While there are several theories as to why we have become a society obsessed with the need to possess, suffice it to say that whatever we have, we usually want more – or better or newer. We stuff our houses with furniture and clothes. We stuff our days with activities and commitments. We stuff our minds with electronic overload.
And yet, there is another growing movement out there embracing the opposite – minimalism. What is minimalism? Webster’s Dictionary defines it as “a style or technique (as in music, literature, or design) that is characterized by extreme sparseness and simplicity.” Even the definition is simple. Why is it catching on? Because people are beginning to realize they can survive with a lot less and feel better doing it.
We have been influenced by a consumer society, bombarded daily with ads to buy this gadget or try this new appliance. The result? Cluttered homes and stressed lives. But just think if we embraced minimalism. What would our homes look like then – what if we started we started to look at owning less things? A good friend, Brian Gardner, wrote about living simple and his thoughts on minimalism here – Packing Light and Unloading the Excess Baggage in Your Life.
The Financial Benefits
Let’s look at your house first. When you bought it, were you thinking, “I want bigger and better to have more room.” Where has it put you financially? Are you overextended in credit? Have you had to take a second mortgage out on the house to pay bills?
The good news is, you can still own a home while embracing minimalism. The key is to buy only what you need. An oversized home comes with oversized payments, and oversized expenses over the years. What would the cost be to put a new roof on a 1500 sq.ft. house vs. a 4500 sq.ft. house? Or the cost of landscaping a two-acre lot vs. a 1/3 acre lot?
If you have a large family, you need a bigger house. But once the children have moved out, do you still need it? You are essentially paying to accommodate items you rarely use that are of little value. Reduce the size of your house and reduce your expenses.
Designing With Minimalism
First, it’s important to remember that minimalism isn’t about living without. It’s about living with only what you need. Keep this in mind when designing your home, also. It’s not about displaying every family photo or owning every kitchen appliance.
Pare down your walls! Notice it doesn’t say ‘bare’. It’s absolutely fine to have some items hanging on your walls. But don’t go overboard and cover every square inch with photos, art work or collector’s plates. Select a few pieces to be the focal point on a wall or in a room. And get rid of those bulky draperies! Blinds and a valance work just as well without imposing on the room.
When purchasing furniture, find pieces that also serve a function. That is, have a table with drawers underneath for storage. That hallway bench should have baskets for shoes and gloves. Buy a sofa that can be laid flat and serve as a bed for guests. And minimize horizontal surfaces! They only attract clutter.
Living the Life
Once you have the house of your (minimalist) dreams, and have decorated it tastefully yet sparingly, you must embrace the minimalist lifestyle. If you don’t, you will only bring clutter and chaos back into your home.
Think simplicity. This applies to every aspect of life – your wardrobe, your finances, and even your schedule. A few clothing essentials can give you multiple looks. Using auto-pay for bills frees up your time and saves you money in late fees. Learning to say ‘no’ will give you back your time.
Reduce the clutter. Be honest. You know you don’t really need everything you own. You know you can easily get rid of some of your possessions. But then the question arises – what am I willing to part with? That’s easy. Go back to the basics. What do you need to function and survive? How many cars do you really need if you live in the city and work from home? Do you need a smartphone if you only use it to make phone calls? Don’t let yourself be distracted by the gadget itself. Rather, think about its usefulness.
Learn Contentment. Simply said, be content with what you have and with who you are. Focus your goals on improving yourself rather than acquiring more. Which of your possessions have brought you inner peace? There is such a difference between the excitement of something new (that falls away quickly and is usually followed by some form of regret or sadness) and the pure inner joy of peacefulness.
Whether you own a home, or are saving to purchase that little cottage down the street, if you embrace a more minimalist lifestyle, you will be able to afford it more quickly. And you will enjoy it much more without the stresses of a large mortgage payment. Give up the need to have so much and enjoy less. You won’t feel deprived.
I find myself thinking and living a more minimalist life these days. Truly living with less is becoming a way of life for me.
I’ve found a great blog that is at the top of my reading list…Becoming Minimalist by Joshua Becker. As he says, on his blog, “Own Less, Live More”.