“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.” – Will Rogers
I recently stumbled upon a Netflix documentary that I highly recommend called Minimalism. For those of you unfamiliar, minimalism is a lifestyle that emphasizes simplicity by letting go of anything that provides little to no value and thoughtfully bringing new things into your life when needed.
If you’ve heard the saying “a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind”, this lifestyle highlights the other side of that coin. I have begun to remove physical clutter from my life and it has provided tremendous value in a simplistic and meaningful way.
The Pursuit of More
Most of us (myself included) grew up thinking that the surefire way to be successful and happy in life is to own the biggest and best things. The better job title we have, more money we make, the bigger house we can afford, the nicer cars we can drive and the more things we can buy. The American Dream, right?
But do any of those things really make us happy? In the short term, they certainly can provide a dopamine boost, but over the long term it simply does not lead to a meaningful life. We never feel we have enough.
Our endless desire for more seems pretty normal until you really stop to think about it. Consider this. The average American home is 3 times larger today than it was in the 1950’s, and yet that is still not enough room. We have accumulated so much stuff that there is now a $22 billion storage industry, which has been the fastest growing segment of the commercial real estate industry over the past four decades.
So what is truly important in life? Do you think those lying on their death beds are reflecting on how nice their cars were, how big their TV was or how good they were at making money? No. They think about those they love deepest, the experiences they have had and the impact they have made in their precious time on earth.
Many of us are unintentionally living the lives that others want us to live. Whether it is working in a career that our parents wanted us to pursue, being in the wrong relationship because it’s easier just to stay in it, leasing that really nice SUV or purchasing the biggest house we can afford in the suburbs because that’s what society tells us we should be doing. Sometimes it’s easier to drift through life than to stop and think about what is truly important to us.
We only have this one incredible life. We deserve to live it fully according to our values and what will ultimately bring us lasting happiness.
By living a more simplistic lifestyle, we can choose to get rid of what is meaningless in our lives and not give into the temptation to buy-buy-buy. This nationwide craze of over-consumption has left our country with little to no savings and more than $13 trillion in consumer debt.
Do you realize how much $13 trillion is?
If you were born the same day as Jesus and spent $1 million every single day up until now, you wouldn’t have even reached $1 trillion.
We are putting our futures at tremendous risk to acquire things that don’t really make us happy.
The documentary helped open my eyes to this madness and my mindless participation in it. So a few months ago I began reducing the clutter in my life by getting rid of my unwanted clothes. I thought that would be a good place to start, but it was more difficult than I anticipated.
I began by taking out a sweatshirt I hadn’t worn since college and something would give me tremendous pause. I would think, well, I might want to wear this in the future or I would convince myself that I might regret not having that sweatshirt one day. But then I realized I would most likely feel the exact same way a year from now. More importantly, someone else would get much more use out of my sweatshirt if I donated it.
Once I shifted my mindset, it was much easier to set my rarely worn clothes free. After an hour I ended up with six huge garbage bags filled with polos that still had tags on them, dress shirts I had neglected for years, jeans with holes in unfortunate places and shoes that had been taking up space and collecting dust.
With nearly a 50% reduction in clothes, my drawers now shut with ease, my closet has room to breathe and my bedroom looks so much cleaner, providing a more relaxed environment. I don’t have to clean or organize nearly as much as I used to.
I wear my favorite clothes because that’s all I own and I am able to pack much faster and lighter for trips.
But what if the highly unlikely, absolute, worst case, end-of-the-world scenario happens and I need something I didn’t pack? Well, guess what? I can buy it. Simple.
I then moved on to clearing out the many other useless things around my apartment. I ended up donating 39 books, 44 DVDs (yep I counted) and countless other trinkets that went unused for months and took up a tremendous amount of space. There is now a much greater sense of calm in my apartment and it feels fantastic. I continue to try to find ways to add simplicity to my life.
Here’s an easy 30-day exercise to help clean out your closet
Take each hanger in your closet and turn it around so your clothes are facing the opposite way they normally do. Each day, take out the clothes you want to wear and at the end of the day (or better yet, once they are washed), place them back in your closet with the hanger facing the normal way.
After 30 days, you will clearly see which clothes you have worn and which you have not. Take a look at each of the clothes that are facing the wrong way and try them on one at a time. If you are not truly happy with how those clothes look, fit, or feel, it’s probably time for them to go.
Let It Go
Look, I’m not asking you to get rid of all your belongings and live life as a monk. All I am saying is take time to reflect and consider what is truly important to you instead of being pulled by all the external forces around you. Just ask yourself the simple question (and be honest).
Does this possession/purchase/relationship bring joy to my life?
There is something incredibly freeing about having the ability to let go of the stuff that is of little or no use to me anymore. My stress levels have gone way down. I no longer feel that impulse to constantly buy things either.
You too will start to deliberately question the new things you bring into your life and the purchases you decide to make with your hard earned money. More importantly, it will cause you to appreciate what you do have.
Apple will surely break sales records for the next iPhone, but I won’t feel the slightest urge to take part. My phone gives me access to the world’s information in seconds, plays any song I want, takes breathtaking pictures, and allows me to communicate with anyone, anywhere, instantly. I’m good with this one for a while.
So minimalism is just another example of how reducing spending can add value to your life in ways that go beyond saving money for your future. By incorporating a more minimalist mindset, you will begin to live a more intentional life.
And that, my friends, is something worth holding onto.