Not eating animals is the easiest, most peaceful, and rewarding decision I make every day. Not too far behind is not buying stuff I don’t need. My transition to minimalism created additional peace and freedom in my life, further aligned my actions and values, and strengthened my focus on what matters.
Minimalism means that we strive to buy and own less–to own items we need, removing and not buying items we don’t need, and focusing our lives on purpose and impact on others rather than things and ourselves. Minimalism helps us prioritize what matters most and frees us from consumer culture and the disruptive feeling of having stuff. It keeps us from feeling overwhelmed in our space and liberates us with less in our drawers and closets and on our walls. And it allows us to give more and feel the joy of lifting others, and may even reduce guilt, depression, and worry–feelings that often accompany overconsumption.
But minimalism doesn’t mean owning nothing; it means thinking critically about what we own and what we buy. It’s about making an effort not to bring something into our home unless we need it. We achieve this goal by thinking about how we’ll feel when we own it, what else we could do with the money that will better serve the world, and the negative impact of what we buy on the planet.
If I don’t need it or use it, I donate it. If there are no memories attached to it, I donate it and forget about it. If there’s a memory associated with it, I consider if donating it to reduce new consumerism, raise money for people or animals in need, and reduce clutter, outweighs the memory. And as a general rule, nothing passes through my front door except food.
Minimalism empowers us to get rid of the excess in our life–and that will differ for everyone. The result should be more freedom, fulfillment, and focus on what matters in life. Here are some tips that may help you live a minimalist lifestyle:
- Begin by asking yourself these questions: Can others benefit from my stuff? Do I need it? Do I use it?
- Buy food–and that’s about it. Avoid feeding the consumer culture.
- Instead of gifts, donate to charities in people’s name because the beneficiaries of the charity need help more than people need gifts.
- Keep a car (if you need one) and phone until they no longer work. Take mass transportation as often as possible.
- Live in a small place to conserve energy and reduce land use.
- Avoid buying new clothes; buy from vintage shops whenever possible.
- Regularly examine what you have to determine if there’s anything else you can donate to charities, e.g., clothing, kitchen appliances, toys, books, etc. Chip away at emptying drawers and closets. It’s an invigorating feeling. You may find yourself amazed and dismayed by how much you own.
Minimalism gives us freedom from a material-possessions-focused culture. Our culture teaches us that acquiring things–the big house, the fancy car, giant television, Olympic-size pool, extravagant jewelry, endless home decorations, and clothing–that all of this matters in life–that it’s a sign of success–that it’s what we should aspire to acquire. And people reach for it all the while not realizing it’s likely misaligned with their value system. All the beauty we need is within us.
Life should be about having less and giving more–that should be the emblem of success–and minimalism allows us to accomplish this goal. Minimalism values giving, thinking, and peace. It inspires us to disengage from the madness of holiday shopping and the race to be rich with belongings. Minimalism grounds and fulfills us in new ways, helps us reach our potential, and reduces our carbon footprint. We genuinely succeed when all we want is only what we need.