In Discussions, Lifestyle, Minimalism

Minimalism is not for you

Reading this post from My FI journey who is about to burn out from trying to achieve perfection after only 6 months of blogging, became interesting near the end when I read:

My-FI-Journey-Minimalism-Annoyance

Lest you feel like I’m singling anyone out, a lot of people say this, and do not want to become minimalists.

(Really, who is forcing you?)

Besides, minimalism seems to be just another facet of frugality, which is something a lot of personal finance bloggers seem to be all about, including the author above.

Less IS more…… for some people

It just may not be your thing, and people would do well to remember that when coming up against ideas that are contrarian to their own.

What irks me the most about people who get mad at this idea is that they don’t realize that it isn’t really that annoying — it just isn’t their thing.

Saying “minimalism as a gateway to happiness is stupid”, is just as dumb as saying that aggressive wealth accumulation is the path to happiness and mental freedom.

Or saying that aiming to retire early at 45 with millions in the bank so you can finally feel mentally free and no longer a slave is equally just as stupid.

Why can’t you feel mentally free and happy now without millions in your bank account?

This exact question is what minimalism helps you consider.


If you think about it, you have the option to feel free and happy even without millions, the solution is to move to a Third World country that has a low cost of living, and live freely like a king or a queen on $10,000 a year.

You’ll never feel like a slave again.

Maybe what you are feeling is that a lot of money will make you feel financially secure, but perhaps just spending less on accumulating unnecessary toys and things in life (oh look minimalism again!) will bring you just as much peace.

The less you spend on toys, the more you feel free… and if you spend less money on accumulating toys, you are living one of the principles of being a minimalist.

How would you know until you try it? It’s much easier to knock something instead of doing the hard work to try it.

Never say never.

I said I would never turn vegan in a million years, many times in my life.

In fact I spent most of my life just eating meat and rice, enjoying every bite while scoffing at vegetarians and vegans at what they were missing out on.

Who would willingly and seriously choose vegetables over bacon? Are they crazy!?

I thought vegetarians and vegans were silly, in my youth and I was a PROUD Meatarian to the MAX.

…..and now, well into my adult years I’m eating 99% vegan.

I had to literally eat my own words with a B12 supplement to boot.

Food-Photograph-Buckwheat-Noodles-with-Peas-and-Zucchini-Miso-Dressing-Recipe

Honestly?

Everything and every opinion is stupid…

… but the only one that really matters is the one that you make to yourself because you have to be the one to live your life.

For instance, I don’t (really) listen to people who tell me I should hoard my money and not travel because I haven’t worked at all this year.

Should I really be going on a trip when I haven’t gotten a contract this year?

An aggressive personal finance blogger who wants to become a millionaire ASAP might say:

No, are you NUTS?!?!?!? You haven’t saved or made ANY MONEY this year.

You’ve just been SPENDING, SPENDING, SPENDING and giving me heart attacks across the internets!!!


…but as my life is not about accumulating piles of wealth to retire early (I quite enjoy my job), so I’m going to listen to cautious words of advice proffered by others, and then basically do what I want to do what I want to do anyway, because I feel like I am in a good financial position.

Do I tell these people that what they’re giving me as what is otherwise sound advice (don’t travel, hoard your money, save for your future, get a job) that they’re being stupid?

No.

I’ve already tried the no-traveling, money-hoarding, job thing back when I was knocking out $60,000 of student debt, and I didn’t really enjoy that lifestyle, so I made the choice to live a little more moderately and comfortably.

I’d rather give up hoarding money to travel, and that’s a choice I make.

I always do what I want, based on my terms, and what I think is right for me, not for someone else

Everyone has an opinion, but it’s your money and your life in the end, which is exactly the same approach I take to minimalism (yes, I’m tying it all back now).

I am by no means a sainted minimalist because I actually don’t believe in living with 100 things and that living with nothing but a teacup will in and of itself, will bring you happiness and fulfillment.

But I do believe that minimalism has made me happier.

Shanghai-Travel-Photograph-Asia-Buddha-Silver-Temple

It is more the philosophy and process of minimalism that can bring long lasting happiness if you consider that you only keep what you actually need, use, and want, rather than filling your life up with stuff you simply haven’t touched in 5 years.

The process of trying to live the principles of minimalism helps people clean out their lives, and when people get rid of the unused, dusty, physical clutter, they feel better about it all.

(Who doesn’t love a good Spring Cleaning? But this is Spring Cleaning for life!).

They look around, they see more space, and mentally, it relaxes them, which helps improve their state of mind and brings coveted happiness and fulfillment.

They feel like they’re in control.

Things are clean.

Their life is back in order and neat.

They stopped hoarding things they don’t need any longer.

They stopped buying excessively, which puts more money into their pockets.

This is what minimalism can do for some people, and it’s why they keep repeating: Less is more.

