There is joy to be found with less. It sounds counter intuitive I know, but it’s something I feel more every day.
I haven’t fully embraced minimalism yet but I’m curious about what that might mean for my wife and I as we get older and more mature. In our 40s now, with no kids and no plans for any, we are finding there is more energy, more freedom and far less stress and annoyances with less.
We only need so much stuff.
We only need so much house (with stuff in it).
We only need so much car.
Here are some of the benefits that I see with embracing a minimalist lifestyle.
- Less stress. With less home there is less stuff, less possessions to fret over or insure.
- Less work. With less materials to buy to sustain your lifestyle, you can likely work less or at least work more on your own terms.
- Smaller home. With less home there is less to clean, smaller bills, smaller repairs. We could downsize.
- Less purchases, less stuff, less consumption. Better for the environment. Smaller footprint.
- Higher productivity. You don’t occupy your time with things that provide little value.
- Higher focus on family, friends and relationships in general. You’re not working to pay for shit.
- More time. Time to be creative, to play, to laugh, to relax, to think.
As I get older I’m more intrigued by less stuff to provide more of what I’m looking for.
Where should I begin? Have I already started on that path? Maybe.
Here are some things that speak to my inner minimalist.
- I drive a 16-year-old car. I’ll keep it for a while yet.
- I have a few nice suits and shoes but I’m not a clothes shopaholic.
- Small things like mountain biking and walks give me joy.
- Functionality is very appealing to me.
- I have a distaste for clutter and knick-knacks around the house.
- If I had to choose between getting some cool new stuff or spending money on experiences, I would hands-down choose experiences.
- I enjoy travelling lightly.
- Organization is therapy to some degree.
- When I need to make major purchases, I try to buy quality; items built to last.
- I invest regularly and avoid gimmicky financial products to grow my portfolio incrementally. I understand that small investments will lead to major improvements over time.
- Structure in my life is great but I’m learning to appreciate “choosing my own adventure”.
I’m just scratching the surface of what minimalism might mean to me and to us. This could be a passing thought or the beginning of an entirely new journey. Like other updates on my blog, time will tell.
What’s your take on minimalism? Do you embrace it? Do you fear it? Have you tried it to any degree?
It seems like there is collective agreement amongst finance bloggers that you can’t possibly enjoy drowning in either money or consumption goods without it dragging you into some emotional holes. Some questions that are important to ask are how much does this thing bring joy to those who use it. How much does the thing *add* to life’s enjoyment vs. its value in the eyes of other people. This is how you know what to keep and what to discard.
I’m all for fun but at the end of the day there is also a question of value from money spent. I’m not sure folks ask this question nearly enough.
Yes, that is the important thing–to think whether the cost equals the value you put on, whatever it is. Its all about trade offs and everyone is different.
Agreed Barbara. Thanks for checking in.
Unfortunately the term ‘minimalism/ist’ has been hijacked by the trendoids.
None of the “things that speak to [your] inner minimalist” are actually minimalist. They are simply wisdom. 😉
However, with that said, let’s look at what minimalism is (from the Googs):
1. a trend in sculpture and painting [and other art forms] that arose in the 1950s and used simple, typically massive, forms.
The emphasis being “simple, typically massive, forms”. To paraphrase a passage I read on another blog, “Live by a few big ideals/virtues/rules, and be flexible with everything else.” This is, in essence, what you are doing — saving 20% (or whatever it is), dividend/index investing, um…beer? You’ve locked in the few big important fundamentals and for the rest you hold a flexible/optional view. It’s about mental minimalism more than it is the material.
Mental minimalism, I like that. Yes, living by a few big ideals and trying not to let those ideals distort what I believe are things/stuff/materials that at the end of the day really don’t matter.
I wish I could simplify and divest myself of a lot of ‘stuff’. Unfortunately, growing up during the Depression and basically having nothing for most of his early years, my father was a pack rat. As he filled up sheds, he built more sheds. His motto was “You never know when you are going to need something.” Sadly I have inherited that habit. I keep everything. I now have three machine sheds of varying sizes, five largish storage sheds, a large barn converted to a garage complete with hay loft as well as a basement. All are full. I’m pathetic. I need an intervention.
The first step in any problem solving process is admitting you have a problem 😉 Kidding aside Lloyd we could always get by with less I believe and I’m sure you’ll find a way to declutter over time. It’s somewhat therapeutic actually. We usually get of stuff if we haven’t used it or worn it in about 5 or definitely 10 years.
I’ve got stuff in boxes that were packed by the movers when we left Lynn Lake in 1985. I’ve got two old, wooden spoke, wagon wheels up in the garage attic. I have zero use for them but I ain’t throwing them out and I don’t want to sell them. They belonged to the guy I bought the property from. Having said that I buy very little new stuff but I’m a sucker for stuff people are getting rid of.
Lloyd that is a lovely wagon wheel. Can you not find a spot to display it, like art? As I read your comment I looked at my tv, which is tuned to the jack o Lantern channel (really, put it on after Jeopardy) and a good looking front door and porch had a wagon wheel as decoration.
I also hate to throw away things that have some value. I don’t like to buy a lot, but have a hard time getting rid of things. After moving 5 times in 6 years, I never want to move again and the house hasn’t been cleared out in a long while.
Does that old Deere tractor still run? Quite the collection!
You betcha, we run it every year. We’ve intended to clean it up a bit but something always seems to get in the way. I’ve also got a 1940 somethingish Case VA sitting in a shed that runs. Once again it needs some TLC. The Deere was bought new by my uncle and all of us kids learned to drive on that thing. Has a lot of sentimental value.
Then that would be tough to get rid of…I get that 😉
I agree with everything you said in your article. Early on I discovered that things don’t make me happy, but experiencing life does. So I’ve done lots of things and don’t own lots of things. Simplifies life.
The older I get Beth the more I realize that…I don’t need as much stuff.
Less is more, that does certainly simplify things.
Thanks for reading,
During a discussion on frugality I mentioned to a friend buy experiences not things!
But to be honest it’s easier said than done
Absolutely Rob. I’m working on having less (stuff) or at least really defining what I need, so there is more of what I really value.
Very cool article Mark. I am in somehow a similar situation as you. I have embraced minimalism because I had to, and then it sort of became second nature. I have essentially moved every two years or so on average since the beginning of the century, so minimalism always helped in that regards. I also do not want clutter, the mental and dollar expense associated with upkeep etc.
I find that this lifestyle can provide more options on your life ( spending less = more money to save and invest), which can help you allocate those resources towards things that matter to YOU.
Reality is, spending time with family, friends, building relationships, and having memorable experiences are very valuable – more valuable than driving the newest car model or having the biggest house in the neighborhood.
I wonder if it’s a phase or the phase of something new.
It could be a function of where I/we are in life, no kids and realizing we’ve hopefully got another 40 great years together with our health and that’s likely it. Depressing in one sense but very motivating in another.
I see minimalism, if you can embrace it in some form, as an approach to simplifying your life. The more you can simplify things, the less time and energy is wasted on other things in your life that don’t add value or compromise your values.
Our goal is to leave the rat race in 7 years, at least full-time work, and if that happens, I suspect our lifestyle will change for the better with it.