In addition to financial independence, I also want to embrace the concept of minimalism. In this entry, we’ll talk about what minimalism is, what my experience has been and where I am on my journey, and ultimately, how to improve success of accomplishing financial independence by slowly learning to live with less.
What is minimalism?
In the 1950s, minimalism was considered more of a style or art. However, more recently minimalism is the concept of being happier with less and living intentionally with our physical (or digital) stuff. My recent inspiration has been fueled after reading a couple books, “Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life” by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus and “The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own” by Joshua Becker.
Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life, starts with the authors introducing themselves as leaving their six figure jobs to pursue a more meaningful life. After living the “dream” and purchasing all the things society expects us to, they soon realized there is more to living a meaningful life than making money to buy stuff. They focus on how minimalism can support five areas for a more meaningful life including health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution. I also appreciate the 16 Rules for Living with Less that they have available on their website, theminimalists.com. These 16 Rules put into perspective what deserves a place in your home, and how to be more intentional with future purchases.
The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own begins with Joshua recalling his experience cleaning out his garage. While his son wants to play, he is stuck rearranging belongings he has accumulated until a neighbor points out that he doesn’t actually need all that stuff. Since that moment, Joshua makes more room in his life for the important things, such as family and health, by removing clutter that doesn’t benefit him. He helps us understand the power of advertising and how many small purchases add up (check out your Amazon purchase history), and how donating your items can help you feel more fulfilled. Personally, I appreciated this insight because many times I feel guilty for getting rid of something I spent money on. Changing that perspective to focus on the happiness an item will bring someone else, not only removes the obligation to sell possessions, but makes departing with them easier if they are no longer being used.
My story with Minimalism and where I fell off the path
A couple years ago, a college friend reached out and asked me about my experience with minimalism and how I came to live this lifestyle. She was learning more about it and was inspired by the decisions I made, and yet I wasn’t familiar with what she was referring to. As I reflect back on that moment, I lived with less because I had to, not because I made a conscious effort to do so.
In high school, I bounced back and forth between my dad’s house and my step mom’s house while we were moving. Since they had five kids combined, it wasn’t uncommon to sleep on a couch during the week and only have a small bag of belongings. After my mother passed at a young age, I had the opportunity to spend summers living with extended family and I became comfortable living out of a suitcase. If I needed new clothes, I used my income from part time jobs to find gems at the Salvation Army, but typically only owned 1-2 sweatshirts and 2-3 pairs of jeans, one pair of shoes and enough shirts, socks, and underwear to last me to laundry day. When I moved to college half way across the country, I packed a suitcase and left everything else behind. Not necessarily because I wanted to, but because I felt like I had to.
Fast forward 5-10 years to my friend asking me about minimalism, my home and lifestyle looked very different. My husband and I had purchased a three bedroom home where we had so much stuff, I had to keep my clothes in our spare bedroom. Our third bedroom was intended to be an office, but had become a clutter room where we kept things we didn’t want to see, but didn’t know what to do with. I had landed a successful job after college, and with increased income, soon stuffed our recently purchased home with clothes, new furniture, appliances and a brand new car. That’s what we were supposed to do, right?
While purchasing these items should have brought happiness, I was interested to experience the opposite affect. Don’t get me wrong, owning socks without holes in them and a car that didn’t breakdown regularly are great examples of how my new income increased my happiness and reduced stress. However, at a certain point, excess has a limiting ability to make us happier and eventually can have the opposite affect. In the book, “Your Money or Your Life“, by Vicki Robin, I was introduced to the concept of the fulfillment curve that describes exactly what I experienced and why I now strive to intentionally be happier with less.
How can minimalism support financial independence?
Through learning to be content with less, we can quickly support our goals for financial independence. Not only will learning to purge our things give an opportunity to give back to the community or earn some extra income to pay off debt or invest in our savings, but it will help us think intentionally about the items we bring into our home before we spend money on them.
Recently, I’ve developed a love for buying new clothes. More specifically, I’ve become hooked on subscription services where I was spending close to $200 on clothes every month that were delivered straight to my door. You read that right – $200 – every month. And I’m not even talking about kids clothes yet. Am I any happier? In the moment yes, however, the overwhelming piles in my closet eventually started to cause me stress. I need more time to find outfits that match or a specific item that I want to wear. My husband and I procrastinate putting clothes away, not because we are lazy, but because we have no where to put them because our drawers are already full and closets stuffed. It’s a great problem to have, but the truth is that I was happier with just enough clothes to fit into a suitcase. It reduced the number of decisions I had to make in the day and eliminates the guilt looking at purchases that in some cases I never wear or don’t fit me. Not to mention I never had to worry about that stale smell your clothes get because you haven’t worn them in so long.
After this reflection, I made a decision to change my habits. While I was already spending this money monthly, I stopped my subscription and immediately set up a monthly deposit to contribute that money into an investing account instead. Clothing is only one example of monthly commitments we can quickly alter to pay off debt or accumulate wealth the moment we decide we are content without them. In my example, not only will I reduce the unnecessary excess in my home, but I will now enjoy seeing those dollars grow and leverage compounding interest to earn more.
- What areas in your life could you quickly change from accumulating stuff to accumulating wealth?
- Do you stop to think about whether the item(s) you are purchasing will bring you happiness?
- Are you purchasing items to impress someone else? Are there societal expectations driving your decision? Are trying to keep up with others?
- Do you spend money on storage solutions for your excess stuff, such as storage units, extra shelving and totes?
- How much time do you spend moving things around in your home, and could you spend that time doing something to increase your income, such as starting your own business?