It’s not the fact that they own only 100 items (what a silly rule), that they can call themselves minimalist and happy; it is that all of that work to pare down on their stuff made them change along the way, which brings fulfillment in life.

I know that this is how I feel and it’s partly the reason why I am a minimalist, although minimalism and frugality go hand in hand quite nicely.

I feel unnecessarily anxious and stressed out when I have what I think are too many useless things sitting around gathering dust. I see the wasted money, and the physical clutter weighs on my mind.

Minimalism is not a magic pill, you have to do the work too

It’s not a quick fix like: I stopped eating piles of heart-stopping greasy fast food and now my cholesterol is down and I’m super healthy!

Minimalism is not a magic pill where getting rid of all your things will make you instantly happy just by the act of purging.

You have to do the mental work and change in your mindset to reach such happiness and fulfillment.

People who think that they can just get rid of stuff and they’ll be happy are actually people who don’t really don’t get what it’s all about….. because it is not meant for them.

It’s the ideas behind WHY you get rid of stuff to feel happy, and that takes a lot more work to uncover these ideas deep within yourself, than just holding a huge garage sale and moving to a tiny studio.

Photograph-Travel-Asia-Flower-Zen-Life-Pond-Lotus-Glistening-on-the-Water

Minimalism will NEVER work for you and bring you happiness if you don’t believe in the philosophy of it.

For instance, if you believe that credit cards offer you free money that you don’t have to work for, and if you don’t get why you can’t just pay the minimums forever ….then clearing your massive consumer debt will never make sense to you.

Even if it mathematically makes sense to pay less in the long-run, you just don’t get why you would pay more now because you will never understand why you have to pay MORE money to these credit card companies when they’re only asking for a minimum payment.

It makes no sense to you in the moment, even if someone tells you that financially you are spending X amount of money over Y amount of time, etc, because you may think you will always have to be in debt forever, no matter what… so what’s the big deal with carrying some debt now?

Stuff: Not all it’s cracked up to be

On the flip side, you could also consider that accumulating the best toys in the world, tons of fancy things, and McMansions on every continent is your gateway to happiness and fulfillment….

….. but I daresay more than a few smart and well-admired people would (and would have) disagree(d) on this:

  • Karl Rabeder: The Man who gave aways his millions and lives on $1350 a month
  • Socrates: “The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.”
  • Nicolas Berggruen: The Homeless Billionaire
  • Steve Jobs: Used to live very sparsely, as many will say he had very little in his house.
  • Warren Buffett: Lives in the same house he bought years ago in Oaklahoma; doesn’t own McMansions or jets; Plans on giving away most of his billions, 99% to be exact
  • Vincent Kartheiser who plays Pete Campbell on Mad Men: Lives with no toilet and no car!

..and this is just from some light Googling.

Many philosophers seem to have minimalist tendencies, and have reached the same conclusions — less is more, and having more stuff is not the path to happiness.


.. but if that doesn’t work for you then don’t do it.

No one is forcing you to sell your car(s) and your home(s), or to give up everything you own.

True happiness comes from within, whatever your ‘within’ asks for

We already know from plenty of studies that happiness in general, comes from people enjoying experiences, and the most cited of these experiences are:

  1. Spending time with family and friends
  2. Going on vacation (traveling)
  3. Trying something new like parasailing or hang gliding

…and none of it has anything to do with how much stuff you own.

Besides, people who say that minimalism is the path to happiness, are just trying to help others by spreading what worked for them.

The bottom line is that how you decide to reach your own happiness depends on you, and if finding minimalism helps other people reach this nirvana, does the path they use to get there really matter?

No. Not really.

Don’t call it stupid or annoying but just accept that minimalism is simply not the lifestyle for you.


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Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

I got out of $60,000 of debt in 18 months using TheBudgetingTool.com. Since then, I have worked 50% of my career (taking 1-2 year breaks), and quadrupled my income within 2 years of graduating, going from $65K to $260K (savings rate = 85%). I could retire today if I wanted, but love my work-life balance as a freelancing consultant in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I also post daily on Instagram @saverspender.

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19 Comments

  1. A
    Arletta

    I am an extremist, in regards to mostly everything. I love long hair and short hair, and, hate the hair that isn’t quite either (on me). I love junk shops and junk yards crowded with so much stuff that every trip to them is an adventure, and, I’d love to own one. Or, I’d love to live very minimalist. I love the overcluttered bohemian decorating style and I love the Swedish modern/industrial minimalist style, and, of course, the Asian style and the mad Englishman style of decorating.

    Aside from being an extremist, I have so many interests. I get tired trying to keep up with myself. I paint, draw, do beadwork, love to refurbish furniture, love to pretend I’m learning to play musical instruments. I love the uber sleek professinal style of dressing, old fashioned clothes, punk fashion, hippy chic, goodd old American t-shirt and jeans comfort, Asian inspired looks ..

