Before we start discussing the “whys” of minimalism, it is important to define what minimalism is. Most people think minimalism means you live like a monk. Giving away all money and possessions and only living off the bare essentials. That is not true at all. Minimalist living is not about depriving yourself of the things you love, but instead it is about stripping away the needless junk that clutters our lives so we can make room for the stuff that matters. It is about living your life with purpose and intentionality so you can stop wasting time, money, and energy on things that do not matter.
So why should you strive to have your family live this way? Why not continue working as hard as you can…to make as much money as you can…to accumulate as many possessions as you can? Why wouldn’t a bigger house with all the most amazing gadgets and toys be the ideal? Sure all the things you accumulate in life are not used every day, but that doesn’t hurt anything does it?
The truth is these excesses in our lives actually weigh us down. They complicate our day-to-day tasks and impede our progress in ways we never fathomed. Here are some of the major benefits that come from removing these excesses and focusing on a more minimal life.
Do you want to know the best part about your family going minimal? You magically find more money! And that is something the majority of Americans could desperately use. The 2015 American Household Credit Card Debt Study revealed that the average American home has over $15,000 worth of credit card debt and over $75,000 in auto and student loans. So, on average, each home in America is over $90,000 in debt before you even start thinking about the mortgage. So how are we spending our money? Here are a few stats that will blow your mind:
- American families have over 300,000 things in their home.
- According to research done in the UK, the average 10-year-old owns 238 toys but plays with just 12 daily.
- American families spend $1,700 on clothes annually.
- Americans spend more on shoes, jewelry, and watches ($100 billion) than on higher education
Those are insane, right!?!?
Minimalism can also mean reducing the number of possessions to the point of actually getting a smaller home. Depending on the size reduction, you could save thousands in rent or even hundreds of thousands when buying just by cutting down a few hundred square feet. Smaller homes also mean lower property taxes, lower utility bills, and lower maintenance costs because there is less square footage to maintain.
As I get older I value my time more than even money. So I was especially excited to uncover that living minimally means you can decrease the amount of time you spend cleaning, organizing, doing laundry, and running errands. When I lived in my larger home I would spend 2 hours every weekend just cleaning. Cleaning a dining room and a guest room we never set foot in. Dusting cabinets filled with fancy plates we never used. Taking trinkets off shelves, dusting the shelves and putting the trinkets back on. Once I moved into a smaller space with much less stuff I was able to reduce that cleaning time down to about 15 minutes and gain an extra hour and 45 minutes every weekend. It felt magnificent!
Joshua Becker tells a great story in his book The More of Less. It’s a typical Saturday and his task for the day was to clean and organize the garage. He was going to pull all the stuff out, hose down the garage, organize all the boxes and other objects, and put everything back in. He entered the garage with his young son and immediately his son found his baseball gear and ran to the backyard to play. While working for hours, Joshua lamented the fact that he needed to do this chore and couldn’t spend the time with his son. After a brief conversation with a neighbor, it all clicked. Why was he wasting all this time organizing stuff that just sat in his garage and was never used? He was actually dedicating time to managing his clutter over playing with his son. His big realization of the day was this:
“Life would be better lived if there was less stuff to manage and organize and clean. Not only were my possessions no bringing me joy. They were actually distracting me from the very things that did.”
By clearing our homes of clutter we are actually doing our minds a favor as well. Being surrounded in a space with too much stuff can make us feel overwhelmed and drain our energy. There was a study conducted by Princeton University that found cluttered spaces distract us and cause us to lose productivity and increase stress. Another UCLA study observed 32 families and found that the stress hormone levels in mothers increased as they dealt with their possessions.
By creating a space with only our favorite things and less clutter we can be less stressed and more focused. There is an old saying “Four shiny quarters are better than 100 rusty pennies.” I guess that is just another way of saying that less is more.
One of the first things I noticed about families who live minimally is they travel more. With more money and less material possessions weighing them down, there is increased freedom to explore the world.
I am a firm believer that travel is a huge benefit to children. So often, kids (and adults too) get wrapped up in their local world. By traveling, your entire family is able to engage with people from different cultures and start to put the local problems in perspective. Not to mention that the memories created when traveling with your family will always far outweigh any memory of a material possession.
Go After Your Dream Job!
Have you ever wanted to quit your current job to pursue a career doing what you’ve always wanted? Did the fact that you would need to take a large pay cut stop you from making the leap? I know that has definitely happened to me. I get so worried that I will not be able maintain my lifestyle while making the transition to something else.
So try this…don’t maintain your lifestyle. Make a better lifestyle. By minimizing your life and stripping down to the bare bones of what is important you realize you do not need as much money as you thought. Now you can ditch the fear of not making enough money and really go after your dream. Go freelance and work from home! Start that design firm you’ve always daydreamed about. Go become the greatest juggler the world has ever seen!!!! Whatever your dream is, living a life with less stuff and more freedom can help you achieve it.