If you don’t consider yourself to be a minimalist nor desire to be one, then you may not understand what minimalism can do for you. You have a lot to gain from thinking like a minimalist and here’s why: The modern economic environment has been developed into a massive machine with only one mission: Separate you from your time and money as frequently (and efficiently) as possible. There are even metrics that the marketing industry use to measure how much money they have to spend to get you to spend more in return. It is this metric that is used to calculate how efficiently they can get you to hand over your money and more importantly, precious time and attention. The bad news is they’re really good at doing that effectively on all levels of human psychology (yikes)! But the good news: It’s not too late for you – there’s still time to break out of the cycle and discover your own freedom.
Let’s. Do. This.
The first problem, is that your conception of minimalism may be horribly misguided. You may think minimalism looks a lot like the picture at the top of this post: Empty room, barren walls, uncomfortable, emotionless, empty house. “I can’t become a minimalist! I literally just ordered a Vitamix blender on Amazon… it’ll be here in two days. I’m so sorry.” Wait a minute, slow your roll amigo. Here’s the magical part about minimalism: You can keep your blender! The wonderful bit about it is like most things in life, you get to decide what it means for you. In fact, even those who subscribe to traditional minimalist ideologies vary greatly in their practice. I’d recommend starting out with the definition provided by Joshua Becker, whose thinking on the matter resonates well with me.
“Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it.” —Joshua Becker
Imagine having more time with the people you love and more money left over for the experiences that give you joy and real satisfaction. More time, attention and money to have the kind of things and experiences that revitalize every bit of your being. You have the capacity to do that, and the path to achieve it is called minimalism. Within this structure, there is no problem with purchasing something that you think will make you happy or bring enjoyment to your life. You can have a BMW and still be a minimalist! Minimalism is a filter, a simple system to help remove the excess, to remove the things that eat away at your precious time and energy so that you can actually spend it on things that you want. If what you truly want is more free-time and money to buy accessories for your BMW, then all the power to you – pursue your passion, friend. When you look at it that way it doesn’t sound quite so scary, does it?
What’s the point behind getting rid of the excess? When my wife Amy and I decided to begin the process of minimizing our possessions, it wasn’t necessarily because we had too much stuff. Well, we did (and still do) have too much stuff, but that wasn’t the main reason for this shift in mentality. It was the realization that having many things we didn’t often use needlessly added to the amount of time that it takes us to maintain our lives at our most basic comfort level. This is so important because we both believe in the idea of time-wealth being our most valuable asset. Time is the one and only resource that can’t be unspent. It is the only asset that’s equally divided amongst living things – we all get 24 hours per day, no more and no less until it’s all over. Ironically, monetary wealth or ‘getting rich’ is often viewed as the end goal, when in fact it is possible to create the kind of time-wealth that a rich person has without actually being cash-flow rich. The other problem is that if acquiring money is your only goal, you’ll never have enough of it. Most billionaires can’t take more than a day or two off at a time due to extensive obligations stemming from their massive fortunes. Doesn’t seem to align well with our views of freedom, does it? We’re not interested in that kind of wealth, we want to control how we spend our time and have the freedom to direct as much of our 24 hours per day into the things we deeply care about, with the people we love. It was this philosophy and desire that led us to examine every aspect of our lives to identify areas where we could save time, energy and as a result, money. It was within this examination, that I discovered what I now call ‘the twitch’, which became the reason for this blog.
It’s simple math: The more trinkets, remotes, gadgets and ‘things’ in the living room, the longer it takes to clear surfaces and organize the living room. In order to dust off the coffee table, we’d first have to remove the magazines, electronics, mail, and trinkets.We found ourselves regularly overwhelmed and needing to clean up and organize before guests would come over to our house. Home maintenance in its most basic form was taking more work than it needed to – and we realized we had the power to change for the better. So how did we get started making the change to a simpler, faster, easier life? On December 1st, we started playing a game. Every day in December, we’d recycle, donate, sell or throw away a number of items equal to the day of the month. We’re a little over two weeks in at this point and here’s what we’ve noticed: Our living room is clean, the surfaces can be wiped down without much effort and we don’t have to scramble to put things away when guests come over. It has made life so much easier in many ways. I’ll write more about the various practices we’ve achieved in future blog posts, but wanted to provide a small example of how this can make life so much better.
There’s another not-so-secret benefit to focusing on intentional living and removing the excess waste from your life: More money. Are you trading potential travel, bigger ticket items you may want or unforgettable experiences for stupid $25 impulse purchases on Amazon.com? We often forget that spending a small amount of money very frequently (aka the latte factor) adds up to large amounts of money very quickly. When we are more intentional about the way we use our money, you spend less on stupid things. When you spend less money, you have less debt. Less debt brings less monthly payments, and more available cash-flow. More cash-flow, means flexibility and options. This comes back to the question we asked ourselves early on: What exactly does freedom look like to us?
Freedom doesn’t look like: A huge house and an equally huge mortgage, paying a lot of money to furnish it. Multiple car payments, credit card debt, being trapped in a job that we hate because we can’t afford to quit, spending all of our time working to pay for the things we don’t actually want or need.
Freedom does look like: Having control of our time, our attention, and energy. Spending time with the people we love and care about. Having enough money to pay for our expenses and then some. Having the flexibility to take chances, take risks, start businesses. Never feeling stuck. Doing work that we’re passionate about and work we’d be doing even if we didn’t need the money. We’ve realized that life is too short to work at a high-paying job that we hate.
These ideals might not work for everyone, and that’s okay. What’s important is that you figure out what freedom looks like to you, and create the lifestyle that gets you there. All I ask, is that you pause and question your decisions. Think about why you’re living the way you are and make simple adjustments based on the answer.
“We buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like.” – Fight Club? Probably?
Here’s the thing, the modern consumerist system is designed to take your money and time away from you. You have the decision to participate in the cycle, or remove yourself from the game and reclaim your life, time and energy. Don’t you think it’s worth spending some time thinking about?
Thanks for reading.