I have never been one to own a lot of stuff. This was not something that happened out of circumstance but was a choice I made from a young age. The reason I have been able to make this choice and live a somewhat minimalistic lifestyle up to this point is that I understood the benefits of minimalism.
Before I talk about how to become a minimalist, I want to briefly discuss what I see as being the main advantage of living a minimalist lifestyle:
For me the greatest advantage of living a minimalist lifestyle is the freedom it gives you to easily take your life in any direction you choose. I would say that for me personally, the most important value in life is freedom. Without the freedom to make choices and change your situation, you are pretty much living as a slave. In this case, you are not writing your own story but are allowing it to be written for you by external forces.
You may have heard this Fight Club quote:
“The things you own end up owning you.”
This is so true and something to be very wary of.
The key issue here is that people don’t like change. Once someone becomes comfortable in their situation, it becomes difficult to break out and to choose a path that may provide less initial comfort but a far greater opportunity for growth and overall satisfaction in life. People literally become addicted to what they have and can’t see a life for themselves where they don’t have access to these luxuries which they have become accustomed to. This type of reliance on possessions and other creature comforts hold people back from achieving their full potential in life. They are scared to lose the things they have attained and therefore live a restricted life.
Another Fight Club quote:
“It’s only when you lose everything that you are free to do anything.”
People who take the opposite route and accustom themselves to a life with fewer possessions – or even the bare necessities – have an advantage over everyone else because not only do they not have physical possessions weighing them down but they are also more mentally resilient to the hardships of life as they have built up the reference experience of living without the luxuries that most other people rely on.
How to become a minimalist?
First, let me start my saying that you shouldn’t pursue this type of lifestyle if you don’t want to. There’s no point trying to live as a minimalist just because someone else told you that it’s a beneficial thing to do. You should assess your own life as it currently stands and work out whether living as a minimalist would improve your life in the long run. If the answer if no, then don’t do it. It’s only worth pursuing if you can see the benefits it would have on your own life.
After all, every person is living in a different situation and everyone person has different guiding values. In my opinion, the younger you are, the more valuable living a minimalist lifestyle becomes. A guy in his early twenties with no responsibilities and big ambitions is going attain a serious advantage for the rest of his life if he can train himself to live as a minimalist. However, a guy in his forties with a family to take care of might find this type of lifestyle to be more difficult and less essential to pull off. This doesn’t necessarily mean that a family man (or woman) in his forties can’t and shouldn’t move towards a minimalistic lifestyle – he probably should.
The main thing you should to do if you want to become a minimalist is to separate the possessions you NEED from everything else. And if you want to take this seriously, you should be strict when it comes to what falls into the need category. Don’t let the media and the years of being forced fed advertisements brainwash you into thinking you need something when you don’t. For every item that you put into the need category you should be able to verbalise its specific purpose.
To help you out here I will list out the items I am currently living with:
– Phone (communication + work)
– Laptop (communication + work)
– Backpack (Travel)
– Basic clothes (9 t-shirts, 3 shorts, 1 jeans, 1 shoes, etc)
– Basic toiletries
– Weight bench + weights (exercise)
– Fan (it’s hot here)
– 3 books (will be moving to kindle shortly)
– Passport + other important documents.
That’s it! Obviously, this list is going to be different to each person but I hope that my example above shows you that it’s more than possible to live with minimal possessions – I have relied on these items for the last year.
The important thing is not to get sentimental and not to get attached to those items you really don’t need.
If you don’t have many possessions in your life yet, resist the temptation of buying more for the sake of buying more – you will regret it. Only buy what you need to buy.
If your life is already jam packed with possessions, then you will need to start decluttering. After you have separated the needed items from the non-needed items you can focus on getting rid of everything on that second list. If you are hesitant about just throwing items away, you could take the opportunity to try and make some extra money for yourself using eBay. Sure, it’s a little bit of work but it will be completely worth it when all it said and done. Check out Gary Vaynerchuck’s video for more information on selling and profiting from your non-essential items:
It’s also worth considering down-sizing or down-grading bigger items in your life. Consider these questions: Do you really need a large house, or would you be just as happy living in a smaller apartment? Are you truly satisfied with your brand-new car? and I don’t mean satisfied for five-minutes but will that satisfaction sustain itself over a long enough period to make the car worth it for you?
There really is no right or wrong answer but these are just options for each individual to consider. Remember to base the choices on what YOU need and not what society says YOU SHOULD need. This is vital. Not just to live a minimalist lifestyle but to live a life you can truly call your own. A life that you find personally fulfilling. This is the main message I am trying to get across in every post I make here on my website…
And minimalism is just one slice of a much larger pie – the self-actualized life.
Also published on Medium.