How many of us have bought items that we never use? Those rash moments of instant gratification for something we feel at the time we need to make us feel better are generally short-lived until the next consumer fix.
Our modern world has embedded in us the belief that we need to buy to feel good, to look successful and to impress others. This successful, universal marketing strategy targets consumers of all ages including the very young. We can never be completely satisfied with our purchases because there is always something new to attain to add to our list of ‘stuff’ that in reality never truly fulfils us or makes us happy.
I made the decision some years ago to move overseas with my son. I decided to sell my house and was then overwhelmed when I realized the amount of ‘stuff’ I had accumulated over the years. The cupboards were jam-packed with things I didn’t even remember buying. My wardrobe was bursting at the seams with clothes that I never wore and the amount of furniture and ornaments were superfluous and unnecessary.
The question I asked myself was ‘Why did I buy all this stuff?’ I really wasn’t sure at the time as I sold what I could and put the rest into storage.
I moved overseas with two large suitcases and felt a sense of freedom with the small amount of ‘stuff’ I took to start a new life.
This was a turning point for me and I stopped buying ‘stuff’ I didn’t need or even want. I actually started to feel healthier. The headaches I had previously suffered from abated. It felt good to have less to wear, fewer choices to make and to practice gratitude for what I did have.
I felt lighter, less restricted and more in control of my life. I found I didn’t need to buy ‘stuff’ to feel good. In fact, I found shopping boring, a tedious chore that was sometimes necessary but only for essential items not for entertainment, to fit in with others or to attain a brief high.
Experiences took precedence over ‘stuff’ and I had never felt more at peace.
On returning to my homeland. I was confronted with the balance of my previous frivolous purchases in the form of multiple cartons that needed to be sorted.
This time around it was easy to disperse anything I didn’t need or truly love.
I donated or gave away the majority of ‘stuff’ I still had and only retained things that were very special to me or that I actually needed or would use.
Living a life of minimalism is not just good for the planet it is good for one’s physical and mental health. It helps to bring the really important things in life into focus and it gives you the freedom to jump off the hamster wheel of buying for the sake of buying.
In reality, most people buy ‘stuff’ to impress other people who don’t even care. Or to grab a quick high that quickly loses its effect. This obsession with buying more and more ‘stuff’ can lead to mental health disorders and also financial stress or ruin for many.
My experience has been that once minimalism is embraced there is no turning back. Things just keep getting clearer and life satisfaction exponentially improves.
An article published in the Journal of Positive Psychology infers that there are distinct psychological advantages in adapting a philosophy of minimalism and voluntary simplicity.
“Research has accumulated over the years to support the adage that money can’t buy happiness,” said the author of the research, Joshua Hook of the University of North Texas.
“As an alternative to the high-consumption lifestyle often found n Western cultures, voluntary simplicity (also referred to as minimalism) involves a lifestyle that is focused on reducing consumption and excess in one’s life so that individuals can focus on prioritizing their values.”
5 Ways Minimalism Can Improve Health
- Less Stress and Anxiety
A 2009 study by Darby Saxbe and Rena Repetti found that clutter can actually increase cortisol levels which are stress hormones. Practising minimalism can be a helpful way to combat mental illness of all degrees ranging from anxiety to schizophrenia. By having fewer things to distract or trigger you, your mental health will be positively impacted. By taking the steps to declutter your home/office space you are also decluttering your mind. The minimalist environment is peaceful and not jam-packed with objects allowing us not to become overstimulated. Overall minimalists experience less stress and anxiety and enjoy more happiness and fulfilment. It has also been found that people who practice minimalism are more likely to feel confident and comfortable with who they are as individuals.
2. Save Money by Spending Less on Things You Don’t Need or Really Desire
Making the choice to buy only the essentials you really need often results in financial freedom and less stress overall concerning money.
3. More Freedom
The incredible sense of freedom that comes from minimalism is life-changing. You will no longer feel tied to the material possessions that you own and will enjoy a new sense of independence.
4. Less Cleaning of Unnecessary Items
The fewer things in our space, the fewer things there are to keep in order. This makes cleaning a much easier and more streamlined chore to accomplish.
5. Helps Preserve the Environment
The less we consume and buy the less damage we unleash on the environment whose commodities are not limitless.
The only thing I regret about adopting minimalism into my life is that I did not embrace the practice sooner.
The easiest way to embark on a minimalist lifestyle is to assess both the people and the ‘stuff’ around you. Minimalism is the intentional choice to live with less and this can also mean finding joy in doing less.
When it comes to ‘stuff’ you need to ask yourself three main questions. “Do I use it? Do I love it? And do I need it?” If the item lacks purpose or brings you no meaning it probably can be removed. If you are really unsure of whether to dispose of an item or not put it aside for the time being. Don’t rush the process as decluttering becomes easier with practice.
In regards to those around you, you should surround yourself with people who inspire and challenge you and who bring joy into your life.
The quality of those you associate with and what they add to your life is preferable to a number of people who are negative, complain and are generally not fun to be around.
And when you embark on a minimalist life remember to sustain it on a daily basis. There is no point in purging ‘stuff’ and people from your life only to fill it back up with more junk and clutter. Be mindful of what you reintroduce and allow into your life to preserve the new freedom you have attained.