I am continually amazed at the impact that a “minimalist” approach is having on my life. I have certainly baby-stepped my way into the lifestyle, and wanted to finish the year challenging myself to opt out of spending money on “things”. Our culture has programmed us to constantly be on the lookout for the next best thing. I will be finding ways to live better with less in order to make room for more joy. Interested in finding out more or even joining the challenge yourself? Continue reading to learn more on how I define minimalism, what I mean by no more spending and how we can stop being victims to consumer culture.
76 days until 2019. Is it possible to close out the year using what you already have? Is it possible to live with less and make room for more joy? I think it is. I recently moved from my small home in West Virginia to an even smaller apartment in California. I have been slowly ridding my life and closet of clutter, with the move inspiring me to sell and donate over half of my belongings. Since moving into the studio apartment, I just feel more at ease. There isn’t “stuff” everywhere, it’s easier to clean, my mind feels clearer and I don’t have a storage space somewhere filled to the brim with clutter waiting on me. Now, I am 100% not a “typical minimalist” and I’m not asking you to sell your house and live tiny. I own more than 1 pair of jeans, I still own too many shoes, I still like clothes. By no means is this a “who can be the perfect minimalist” challenge. No ma’am. This is more about seeking more joy and less clutter in our lives. This is about impacting our mental health, our creativity, the climate, our humanity in a more positive way.
Minimalism and Mental Health
There are studies that indicate a direct link between minimalism and better mental health. I wrote more about my own experience on Clutch MOV. Since I wrote that article, I have had more time to see it unfold in my life. I feel so much better when surfaces aren’t overcrowded with things, when I don’t have to spend time and energy rifling through my closet or drawers…everything just feels more peaceful. My anxiety still flares up, of course, but it isn’t as triggered by being at home or by this recurring feeling I used to get to clean and clear my space. The awareness of self and the intricate human connection with Mother Nature is lost in this notion that “just one more handbag will make me happier”. All of this “stuff” numbs us and incapacitates us so that we are unable to fully and completely sit with ourselves. It becomes very difficult to practice true mindfulness, peace and harmony with ourselves when we are constantly looking elsewhere for happiness, joy, and the next best thing. Is this resonating? Let’s break the “next best thing” cycle, together.
Living Better With Less
When I say that I am not spending money on things for the rest of the year, I don’t mean a no spending challenge. This isn’t about saving money or spending less money. That is, of course, an indirect side effect, but I just don’t want to spend money on items. I will be spending money on food, experiences or things I might actually need (like medicine). I will not be spending money on clothes, home decor, accessories, technology or knick-knacks. This will be a real challenge for me, but I have some ideas on how I can make it work. If this sounds Big and Scary to you, it’s okay. This is all about making room for more joy in our lives. I will be sending out tips and resources like TED talks, articles, books, my own updates + more via email over the coming weeks.
Re-Imagine and Reconnect
Have you ever lived somewhere that you could run to the neighbor when you were out of sugar? Let’s use this same principle in our #MakeRoomForJoyChallenge by counting on others when we need it. By living with less, we make room for nurturing new and old connections. We can swap clothes at a thrift store, borrow from friends, family or neighbors. If something breaks? Learn to fix it, or ask someone to fix it. Maybe you learn to stitch or use a handsaw. I also really want to encourage using one item for many things. I recently had my mind blown when someone suggested wearing a blanket scarf as a skirt. We get so accustomed to things being only one way, we often stifle our own creativity and imagination by blindly accepting. Let your creativity and imagination run free. Don’t allow consumer culture to dictate what and how much you need.
Every day, all day long, you are being bombarded by clever marketing messages telling you that You Must Spend Money or You Need This Thing. We know we don’t actually need it but we are socially, culturally, economically, and psychologically invested in this system. Our everyday life experiences, our relationships with friends and loved ones, our practices of leisure and amusement, and our personal goals and identities are all tied to the culture in which we were raised. Many of us measure our self-worth by how much money we make, and by the quantity, quality, and newness of stuff we are able to buy.
Is it possible to have a sustainable consumer culture? Even those of us that are critically aware of the implications of production, consumption, and waste, can’t help but want more. Sustainable brands are still dependent on our culture of consumption, they still chant to us “you must buy this”. Yes, there are great options out there that I would recommend, but I am challenging myself and all of you to live with that you already have. This challenge is about becoming mindful of our consumption in order to be creative with what we already have. I think we all might find that what we have is more than enough, and that living with less will make room for much more joy.
Not Ready to Totally Commit?
Understandable! First of all, this challenge is NOT about being “perfect”. I am putting that in quotations because it doesn’t exist so stop chasing it. Don’t feel like you can’t participate in the challenge just because you might end up being something(s). But, if you 100% know you aren’t up to accepting this particular challenge, but want to take steps in that direction, I wanted to offer a few tips on how you could start your minimalist journey.
Clean out your closet - I mean, really clean it out. If you haven’t worn it in a month, donate it. If you are holding onto it for a “special occasion” or for your body to be different, get rid of it. If you don’t absolutely love it, it doesn’t have a purpose.
Get thrifty - If there are some clothing items you need to purchase check out a local thrift store. My personal favorite places to find cute secondhand items are Golden Trash, Collage WV, Poshmark or Boho-tique.
Buy reusable Items - Instead of buying items that are poorly made or single-use, opt to purchase things that will last a long time. Items like reusable water bottles, bamboo cutlery, well-made sustainable clothing rather than fast fashion and quality footwear.
Do you really need it? - Ask yourself this question every single time you find yourself about to make a purchase. Do you really need it? Or is the really clever marketing making you believe that you do? Do you absolutely love it? Take a moment to check in, practicing mindfulness in this way will spill over to other areas of your life, as well. . .