Are You a Slave to Stuff?
Have you ever opened your closet and been buried under an avalanche of clothing? Do you park your car in the driveway because the garage is full of things you don’t remember buying? Do you sometimes find a never worn piece of clothing with the tags still attached? Has your “junk” drawer slowly become a “junk” desk and is now an entire “junk” room?
There is no doubt that buying new things can be exciting and fun. But how many pairs of designer jeans do you really need?
Minimalism: Choosing Less and Doing More
Here’s a simple equation to help you answer that question from Joshua Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus (aka The Minimalists).
“The point,” they explain “is that unnecessary consumption leads to debt, debt leads to financial woes, financial woes lead to discontent, and discontent is a key element of unhappiness. And that’s the equation: unnecessary consumption equals unhappiness.”
How often do we let stuff get in the way of our happiness, sabotaging our relationships and the life we want to live? In the race to accumulate possessions, are we blinded to how our daily spending choices impact our long-term dreams?
Joshua and Ryan believe that minimalism is not about what you do or don’t buy—it’s about living a meaningful life.
For example, since the 1950s we’ve almost tripled our average house size and have gotten really good at buyingthings to fill up bigger spaces (thanks to credit cards). But our happiness levels have not tripled. Not even close. They’ve basically stayed the same.
So innovative thinker Graham Hilltook this insight to the extreme. He created a revolutionary 420-square-foot apartment in Manhattan that has the functionality of a space three times the size. But he didn’t have to fill it with three times the stuff.
Now you don’t have to sell your house and donate all your money to charity (like this inspirational family did), but minimalism can give something of real value that money cannot buy. It all comes down to knowing the difference between “needs” and “wants”.
We often spend so much time chasing our wants (trendy clothing, expensive homes, shiny toys), that we forget to meet our needs. How valuable to you is spending more time with loved ones, pursuing an interest with passion, or volunteering at a wonderful charity? These are the things that can you bring you lasting happiness and are worth far more than dollars and cents.
So while for one person minimalism might mean only owning 100 things and for another it might mean owning one car instead of two, it isn’t about what you choose not to buy but about what not buying allows you to do.
Minimalism: Choosing with Gratitude
So if embracing a minimalist lifestyle isn’t really about your possessions but about your choices, what are some things you can do today to boost your financial health?
1. Live Within Your Means
This sounds so simple, but in a world of easy credit it can be harder than you’d expect. You need to know the boundaries of your financial comfort zone before you can make the right choices to meet your needs. And you must respect those limits and not covet those things outside your bounds or, as Joshua and Ryan so clearly explained, you’ll drive yourself to unhappiness.
2. Be Financially Aware
True empowerment is being confident that every single decision you make to spend or save will better your life and bring you closer to your goals. We purposely built financial wellness tools like MoneyPulse and Spending Assistant to give you that context because we believe the road to financial health is paved with conscious choices. Using these tools anytime, anywhere, whether on your phone or online, will help you stay and track and remain focused.
3. Live with Gratitude
This might seem trivial, but having an “attitude of gratitude” is essential to being financially well. If you’re constantly pining for more money or nicer toys, you’ll never be happy or feel “wealthy”. As Oprah once so wisely said, “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” Studies have shown that just spending five minutes at the end of each day being grateful not only makes you 25% happier, but even physically healthier.
Your life, not your bank account, is your most important asset. Minimalism merely reminds us to value this precious asset over anything that we could buy. And when you think about it that way, financial wellness is not about having thingsbut about having the freedom to pursue your dreams and lead a fulfilling life.
When you know what you need (versus what you want) and have the right tools to keep you on track, embracing some minimalist philosophies is a great way to get back to feeling good about your money.
Tell us: Would you ever try a minimalist challenge? Share your thoughts!
Photo credit: Land of the Big Sky