The first step in becoming minimalist is to understand the minimalist lifestyle. Although the concept is decades old, it remains misunderstood by many. We explain the lifestyle and use our own story to explain how it benefited us.
Before we adopted minimalism, our lifestyle was very different to what it is today. A short description of our story might help you understand why we were looking for an alternative.
Building our own jail
We always liked the idea of large living spaces and acquired a large property in suburbia. The one-hectare property later had a large house. The 660m³ house needed a large garden to complete the picture.
Instead of becoming our haven, it became our jail. The reason is the fact that, although beautiful, it consumed our total energy and time. Instead of spending a Saturday with the family doing whatever normal people do, I was titivating my jail.
If I was not on the tractor mowing the lawn, I was planting more lawn. If I was not maintaining the irrigation dam, I was expanding the system to water the new lawn. If I was not trimming the trees, I was planting more trees to make the garden prettier…
Getting out of jail
We realised that we were on the wrong track and that our lifestyle prevented us from pursuing the things that were most important to us. The idea of a minimalist lifestyle took hold and we started putting our plans in place to achieve it.
As we prepared for the material changes to happen, our thinking also changed. By the time we sold the business and the house, we were ready to deal with the worldly stuff we have gathered over the years. We were ready to let go.
The challenge that motivated us
Combining our desire for a mobile life with a minimalist lifestyle, we came up with our own challenge: to be able to carry everything we own.
At first, we could not even imagine it to be possible. Thinking back, it was probably a little extreme, but we were firm in our decision and managed to pull it off. Six weeks after we sold the house, we were ready to travel with everything we owned packed into six pieces of luggage.
We were able to carry everything we owned!
A good all-round explanation of minimalism
One of the best all-round explanations I have found is from writer Joshua Becker, who wrote, “I am intentionally trying to live with only the things I really need.”
Essentially, the minimalist lifestyle is about focussing on the things you value while getting rid of the distractions. It is pursuing what you deem important and removing everything else.
It is about more than just possessions
Adopting the minimalist lifestyle normally starts with the physical environment, that is, the material possessions that you have and keep. Most people start by reducing the stuff they have gathered over the years. They start with the small dust collectors and slowly progress to larger items.
However, minimalism is about much more than just possessions. It is also a valuable mental exercise and a spiritual journey. It is uncluttering the mind and getting in touch with your true nature. It brings to the fore the relationships and experiences that you value.
In our modern world of 24/7 digital contact, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Minimalism is a good remedy.
It is not a cult or a set of rules
Every village has one, and every concept has at least one extremist! The minimalist lifestyle, on the other hand, is not some extreme behaviour that requires fanatical behaviour.
You can adapt to it at your own pace and in your own way. During this process, you will create your own style of minimalism, which will give expression to your unique self. You will demonstrate what practitioners have said all along, that minimalism does not have to look a certain way.
Some people play with the idea of rules, like owning less than 100 things or having a certain number of pots and pans. Many don’t like that idea and fortunately, such rules are not necessary. Minimalism is about more than counting possessions. And don’t forget to focus on your mental minimalism too.
I found two more interpretations of the minimalist lifestyle that I want to share with you:
- “What Minimalism is really all about is reassessment of your priorities so that you can strip away the excess stuff – the possessions and ideas and relationships and activities – that don’t bring value to your life.” – Colin Wright, founder of Exile Lifestyle
- “What starts out as an external journey (giving things away, cutting the cable), becomes very personal, intentional and more meaningful. You start to think of “stuff” as not just things but obligation, debt and stress. Then you see how this “stuff” is getting in the way of your life and decide to make a bigger change. It’s at this point that minimalism becomes more about who you are, instead of what you have.” – Courtney Carver, founder of Be More With Less
The financial benefit
For us, minimalism was partly about breaking with consumerism and actively rejecting the media hype about what we should be, how we should behave and what we should spend on. We learnt that we could enjoy more without having to buy more.
Living better with less sounds counter intuitive, doesn’t it? Well, we found the opposite to be true – the minimalist lifestyle was actually easier, not harder.
Although being frugal was not our primary intention, stepping away from blind consumerism made a significant difference to our spending and our budget.
Adopting the minimalist lifestyle at an early age will enable you to build your retirement nest egg at a faster pace. This, in turn, will create options that otherwise would not have been available to you.
Minimalism is not all about your personal finances, but it inevitably has a positive effect on it.
“Simplicity, clarity, singleness: These are the attributes that give our lives power and vividness and joy as they are also the marks of great art” – Richard Holloway
I would love to have your thoughts and understanding of the minimalist lifestyle.