Nowadays you hear everyone talking about stress, how much they have to accomplish, how little time they have, and how much clutter is in their homes and lives. It is no wonder that a big trend in books and media has been getting back to a simplistic, minimal lifestyle. Many want to have a life that is free of complications; a life that has been pared down to its most basic and fundamental needs. If this sounds good to you then you may be interested in looking into a minimalist lifestyle as well.
What is a Minimalist Lifestyle?
Being a minimalist is a way of living that is built around those things in life; those core values and beliefs that are the most important to you. Of course this requires that you know what exactly those things are, and for many, especially in consumer-driven western societies, discovering these core values and beliefs only becomes clear once you begin to strip away the layers of societal conditioning and extraneous clutter that fill up most of our lives. A green living journey actually does wonders to strip these things away as luck would have it.
Of course how you determine a life to be free of complications, or what you see as your most basic and fundamental needs is going to change from person to person, and from society to society, but it is the ability of the minimalist lifestyle to be able to adapt itself to each person and their own particular view that makes the concept so appealing to so many people.
How to Become a Minimalist
Divesting your life of clutter and its resulting complications is the first (and biggest) step to living a minimalist lifestyle. This can be clutter in the physical sense (as in things that you have collected that you do not actually need, want or use) but it can also be clutter in the emotional and psychological sense, as in relationships and outmoded beliefs.
While clutter can be obvious; like having too many books, clothes or knickknacks; it can also be found in things like cable packages, telephone plans and credit cards. For many living a minimalist lifestyle will mean cutting down to the most basic of cable packages or (revolutionary thought) getting rid of the TV altogether. It really is amazing how much time we devote to television; time that we could be spending on more productive ventures. But what about telephones – we need them, right? In today’s society, of course we do, but do you need all the bells and whistles? Do you need a house phone AND a cell phone or could you make do with just one or the other?
Which brings us to credit cards; revolving credit may be great for the economy, but it ties you down to payments for things that you probably didn’t actually need or even want but rather felt that you had to have. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place for credit (think mortgages or school loans) but why are you purchasing consumable items with a promise of payment in the future? You are just extending your headaches over your accumulated possessions into the future. Paying off your credit cards is another big step on the road to living a minimalist lifestyle, and it is a step that the credit card companies will fight tooth and nail, even going so far as to penalize your credit record for closing an account. But the freedom that comes from not being tied to a financial obligation for your stuff is worth it in the long run.
You Can Get There
Living a minimalist lifestyle is not an instantaneous process. It takes courage and commitment and a deep desire to create a more meaningful life for yourself and your family. But no matter how cluttered and confused your life is right now, you can get there; you can live a minimalist lifestyle if you simply have the courage to take the first step. Here are a few ways to get back to basics and live with simplicity:
* Stop shopping at large chain groceries and instead buy a CSA share and make small weekly trips to the farmer’s market. Simple food, good food, less hassle.
* Stop buying books and start going to the library.
* Skip the gym one day a week and take a walk or hike outside.
* Use what you have instead of buying new.
* Get rid of the stuff you don’t really need.
* Prioritize the things that energize you and make you passionate about life.
*Take advantage of Frugal Luxuries.
* Pare down your wardrobe (or that of family members) to the basics and you’ll have less laundry to do.
* Read my article on Raising Minimalist Children in a Society of Excess.
Wednesday, June 29th, 2011