Minimalism: Simplify Your Life and Stress Less
Minimalism is a concept, or lifestyle, which teaches us that less is more. We are often made to believe that buying more things will increase our happiness. Minimalism, however, encourages us to let go of excess, clear our clutter and enjoy living a simple, less stressful life.
Practising the art of detachment from possessions and ownership is a healthy habit and something that many spiritual teachings encourage. Contrary to what some may say, minimalists do not agree that their lifestyle is one of lack or sacrifice. It is a philosophy that simply promotes letting go of everything that no longer serves us and reaping the benefits of owning less.
So, what exactly are the benefits of Minimalism?
You Will Save Money
How much money do you spend on things that seem like a good idea at the time, only to end up in a drawer somewhere and never to be used again? I have to hold my hands up here! Amazon and other online shopping platforms have made it all too easy to spend money very quickly. We are only ever a couple of clicks away from our next purchase. Minimalism teaches us to question each purchase and avoid hasty decisions, therefore saving you money in the long run.
You Will Gain Time
Less clutter means less tidying up. The more you own, the more cluttered your space will become and the more difficult it is to keep everything clean and tidy. If everything has a home (and that home is spacious and clutter free) you will also spend less time trying to find things. With too much choice, it is also easy to feel overwhelmed and take too long completing simple tasks, such as getting dressed in the morning. Do you really need ten jumpers? Limit your choices and gain extra time during the day, to spend on the things you love.
You Will Stress Less
When your home environment is clear, calm and peaceful, you are much more likely to feel relaxed and enjoy your space. Your home should be your haven of peace, not a source of stress. When you own less and make better use of the space you do have, you will naturally stress less.
You Will Grow, Spiritually
When you begin to practice a minimalistic lifestyle, you break your attachment to the material world and begin to focus on what is truly important. We live in a world that is constantly bombarding us with various forms of advertising. We are manipulated to believe that we need ‘fixing’ and that our lives will improve if we buy certain products.
How many companies would collapse if we all loved ourselves, just as we are?
Buy things because they hold true value in your life, not because you have been told you need them to be happier/successful/more desirable. Shopping can become addictive and a welcomed distraction from facing other, more important things. In times of stress do you find yourself ‘comfort shopping’? Question what it is you are really seeking because it is unlikely you will find it in another Amazon box.
You Will Experience Freedom
When you begin to break your attachment to material possessions, it is common to experience an almost euphoric feeling of freedom! We are overwhelmed with STUFF and many of us are hoarders, without even realising it. Do not allow your emotions to trick you into believing that unused items enhance your life, when in reality they are just taking up space unnecessarily.
When you make a conscious effort to de-clutter, it is likely to spark something else within you. You will likely begin to question what else you are ready to let go of in your life. Have you been holding on tightly to current or past relationships, jobs, beliefs, ideas and habits, that are no longer for your highest good? Let it all go and experience a wonderful sense of freedom; practically and spiritually.
So, if you are sold on the idea of living a more minimalistic lifestyle, where do you start? Simplify your life with these tips below.
1. Take Your Time, but Start Now.
You do not have to suddenly throw out 50% of your belongings overnight – although if you want to, great! It can be quite a process, physically and emotionally, so do it at a pace that suits you. But do start now. You might decide to focus on one room at a time. Perhaps you will choose to let go of one item each day, for the next month. Maybe you would prefer to start with the more obvious cluttered parts of your home, such as the famous ‘junk drawer’ most of us have, or your wardrobes.
2. If in Doubt, Throw it Out!
How do you know if an item is meaningful and valuable? There will be items that are easy to distinguish as necessary such as: Toothbrush, basic toiletries, a clock, cutlery, important work items and so on. Within this category, you can still de-clutter by giving away items that are not needed. Breakfast bowls might be a necessity, but do you need ten of them if you live alone? Be realistic and enjoy passing on what you no longer need.
Aside from items that are valuable in a practical sense, there are those things we own which hold emotional value. Photo albums are an example of this. We might not look at them every day, but they hold deeper meaning to us and therefore they are worthy of staying. However, if you find yourself feeling emotionally attached to many things then chances are, you are overly attached and need to learn to let things go.
Use these questions below to help you to decide whether something is truly valuable and meaningful, or not. If you are still unsure, place the item to one side and come back to these questions again the following day.
Do I truly need this?
Is it emotionally meaningful to me?
Does it bring me joy?
How often will I use it?
3. Repeat the Process Regularly
Often is the case, that even after a thorough clear out, there is still more we can let go of. Especially in the beginning, it is important to keep the process of de-cluttering moving. Clear, clear and then clear some more! You might decide to return to the bigger jobs (such as sorting through your wardrobe) monthly or with the change of each season. For areas of the home prone to clutter, you might choose to give these places some attention weekly.
4. Stop Spending!
Empty space can often feel unsettling, if we are not used to it. At first, it can feel strange to see empty kitchen cupboards or a wardrobe only half full. If you are not conscious of this, you may end up letting go of half of your belongings, only to replace them all with new purchases over the following months.
Change your spending habits and do not rush into buying things; take your time. A book might not be a necessity but it offers much value, as long as you actually read it. However, if you buy several new books to fill up your bookshelf, only to leave them there unread for months on end, is this a valuable purchase? No.
5. Use Meditation to Overcome Attachment
Almost every spiritual philosophy teaches us the importance of detachment. When we are able to move past the ego’s desire for ‘more’, we can connect more deeply with our spiritual heart and soul. When we let go of physical items from our past, we usually let go of the old emotions attached to them and often, we are also letting go of an old coping mechanism.
If you used shopping to uplift you on a bad day, what will you do now instead? It is a very healing and therapeutic process, if we remain aware and not allow ourselves to get caught up in old habits. A daily meditation practice, alongside regular self-enquiry will help you to remain strong and avoid falling back into old patterns. Ask yourself:
How am I feeling?
What is it I am really searching for?
What do I need the most, right now?
A new bag might temporarily cheer you up after a bad day at work, but will it heal the core issue? Instead, begin to question the things in your life causing you stress. Is it time to look for a new job? Do you need to set healthier boundaries with loved ones?
Be gentle with yourself as you create a simple life, where less really does mean more.
With love to you!
By Nicola Harrold