You don’t have to give up your peep-toe fetish. You don’t even have to throw away your totes or donate that Louis Vuitton purse for which you saved a month’s salary. I’m not asking you to forfeit your material possessions and live like a hermit in a cosmopolitan city to become a true minimalist. I understand that you need stuff. You need stuff to live, feel good about yourself, and impress other people occasionally. I get it.
The thing that most people misunderstand about minimalism is that it isn’t an extreme; it isn’t a harsh cut off from hedonistic pleasures. It is about knowing how to live a balanced life and very much wanting to do so. You may think you live a balanced life right now, but think again. Your perception has gotten so misaligned that you probably don’t even realize how you are dumping your resources of energy, money, and time. Most people’s purchases happen at a subconscious level driven by a primal need for survival and societal validation. Mass media and consumerist practices by profit-driven industries further their own agendas and encourage you to spend hard-earned money to accumulate crap that won’t actually bring you the happiness you seek.
You need to be selective about what and who you allow into your personal and psychological space. These are nine breakthroughs I had after adopting a minimalist lifestyle that overturned my perception of what I really needed to feel joy and a sense of purpose.
1. Less consumption and more creativity. I bought items I needed, kept things that held a deeper meaning, and donated stuff I hadn’t used in years. I stopped feeling the need to watch superficial stuff on television and social media that perpetuated rigid stereotypes about success, status, and beauty. I felt the urge to create my own content and voice my thoughts through words, imagery, and sound.
2. Better relationships. The people in my life who were superficial and shallow began to fade away. These were the kinds of people who would make ignorant and snap judgements about others based on what they wore, where they lived, and what kind of car they drove. I became more empathetic about other people’s feelings, and also less critical of my own appearance and perceived status.
3. Less debt and more savings. I was no longer living paycheque to paycheque and had surplus money to try new things, engage with diverse groups of people, watch plays and artists I admired, buy gifts for people I cared about, go on adventures and plan trips to uncharted territory.
4. Intentional Living. I began to meditate more, keep a journal, and reflect on repetitive patterns in my life. Focusing on self-improvement makes you more mindful of your past choices, enabling you to make better ones in the future. It clears out room in your headspace so that you can realistically assess the gap between where you are and where you want to be.
5. Freedom. Tidying up my living space made my mind feel unexpectedly lighter. I felt less anxious, stressed, and weirdly liberated. I was slowly but surely moving from reactive to proactive mode. It’s astounding how a few lifestyle changes can make profound shifts in your perception and mindset.
6. Optimism and Positivity. We always want what we can’t have and the moment we have it-it’s value drops in our eyes. Most people are dissatisfied from constant comparison and the persistent feeling that the grass is greener on the other side. Gratefulness for the things you own, experiences you’ve had, and people in your life generates optimism which actually makes you more receptive to opportunities in the future.
7. More time and space. Time was no longer spent on meaningless activities and people who didn’t actually care about anything substantial. I pursued varied interests such as reading intellectually-stimulating books, going on nature hikes, playing lawn tennis, signing up for yoga classes, cooking healthy, and making memories with loved ones.
8. Stronger values. You can’t always control external factors like how much people like you and what they think of you because people can be fickle and short-lived attention isn’t real. You can’t always succeed if you take risks and step outside your comfort zone. Instead of focusing on status and success, I tried to focus on developing a steady set of values such as authenticity, kindness, intellectual curiosity, and originality.
9. A new badass attitude. When you stop caring so much about what other people think about you, your locus of control shifts inside instead of outside. You stop succumbing to instant gratification and become accountable for your thoughts and feelings. You begin to take the reins and empower yourself to set the standards of how you really want to live your life. You stop caring about things that don’t matter and start caring about things that do.