Increasingly people are giving up high powered jobs and mortgages in favour of a “richer” lifestyle, by living with no more than they need. Well, I do gravitate towards simplicity, but I never had that high-powered lifestyle to give up. So am I a minimalist? And further more, could you have more spare cash if you were more minimalistic?
Let’s look at my minimalist symptoms and how they’ve made me “richer”.
Symptom1: Obsessing about having less stuff and avoiding disposables. It means I have more living space in the van, and spend less time fixing, replacing, buying and throwing away.
Symptom 2: Using the same things all the time (wearing the same clothes, using the same bag etc). You know how your oldest prized possessions really feel like yours because you’ve made so many memories in the time you’ve owned them? Your first Teddy for example?
Well now we have too much stuff to make any connection with it at all. So I decided to make as many things as possible (because mass produced stuff feels impersonal to me) and to use fewer things. This way I see, touch, interact with each thing more often. This idea has stuck with me and it’s worked. Now, familiar things constantly surround me and that’s very grounding. I have made some of my clothes, shoulder bag, wallet, some jewellery that I always wear and my keyring,
Symptom 3: Moving towards the simplest version of everything I do: went from playing electric guitar to predominantly acoustic guitar, have ended up owning one bicycle with one gear (after years of mountain bikes), eat with one particular knife and spork, live in alternative dwellings with basic amenities…
Symptom 4: Not being a mindless consumer: It turns out that I’ve instinctively taken some of the steps that minimalists deliberately take to break their relationship with consumerism. One challenge is to give up buying things (besides consumables) for a year. Joshua Fields Milburn (of theminimalists.com) writes that after a few months, it stopped feeling essential to continue with the experiment because it had already permanently changed him into someone who didn’t make unnecessary purchases. In other words, he’d broken the habit.
It seems obvious now that I inadvertently went through this same process this summer when I challenged myself to let my money run out completely and then work my way up from £0. During both the descent and ascent, money became a more precious commodity. I avoided buying at all costs. First I’d spend up to a month doing without a particular “thing”, to decide if it was a “want” or a “need”. During that time one of 5 outcomes would take place.
- The need would wain (meaning it was really a “want”)
- Someone would lend or give me the thing I needed
- I’d find one in the trash
- I’d make one
- I really would buy one!
Soon I’d even begun refusing free stuff unless I genuinely needed it, knowing it get in my way otherwise.
After a few months of behaving like this, I rarely even want to buy anything anymore. Before The £0 Challenge, I honestly didn’t think I made unnecessary purchases. But now it’s clear that wasn’t true, because now I buy less and as a result, throw away less.
Paul McKenna writes in his self-help book “I Can Make You Rich” that every person who follow’s its processes will have more useable cash. How can he guarantee something like that? Well, because the book includes methods or giving up unnecessary spending. In other words, his book’s claims work because everyone in the west buys stuff they don’t need (unless they’ve deliberately deprogrammed themselves to combat the advertising they’ve ingested all their lives).
So what’s the conclusion? At first, I thought “No, I own too much stuff to be a minimalist”. But minimalism is only about getting rid of as much stuff as frees you to have great life experiences. It’s not about deprivation. For that reason, I’d encourage everyone give it a go – after all, it’s not such a big deal giving up the stuff you don’t need, right? Why not give up buying stuff for a month and see how it changes you?
I like simplicity and don’t like waste (of time, energy, money, or stuff). All the steps I’ve taken to simplify my life have been great, even though I never led a complicated life in the first place. My experience is that of course lack is a problem, but excess also a problem, more so than you’d expect.
But living with less isn’t about what you have; it’s about what you don’t have. Minimalists often publish lists titled “The 100 things I own”, but a lists titled “100 Things I Don’t Own Anymore”, including how they learned to live happily without it would be much more interesting and helpful. Maybe I should write one?
Take part in Kimwei’s Music Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XNDwS7wUwE