Have you ever moved house, and wondered how on earth you accumulated so much stuff? That’s a result of living in a capitalist economy, which thrives by selling us items of all kinds, whether essential or non-essential. Often, we buy stuff that is not only unnecessary, but does nothing for our sense of well-being. And the worst part? We can’t bear to sell or throw away any of our beloved possessions. In the words of Tyler Durden: ‘the things you own end up owning you’.
This is where minimalism comes in. A minimalist understands that people assign too much meaning to their stuff, forsaking our health, relationships, personal growth, and every other area of our lives that is more important. As a result, a minimalist has gone through the process of getting rid of every non-essential item that they own—a decluttering of epic proportions, so that they can focus on the good stuff.
Minimalism sounds kooky, but it has a long list of benefits. Here are some of the biggest.
The most obvious benefit of minimalism is that you’ll be buying less unnecessary stuff, so you’ll have more money in the bank for things that make you happy—holidays to exotic sand-swept places, mouth-watering degustation meals cooked by celebrity chefs, skydiving over New Zealand’s Milford Sound—you name it.
When you strip down your possessions to the bare essentials, you’ll also gradually notice a change of attitude, from needing the latest two-thousand-dollar smartphone to realising that it really isn’t that important. You’ll start to realise that your true worth isn’t determined by your shiny new phone, your expensive car, or your city apartment. Instead, it’s determined by the things that you truly value, and are now free to pursue.
Better mental health
People who buy a lot of stuff are prone to depression, anxiety, and bad relationships. They also lack empathy, struggle to engage with others, and lack a sense of purpose1. By becoming a minimalist and buying only what you need, you’ll be helping to protect yourself against the mental ravages of materialism.
Greater sense of freedom
When we no longer feel obliged to keep up with the Joneses, and can happily exit the rat race knowing that we don’t need to keep earning thousands of dollars to buy more stuff, we’re hit with an enthralling sense of freedom. The chains of our capitalist slavery are broken, and rather than continuing to work in a job we hate to buy stuff we don’t need, we can consider what we really want to do with our lives.
Minimalism is decluttering on steroids—a lifestyle in which you only buy and keep things that add value to your life. It’s an extreme approach that some people might struggle with, but you don’t necessarily have to jump in feet first. If there’s stuff that you can’t bear to part with, or that adds a little value but not quite enough, you don’t have to sell it or throw it away—just put it in storage for a little while, until you need it again.
- George Monbiot, 2013, Materialism: a system that eats us from the inside out, The Guardian