Less is More, or Not
If the idea of living with less speaks to you, then you might want to try adopting a minimalist lifestyle. Minimalism compels you to rid your home of excess stuff, focus on gathering experiences instead of things, and living more fully as a result. By buying only what you need, the idea is that you can save yourself money, time, and stress.
But adopting this lifestyle isn’t easy—nor is it for everyone. Here are some of the most prevalent pros and cons of making this shift.
Pro: It can look however you want it to. Minimalism can encompass a wide variety of lifestyle choices—it’s not all or nothing. You could choose to have a no-spend month to get things started. You could also go minimal in your digital life by not upgrading your phone or laptop until absolutely necessary or purging your social media accounts of people who aren’t actually your “friends.”
Con: It can be overwhelming. Determining what type of minimalism speaks to you can be a challenge. Since this lifestyle is open-ended and can be tailored to your values, it requires you to really think about and examine your priorities.
Pro: It helps you center in on what really matters to you. Of course, doing the work to hone in on your values is important, necessary life work. While it could be difficult, it’s worth the effort to figure out what will truly bring you happiness.
Con: It’s not easy to make change. It’s one thing to want to have a minimalist lifestyle. It’s quite another to live it. Any kind of change requires courage and commitment to action—minimalism is no different.
Pro: It will help you feel less stressed. Taking a focus off material things can alleviate the anxiety of having to keep up with everyone else—like having the new “it” bag or decorating your home however HGTV currently suggests. When you take the pressure off yourself to consume, you shed the stress of having to prove your worth through your stuff.
Con: It makes you question yourself more. Pre-minimalism you may have just swiped a card or clicked “buy it now.” But adopting this lifestyle can at first cause lots of indecisiveness as you determine what items you really need. You may doubt yourself when you’re faced with a choice to buy something or not.
Pro: It will save you money. Being selective about what you buy means you will end up spending fewer resources when acquiring stuff.
Con: It’s not always practical. Sometimes, you just need to buy stuff. Your kids may have to wear something specific for a school dress-up day. You could book a trip and need hiking shoes or other gear. Or, after you’ve purged your belongs, you may regret giving away a kitchen gadget you almost never used when you’re in the middle of a recipe and suddenly need that exact item.
Pro: It makes you less materialistic. Placing a higher value on relationships and experiences, as opposed to things, is a positive side effect of minimalism. Without things cluttering your space and your life, you can more fully appreciate what you do have—and who you are.
Con: It could cause tension in your household. Not everyone will understand your desire to shift toward a minimalist lifestyle. It’s not something you can choose for other people, particularly your partner, your kids, or anyone else you live with.
Pro: It can save you time. Less stuff means you’re going to spend less time cleaning, less time putting things away, and less time shopping for more, better stuff.
Con: It may shift your relationships. If shopping has been a bonding activity with your family members or friends, you may see a change in these relationships. When you no longer want to spend time buying new clothes or talking about the latest gadgets, you may find that you have less in common with these people.
How to Do It
Think you’re ready to try minimalism? Here are five steps to put you on the right path.
- Determine what minimalism looks like to you. Take time to discover your values. Why does minimalism speak to you? What do you want this lifestyle to bring to your life? What does this new lifestyle mean to you? When you tailor minimalism to your needs and priorities, you’ll be more successful.
- Do a purge. Grab a box and do a lap around your home. Put in any items with little meaning or value to you and things you rarely use. Then, do another pass by going room to room with a more discerning eye. Get rid of clothes that don’t fit or need repair, and duplicates of items and knick-knacks that just collect dust. Put everything aside, then wait a month or two before donating everything (just to make sure you don’t actually need any of the items.)
- Keep your minimalism priorities in check. When you feel that familiar urge to impulse buy, remember your values. Will this item bring you joy or peace? Is it necessary for your life? Can you borrow or rent this item instead? Make mindful decisions about each purchase.
- Let your loved ones know. Bring your friends and family in by sharing what this new lifestyle means to you without being preachy or judgmental about their material needs. If your priority is to not bring new items into your home, be upfront well before any gift-giving holidays and explain that you’d like to enjoy a meal together instead of exchanging presents. Make them feel part of your new lifestyle, not alienated from it.
- Take time to adjust. Don’t beat yourself up if you treat yourself to something new. Honor the person you were before minimalism by giving yourself grace. Reflect on your emotional state when you made your purchase and try to understand what buying that item meant to you. Make space each day for finding gratitude and appreciation for your clutter-free home so you can recommit to keeping up this lifestyle. Remember, it’s a journey.
While a minimalist lifestyle is not for everyone, the benefits of going small can outweigh the initial discomforts. Minimalism offers joy and peace to many who embrace it, but there’s no shame for those who don’t want to; joy and peace can be found in many spaces, full or empty. What speaks to you more?
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