If you asked 10 people on the street if they’d like to be debt-free, have less clutter in their home and save extra money for retirement, most of them would probably say yes, but as we know, all of this is easier said than done. All of us would rather have more money in our bank accounts and fewer physical and financial burdens, but it isn’t always easy to untie ourselves from financial obligations or let go of physical objects.
Enter minimalism, the lifestyle that promotes more value on experiences and less of a focus on material wealth. Minimalism means living with less, making thoughtful decisions about what you buy and placing more value on experiences over material objects. The philosophy extends from the way you decorate your home to how you balance your bank account. The primary goal of the lifestyle is to value personal relationships and experiences in your life, not the possessions that fill up your home.
If going green has become your New Year’s resolution, minimalism fits in well. By living with less, you learn to make more thoughtful, informed decisions about what you buy. Rather than buying cheap clothing or furniture, you save for something of higher quality, something that is made well and will last you for years instead of a few months. In the end, you buy less and have more money to settle financial debts, save for retirement and spend on experiences.
In general, those who practice minimalism:
- Have less clutter around their homes;
- Spend more money on experiences than material items;
- Live greener lives;
- Feel less stressed;
- Have fewer financial burdens, and;
- Build deeper relationships with those they love.
Though it can take some getting used to, living a minimalism lifestyle can help you refocus on what’s most important in your life: your relationships and your personal happiness. If you’re thinking of making minimalism part of your personal philosophy and New Year’s resolution, here’s what you need to know about this lifestyle and whether it may be right for you.
Minimalism in decluttering and decor
The easiest way to get started with minimalism is to start with the clutter around your home and your decor decisions. Since minimalism is about living with less, your first priority should be to go through your home and take a cold, hard look and what you’re really using — and what you think you’ll use.
As you look through closets, cabinets and containers, keep these questions circulating in your mind:
- Have I used this item in the past 90 days? If not, will I use it in the next 90 days?: If the answer to both questions is no, it’s time to let it go.
- Does this item have sentimental value?: There’s nothing wrong with holding onto a quilt knitted by a loved one or a necklace handed down from a relative, but you’d be surprised how much you might be holding on to that doesn’t have any true sentimental value.
- Does this bring me any true joy?: Joy means feeling good about a purchase or enjoying the time spent using the product. Think about how you feel as you use an item.
Once you get used to asking these questions of yourself and your material goods, you’ll find that most of your clutter comes from items that don’t add value to your life or help you be happy. They’re just taking up space in your home, and it’s time to take your home back.
Pack up your clutter and divide it into three categories: donate, sell or recycle. Gently used goods and clothing can be donated to help others who need a leg up, and items you’ve almost never used, such as small kitchen appliances, can be sold. You might not make a lot of money, but it will be better than hanging onto so many objects that bring you little joy. Sites like letgo, Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist can connect you with buyers looking for a good deal.
There’s very little in your home that you can’t recycle. You just need to make the effort to fill up your car and drive over to a recycling center. You can get rid of stacks of magazines that have been piling up, electronics that no longer work, cans of extra paint that you’ll never use and other household items that you can’t just throw in the trash. For unwanted clothing that’s not suitable to wear any more, sites like ThredUp will send you donation bags for companies that will recycle clothing and turn the textiles into something useable again.
Now that you’ve severely cut down on your clutter, it’s time to tackle your decor. Minimalism means being thoughtful about what you buy and what fills your home, so your decor looks more paired down. You don’t have to fill your home with neutrals exclusively. You can still be a fan of French Country and practice minimalism in your decor. Here’s how:
- Buy quality, not quantity: Save up for a high-quality coffee table or sofa that’s made with sustainable materials rather than buying something that will fall apart in a year or two.
- Avoid decorative accessories: They take up space and make dusting more difficult.
- Be thoughtful about what you’ll actually use: Sure, having a console in the hallway might look nice, but will it serve a purpose?
For those taking a serious look at their lifestyles, you might even consider downsizing. But that’s a conversation for a separate blog.
Minimalism and your bank account
After tackling the house, it’s time to focus on your financial obligations and how minimalism can help leave you of debt faster and have more money freed up for enjoyable excursions and experiences. While you don’t have to take the most extreme measures of minimalism if it’s not possible right now (we can’t all live car-free), but everyone can benefit from adjusting their spending habits.
You can better understand your financials in just four quick steps:
Step 1: Add up your monthly income.
