You can’t take it with you. It’s an adage we’ve all heard dozens of times, but some people have really taken the statement to heart. Minimalists believe that more stuff doesn’t equal happiness. The minimalist lifestyle isn’t restricted to a certain age or socioeconomic demographic, either. Millennials and celebrities alike have adopted the lifestyle and we could stand to learn something from them.
You live with more intention
Advocates of minimalism claim that most of us live on “auto-pilot” and don’t realize how much stuff we accumulate over time. How much stuff do you have just sitting around your house that you don’t need — gifts you don’t really like but don’t know what to do with, bits of mail, old clothes you swear you’ll wear eventually?
One celeb asked a similar question and now lives an extremely minimalist life. Vincent Kartheiser, best known for his role as Pete Campbell on “Mad Men,” doesn’t own a car. When asked about his decision to go minimalist, Kartheiser explained, “It started a couple of years ago. It was in response to going to these Golden Globe type events and they just give you stuff. You don’t want it. You don’t use it…One day, I looked around and thought, ‘I don’t want this stuff, I didn’t ask for it.’ So I started giving it to friends or charity stores, or if it is still in its box, I might sell it for a hundred bucks. I liked it so I didn’t stop.”
When you live minimally, you think twice about buying a new cardigan or a random figurine on vacation. The mentality also spreads to other parts of your life, and you might find that you simplify your diet, buy only eBooks or pare down your friends list on Facebook.
You spend money on experiences, not things
It’s about the journey, not the destination. Myriad versions of this sentiment are scattered through time and across artists’, authors’ and philosphers’ works, but there’s something to be said for focusing on the journey. Go minimalist, and you might find yourself investing instead in a new yoga class, more coffee dates with friends or just taking better vacations. With the money you save by not buying material possessions you can increase the quality of your experiences in everyday life.
Actress Shailene Woodley, the leading lady in “The Fault in Our Stars,” lives so minimally that all of her possessions fit into a suitcase. She travels around the country with her suitcase, computer and temporary cell phone in tow, staying with family and friends wherever she goes.
While this might be too extreme for some, you might find yourself wondering what it would be like to live more like she does. Imagine what she’s free to do because she’s not tied down to material possessions.
You have time to focus on other things
If you decide to go minimalist, you might find that certain things are easier. You might invest your energy on other aspects of your life, rather than focusing on what to wear in the morning, how to tidy up around the house or how you’re going to work a new haircut into your schedule.
“My style is a distillation. I’ve etched out who I am through myriad haircut attempts, outfit attempts, beauty attempts, diet attempts. It’s been an evolution,” Jamie Lee Curtis told an AARP interviewer. “I’ve let my hair go gray. I wear only black and white. Every year I buy three or four black dresses that I keep in rotation. I own one pair of blue jeans. I’ve given away all my jewelry, because I don’t wear it. Function over frivolity. Clean living. Clean lines.”
Just think about all the time she saves in the morning getting ready, not to mention all the money she saves on not coloring her hair.
How to live minimally
If all of this sounds wonderful to you, then you might be interested in learning exactly how to go about living minimally. Courtney Carver, minimalist and author of the site, “Be More With Less,” offers her tips for adopting the lifestyle.
- Write it down: Write a list of the reasons why you want to go minimalist. It can be anything from “I don’t like clutter” to “I want bill collectors off my back.”
- Discard the duplicates: Anything you have multiples of needs to go into a box. Set that box aside for 30 days and anything you don’t touch for 30 days goes to the local charity organization of your choice.
- Declare a clutter-free zone: This will provide inspiration for other clutter-free zones throughout your home. As Carver writes, “A clutter-free countertop can become a clutter-free room and a clutter-free room can become the clutter-free, minimalist home you’ve been thinking about.”
- Travel lightly: Pack for half the time — if you’re going on a trip for six days, pack for three — just to see how it feels to travel with less.
- Dress for less: Pare down your clothes to a capsule wardrobe that coordinates well and can give you tons of options with fewer items.
- Eat similar foods: You’ll save time and money by buying simple and complementary foods. This might not work well for you or your family, but it might be a fun experiment.
- Save $1,000: Saving money helps you reduce stress as you’re getting rid of things you no longer need. It’s also a good idea to always have a reserve of cash on hand in the event of an emergency.
If at the end of this piece you find that the minimalist life isn’t for you, there are still ways to downsize your life. For instance, if you love creating culinary magic in the kitchen and are a bit of a clothes horse, maybe you decide to discard duplicate items or get rid of clothes you haven’t worn in a year. Perhaps you start by declaring one clutter-free zone in your house.
Every little bit helps, and you might find that as you practice minimalism in small ways, you’ll fall into a habit of reducing what you buy and reusing what you already have to live a more conscious life.
Megan Winkler is an author, historian, Neurosculpting® meditation coach, certified nutritional consultant and DIY diva. When she’s not writing or teaching a class, Megan can be found in the water, on a yoga mat, learning a new instrument or singing karaoke. Her passion for a healthy mind-body-spirit relationship motivates her to explore all the natural world has to offer.