I am a huge fan of minimalism. I love the philosophy, I love the reasons to adopt it, and I also love the results. In the wake of growing environmental activism and the 2008 U.S. housing market crash, the minimalist movement has been picking up speed quickly. It’s rise is certainly a good thing. Humans have been materialistic ‘stuff’ monsters for years now and at the very least, minimalism should cause us to think twice about how we look at our possessions.
Looking back on my years of adolescence, I have to consider my younger self the polar opposite of a minimalist. I was obsessed with materialism. I always wanted the newest electronics, piles of clothes to pick from every morning, and the best sports equipment. Over the years I remember literally spending hours and entire days looking up snowboard equipment online, desperately searching for leaked images of next years boards so I could plan out my purchases almost twelve months in advance. Not to say that my snowboard obsession was ever a bad thing, but I likely could have learned three languages with the time I wasted on the internet. I probably lived with a similar materialistic viewpoint for most of my time on this earth. It began in University, and expanded after graduating; that I came to appreciate a new, different way of looking at belongings.
I became a minimalist unintentionally. Never actually having heard of minimalism, I inevitably became accustomed to it because of the movement my post university lifestyle inevitably required. Following school, I decided to spend most of the coming years working remote jobs and taking trips. I wasn’t exactly a wayfaring world traveler, but I was always on the go. The main issue with that lifestyle was constantly moving from one place to another – often to a new location where my accommodation was uncertain upon arrival. The struggle with constant travel is that unnecessary luggage always sucks. One of my more nomadic friends described this caveat to me in a profoundly accurate, unique and insightful way. Simply put, he stated that his belongings were beginning to dictate his lifestyle much more than he would like. They had more control over his fate than he did. That same friend eventually sold nearly everything he owned with the exception of a camera, computer, and surfboard he brought everywhere he went. For him, minimalism brought freedom and flexibility.
Freedom is the staple of minimalism. Almost every reason for being a minimalist serves a different version of freedom. For myself, it was also about mobility: I needed to be capable of readily moving from place to place, and determining which belongings were critical and which I needed to let go became a necessary decision. It was not until later on that I came to appreciate some of the other benefits minimalism provided. Firstly, minimalism allowed me to come and go from wherever, whenever. Secondly, minimalism rid me of my immature, material desire for things. Beyond the essentials, such items never brought me the actual, tangible satisfaction I hoped that they would. I have since become someone who cringes at the thought of shopping. If I’m not addressing a particular need, you will rarely ever find me in a mall. I aim to only buy things that are necessary. I believe in buying well made items that are built to last. Minimalism has taught me to value quality over quantity. For me it has become an effective outlook on purchasing goods, and I fully subscribe to it.
Unconsidered by many, is the financial angle of minimalism. Since the majority of first world citizens hold full time jobs and live in one location most of their life, they usually have different reasons for living minimally than myself. The reason people buy tiny houses or live in a van is not usually because they are broke. It is often because they want to save their hard earned money. It is about chasing financial freedom: the freedom to achieve a savings account big enough to fund early retirement, freedom to start a dream business, freedom to travel more, the list goes on. People also live in small homes to reduce their environmental footprint while simultaneously reducing the cost of hydro and water. It is all about a drastic reduction in living expenses. Right now stories about minimalists who have retired decades early are hitting the internet from all angles, and they are real. Money is probably more valuable to us in the form of a compounding savings account than it is in the form of a second unnecessary tablet or that foosball table you’ll never use. The reality is that by spending less money on things that don’t bring real value to your life, you can refocus your finances on the things that really do matter. And don’t forget about helping to reduce carbon emissions.
Most of these concepts are self-evident. After all, if you use your intuition, the word minimalism remains self-explanatory. I could probably recite a wide variety of other reasons why minimalism will change the world, but outlined here are the reasons why it works for me. The way I see it, everything about living minimally boils down to value. It’s about rethinking whether or not anything you do or buy is worth the value that you are prescribing to it. I’m not about to live in a van anytime soon, but minimalism has helped me dissolve distractions in my life and put more focus on my goals and passions. I became a minimalist entirely by accident, but it coincidentally aligns perfectly with my core values, and I won’t be dropping it anytime soon.