“If you would make a man happy, do not add to his possessions but subtract from the sum of his desires”—Seneca
So, when you look around your home are you overwhelmed? Do you wonder how in the world you collected so much stuff? Are your closets overflowing and your attic stuffed to capacity?
All this stuff could be causing you to become a little blue, or at least a little tense. Although it may have seemed a bit faddish at first, adopting a minimalist lifestyle has taken hold and those that have adopted such a perspective report feeling an unfamiliar, yet refreshing sense of freedom for the first time in their life.
There are people who are “forced” into minimalism due to loss of job or other unforeseen life happenings and those who simply make the choice to downsize from what is seen as a life of plenty to a life of just what they need. Either way, more people are embracing this movement than ever before; some to a greater degree than others.
What Our Culture Tells Us
We are cultured from a very early age to acquire stuff and to never be completely happy with what we have. Possessions either become outdated or no longer in style—thus requiring an update, no matter how functional it may be.
We are told that our clothes must change with the season, our car should be replaced at least every three or four years and that we must trade our freedom to become a slave to a 30-year mortgage so that we have a place to fill up with stuff.
What happens when the space in our home is not enough? We can go down the street and rent a storage unit—they are everywhere. The self-storage industry is a 20-billion-dollar business in the US alone. For some strange reason, Americans require twice the space they did 30 years ago even though family size has decreased.
What do you do when you realize all your stuff is starting to suffocate you, or that what you desire most of all is freedom—freedom from debt and freedom from stuff? Although there are different ways of arriving at the same point, here are just a few steps you can take to begin to climb out from under your mountain of stuff.
Make a list of what you really need: What is it that you really need to live? Can you physically wear 16 pairs of shoes at the same time, or carry 12 handbags? This has to be a very practical step. You have to be honest with yourself and not try to rationalize your way out of keeping lots of extra stuff. Remember, minimalism does not require giving up comforts, but rather achieving a balance in your life between what you really need and what you want.
Toss, sell or give away: You would be amazed at how much money you can make selling things you don’t need. Start in one room, one closet or one corner of your home and organize your belongings in groups. One group to throw away, one group to sell and one group to give away.
Think of others who are less fortunate and make a special donation. This is a great way to lighten your load and will bring you and the receiver great joy. Once you have unloaded some of your stuff, you can organize what you have and you will be amazed at how free you feel.
Spending freeze: This step is often the hardest; stop spending. Curbing our insatiable appetite for stuff is difficult in a world where we are inundated with advertisements and a culture of acquisition. However, put yourself on a spending freeze for even just a few months to see how good it feels to walk past things you know you don’t need. Purchase only what you do need, and shop secondhand first.
Not only will you save money, but you will continue to develop an attitude of gratitude for what you have and realize just how unnecessary having lots of things really is. Keep in mind that frivolous spending can lead to one “sugar high” after another, excess consumption, debt, information overload and less free time.
Minimalism means lots of things and is a personal journey that you must take on your own. Never let others tell you what you must get rid of to be happy; you have to get to that place yourself first for it to have any real meaning in your life.
-The Alternative Daily