I find minimalism fascinating. At this point, I read every major book on the topic from Steve Jobs’ biography to Mary Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, among many others. I really agree with the idea that less is more, but more importantly, I have too much stuff. While I certainly got rid of many useless things, I constantly have to remind myself that I don’t need that much to lead a fulfilling life. Having too much stuff negatively impacts our lives: it distracts us, we are less productive, we are always distracted, and we are less happy. You can learn a lot when it comes to minimalism, and below, I’m sharing some tips I learned along the way.
Buy Experiences Instead of Things
Once you have everything you really need, there’s only so much money can actually do for you. You should save the rest and spend it on experiences rather than material objects. In the book Die with Zero, author Bill Perkins talks about maximizing your positive life experiences and how we delay gratification indefinitely when we should be spending our finite time on this planet doing the things we like. According to the author, trips, concerts, entrepreneurial dreams, and hobbies are time well spent since experiences “gain in value over time”. Perkins believes that “your life is the sum of your experiences” and that you should start investing in adventures as early as you can.
Wait Before You Buy Anything
As a general rule, I like to wait before buying anything. Personally, I follow the “24-hour rule”. I also like to wait for as long as a month if I’m going to buy something expensive, such as a new computer. The idea is to avoid impulse purchases and think about what we are getting. Is the product you’re interested in something you’re going to use? How often? Where will you store it? Do you really need it? Will it add value to your life? It might sound overwhelming at first, but I rather ask myself a bunch of questions before buying things, than be surrounded by objects I don’t like or use.
Make Sure You Get Quality Products
When I started reading about minimalism, one of the ideas that captivated me was: what if you only surround yourself with the best things for you? We all need things, after all, that’s what enables us to do work or be entertained. We certainly don’t need many of the physical objects we own, so we should get rid of the ones that don’t add value to our lives. But what about the ones we do need? I strongly believe that we should have fewer material possessions, but the ones we decide to keep should be great. That means the few things we have should be quality products that we actually enjoy using and that goes for everything: digital devices, coffee makers, cars, or shirts. Sometimes we can’t see the great things in life because we’re surrounded by mediocrity.
Remove Paper from Your Life
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has become the bible of home organization. I certainly don’t agree with everything the book suggests, but if there’s one lesson I try to constantly remind myself is to go paperless. According to Mary Kondo, when it comes to paper, the basic rule is to discard everything. Think about what we save when it comes to paper: cards, bills, newspapers, magazines, warranties from electronics we don’t have anymore and the list goes on and on. While there are a few exceptions of papers we do need (such as important documents), we can get rid of the rest and help the environment at the same time. Using your phone to scan certain documents is easier than ever too.
Don’t Buy More Things (Especially When They’re on Sale)
Material possessions can’t make you happy in the long run, real happiness comes from you. So the stuff that surrounds you should simply be tools we use for a specific job. That said, most of us have fallen into the trap of acquiring an item simply because it’s on sale and at that very moment, we think we might need it. This is rarely true and this is how many people find themselves with many items they thought they needed, but don’t give them any joy.
Remove Clutter from All Counters
This is probably one of the simplest habits you could have. There’s something human about seeing a clear counter and using it to place something on it. At the same time, when we look at a surface that is clear and clean, we feel calm and relaxed, so we should aim for the latter rather than the former. Some appliances you use on a regular basis and you should have close at hand and others you should store for when you need them. Do you need a toaster in clear sight when you’re only going to be using it for half an hour a day? No, you should store it in a cabinet somewhere and only take it out when you need it.
Borrow instead of Buying
Do you really need that expensive tool if you’re going to be using it once? What about asking for a family member or a kind neighbor if you can borrow it? You can then repay them with a gift and that’s going to be both rewarding and less expensive than acquiring an item you’re going to use once and then it’s going to take a lot of place in your house or apartment. Of course, you can’t borrow everything and this only applies to certain items. If you have a problem borrowing items, you can also go to places where you can rent them for only a fraction of the price it would cost you to buy them new.
Sell What You Can and Give the Rest Away
Once you’ve spotted the items you don’t like or you don’t use, you should sell them or give them away. Although most people will try to sell something first, don’t be opposed to the idea of giving them to a friend or family member. Many charities will accept certain items and there’s something to be said about donating something to a charity rather than throwing it away and creating more waste.
Take Pictures of the Items Your Throw or Give Away
For those items you have trouble letting go of, you can try to take a picture of them before you actually do it. I’ve certainly done this with business cards, books, video games, electronics, and musical instruments. Surprisingly, once you take a picture of the item you don’t want anymore, that makes it easier to sell. Additionally, taking pictures of items only takes a few seconds and you can always delete the pictures later if you don’t want to have them.
Find Your Uniform
Have you ever noticed that people like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Steve Jobs had their own uniforms? It’s no coincidence that some of the richest and more powerful people on the planet wear the same kind of clothes every day. According to an article on Psychology Today, the average person takes around 35,000 decisions every day and that takes a toll on your mental energy. By removing as many of those decisions as possible, you can focus for longer. Of course, not having to choose your clothes in the morning is one of thousands of decisions, but there are more advantages. Apart from creating a look for yourself, you won’t need to spend a lot of money on different items since you will be using the same uniform every day.
How is it that when we get rid of things we consider part of our identity, we truly become ourselves? How is it that when you get rid of something you feel like you gain more than you lose? Why is it so difficult to part with things in general? How is it that when you actually do, you never miss it? Why is it that I forget what have, but remember what I got rid of?
I usually close an article with a reflection on everything I’ve written about so far. Instead, this time I’m going to leave with a series of questions I asked myself during the process of minimizing. For those interested, we might answer those questions in future blog posts. For now, I encourage anyone reading this article to answer the question they liked the most in the comment section.