Our possessions mean a lot to us. We value them because we need them to survive. We take care of them because they’re sentimental. They’re important to us because we feel like we’ve earned them.
I’d harp on the evils of materialism and our enslavement to the latest trends, but I doubt most of us are so intensely gullible as that. Still, many of us have way too much stuff, most of which we don’t actually need, and they restrict us in ways we wouldn’t immediately notice.
I’ve always known minimalism as an art form or aesthetic, but never as a lifestyle. It’s a simple life tweak that can help us not only adopt better living habits, but also make our decisions more meaningful.
Having Less Stuff Helps Us Focus on What Matters
Most of us might not be living waist-deep in junk, but I’m sure we all have stuff that’s been left unused years after promising ourselves that we might need them someday. Enter minimalism, which encourages us to reduce our belongings to only what we really need, and to get rid of everything else that we don’t.
Which brings me to minimalism’s most important lesson: focusing on what matters most in life. That’s pretty subjective, but to a minimalist, what matters most aren’t material possessions, but relationships, health, love, growth, contentment, and a host of other words that don’t solely depend on physical objects to attain.
The more things we own, the more attention we have to give them, consciously or unconsciously. They end up becoming distractions. By letting go of the things that don’t significantly contribute to our overall happiness, we gain more time and energy to focus on what does.
Own Less, But Don’t Deprive Yourself
Have we been taught that more stuff equals good? Maybe. Many practicing minimalists would recommend you pare your belongings down to only the barest essentials—a few articles of clothing, enough furniture and kitchenware to live comfortably. Most of them will also assure you that you don’t need to live on the extremes; you can own a lot of things and still apply minimalism to your living habits.
If you need a car to get to work, that’s fine. If you need more than seven shirts and a few pairs of trousers, that’s fine too. Want to hang a painting in your room? Go for it. The point of minimalism is to avoid excess. If you can truthfully tell yourself that these are things you need, that they will make you happy without getting in the way of the more important things in your life, by all means! Plus, buying less stuff means you can invest more in high-quality stuff that will last you longer.
Constantly Question the Value of Your Possessions
Your home is the best place to start decluttering. Go through all your belongings and ask yourself, do I really need this? Does this bring me happiness? Don’t be surprised if you struggle—you may need a few rounds of decluttering before you’re left with only the most important items. Be brutal.
Same goes to every potential purchase. By applying the same line of questioning to your buying habits, you’ll be teaching yourself how to make more mindful and deliberate choices. You’ll be spending much less on new stuff and more on new experiences—travel, education, books, that gorgeous bottle of whiskey you saw at the grocery the other week.
Everything Will Feel Lighter
By the time you’ve cleared out every possible space in your home, things will feel noticeably more spacious. After recently clearing all the clutter from my desk, focusing on my work became surprisingly less troublesome.
There’s just something that feels so good about having less clutter and consciously owning less. Everything that you do own seems to feel much more valuable. You’ll want to take better care of them, knowing you’ve committed to making them last as long as possible. It’s a satisfying feeling of freedom and lightness. That, you’ll want to keep.