends up in landfill. The consumer is driven by cost rather than quality in that moment and who can blame them? They are not thinking about the longevity of the product and that it makes more sense to buy a quality item that will last longer, produce a better result and remove the inconvenience of having to return to the shop again and again.
As a minimalist, you don’t own many items, so the ones you do buy you want to be good. You are also more likely to look after and repair an item because you spent more money on it in the first place.
I've covered three reasons why I love minimalism but there are heaps more I don't have time to cover here. I find the benefits it has on my mental health are huge. When I make a purchase I'm very mindful of the process and I view it as an exciting event. The high lasts longer and the satisfaction is greater. I’m more aware of my purchase making and I’m more appreciative of my possessions. This in turn makes for a happier and more fulfilling life.
I would be really interested in your thoughts. Please feel free to email me your reflections.