You probably know it in the back of your head, but add it up on paper to see it clearly.
Step 2: Add up your monthly expenses.
Go back over the last three bank statements and look at your monthly expenses, including mortgages, car payments, streaming services, student loans, school tuition payments and any other expenses.
Step 3: Cut back on needless expenses.
How many streaming services do you need? Are you paying for cable and Netflix. Do you have subscriptions to magazines you never read? Going through your monthly bills and paring down what you don’t use can save you money each month. Consider rotating streaming services or canceling services you don’t use.
Step 4: Consolidate bank accounts.
Overdraft and transaction fees can cost you every month if you’re not diligent, but when you have several different savings and checking accounts in your home, it’s hard to keep it all straight. Aim for having one checking and one savings account for your household. It will help having all the money come into one account, which can then be doled out for bills, savings and spending.
All households are different, and everyone has different types of bills to be paid off. If you’re paying off credit card or student loan debt, consult a financial planner and get expert advice on where to invest your money to pay off debts while still saving for retirement.
There are other ways to cut back on expenses, such as selling one of your vehicles and downsizing to a smaller home, but these options may not be doable for everyone. At the very least, consider how you could use your cars a little less and how you could make the most out of any unused space in your home.
Going green with minimalism
When you look to cut back on expenses and look for ways to save money, many Houston homeowners look for ways to be more green, even if they don’t recognize they’re doing it at first. Naturally, using less and living with less is better for the environment, and as many minimalists will tell you, it’s hard to stop once you adopt an I-can-do-that-instead mentality.
You don’t have to do everything on this list to be a minimalist, but consider trying a few of these suggestions to see how your life changes or improves.
- Walk or ride bikes for easy errands: Riding your bike to pick up a few forgotten groceries is better for you and the environment. If you struggle to fit in time to exercise, riding a bike for errands is a great way to sneak in some exercise.
- Make your own household cleaners: There are a ton of DIY recipes online for making your own all-purpose cleaners that do a great job with fewer harsh chemicals. In the long run, they’re less expensive and easier on your home.
- Switch to reusable tote and produce bags: Plastic bags are the bane of the earth’s existence. Use less of them by switching to sturdy tote and produce bags for grocery shopping. Leave them in your car so you don’t forget them.
Make a few small changes in your house, and when you feel good about those, make a few more. You’ll find that going greener isn’t a full lifestyle change. It just means alerting the way you do things.
Finding personal happiness and joy through minimalism
Minimalism seeks to help us untie out happiness from our material possessions and refocus them on our personal well-being and our relationships. We’re not so focused on what we own, and we spend less money on material things and more on spending time together with loved ones.
Your personal well-being can improve with minimalism by simplifying your diet and exercise regimens and determining what means most to you in life. What brings you the most joy and when are you happiest throughout the day? What is stressing you out or keeping you up at night?
Make a list of things you’d like to be able to do throughout the day for your own wellbeing and anything that’s stressing you out. When you commit them to paper, they’re harder to ignore and sometimes easier to really see. From there, look for simple ways in your life to alleviate some of these stressors and invest more time, energy and even money into what matters most to you. If finances are stressing you out, then looking more closely at how you can change your spending habits.
Your personal relationships mean the most in this world. Your kids are growing up, and when they’re older, they won’t remember all the gifts they received. But they will remember the time they spent playing games with you, baking holiday cookies and watching movies together.
Your relationships with your partner, friends, parents and siblings matter too. When kids are in the picture, it can be tough to remember to focus on other people once in a while, but you and your partner deserve kid-free time. Your other friends and family members value your relationship.
To help your personal relationships, you don’t need to organize big vacations and spend a lot of money on experiences. The experiences you share can be low-cost or even free just as long as they encourage everyone to hang out together and interact. Take everyone on a family walk several times a week and explore your neighborhood or invite your siblings and their kids over for a playdate.
Minimalism isn’t an all-or-nothing lifestyle. You don’t have to sell all your cars and live in a tiny home to be considered a minimalist. Your family’s needs always have to come first, but if you sit down with your partner and talk through some minimalist ideas, the two of you could probably find some areas of your life where you’re overspending and focusing too much on material things.
When it comes to minimalism, do what’s right for your lifestyle. Above all, minimalism reminds us that what matters in life isn’t our possessions. It’s our relationships that will mean the most.
Share with us: What do you think about minimalism? We want to hear your opinions so tell us what you think in the comments.