    This makes minimalism very hard for me. I mean, I have learned that the basic feeling of not having clutter, of having just what I need and/or love, is a good one and I want it. It’s just that, getting rid of things or deciding what to bring in that is needed can be mind-bendingly difficult, since I have so many interests, love so many color schemes and styles, etc.

    Minimalsm really is for me. I know that. I am born for it. I am always poor, for one reason or another, so, minimalism is a way to be happy about it, really. It’s just that, now, more than ever, I have to be sure who I am and want to remain being. That’s hard work. I’m learning, though – and, it’s all worth it.

    I find your blog inspirational and informative. Thank you for that. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      You’re a Renaissance woman then! 🙂

      Minimalism is really for me as well but I’m not always poor. I just prefer it.. although it can be hard to rein in my clothing desires. 😉

      Thank you

      Reply
  2. SarahN

    Ah, I’m definitely in the ‘less is more’ camp, even though some ‘collections’ (clothes, handbags, jewellry) I have more than someone else would deem minimal, it’s about using what I have, and loving what I have, and not spending time or energy or space on stuff that’s not of value. Anyhow, it’s interesting that the blogger that inspired you is pretty much ‘over’ blogging already – I’m loving it right now, and we’re the same age in bloggy years. I suppose perhaps the topic of PF is wearing him out? I don’t know. I suppose I liked seeing how other people at the same stage were finding things.

    Reply
    1. saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      @SarahN: You and I are similar in this train of thought perhaps. I have a lot of lovely jewellery and clothes, more than what is ‘minimal’, but on the flip side I don’t own furniture, big things, cars, a house.. it’s my choice to do all that, just as it is someone else’s choice to own all those big things but to have very little in their closet.

      Blogging is not a sprint to the end, it’s a slow jog. You can’t be perfect, it’s impossible. There’s too much to do.

      I burned out in 6 years trying to reach perfection which is why I started this new blog to teach myself moderation.

      It’s working so far. I don’t obsess over the blog like I used to with my 2 others, and I feel like it’s for ME, not because I feel an obligation to anyone else.

      Reply
  3. Tammy R

    What a delightful, insightful, and wickedly funny read, Mochimac. My mind is binging like a pinball machine, so I will just comment on the point you made about being ready for “it” – minimalism, getting out of credit card debt, etc. If I’d started cleaning out my house seven years ago to the extent we have in the last year, I would have felt good for about a day and then I’d be right back to the stressed-out monster I was before I hauled the crap out. Now I understand the Why behind living with less, and it contributes to (not makes) my happiness.

    Reply
    1. saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      @Tammy R: It’s a lesson that took me about a good 5 years before I “got” it.

      I needed to have really internalized and learned why I am not buying multiples, why I am getting rid of stuff and not hoarding it. It’s all for a greater picture but it’s hard to see the forest for the trees at times.

      Sometimes I look around and lament that I have too much stuff. It feels like a lot when I spread it out, but in actuality, there isn’t much considering my age and my propensity to shop.

      Reply
  4. Debt Blag

    Someone at work today said, “Invest like this, and you’ll be able to have a lot more of the things you want.”

    My thought was that the same could be accomplished just by wanting less things…

    Reply
    1. saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      @Debt Blag: That’s a very good piece of advice.

      I would need some time to really think about what you’ve just written, to understand on a deeper level, the core idea.

      Thanks!

      Reply
  5. Tania

    Minimalism is very personal IMHO. I see some of the online blogger minimalism exercises such as counting of posessions, capsule wardrobes, etc as experiments, not lifestyles. What is less and more is relative and different for everyone. The general concept of looking at our lives and identifying where material posessions are sucking up too much of our resources (time & money) not leaving enough for the areas of life that bring us satisfaction is what all minimalists have in common. That said, I do use limit #s to keep my own self in check on certain categories because it doesn’t come naturally to me.

    I hate absolute statements in general and agree with you. A sweeping statement that minimalism won’t make you happy or is per se annoying is a bit lacking in tolerance. I also feel minimalism can be frugal but I see minimalism as owning less higher quality. I feel spending on the cheap actually begets more spending (I know you value quality as well). The US’s obsession with cheap garmets for example, for many, has resulted in bursting at the seams, not minimal wardrobes.

    Reply
    1. Tania

      “owning less but of higher quality” 🙂 @Tania:

      Reply
    2. saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      @Tania: I still don’t get why people count what they have as a goal to reach.

      What’s the prize if they only have 100 items in their wardrobe? If I don’t see the benefit of 100 items, then I can’t understand the point of having only 100 items. Why not 101? 102? 115?

      I definitely value quality over quantity these days, although it took me a while to really understand what that meant for me.

      Reply
  6. cj

    Well reasoned arguments, as always, Mochimac!!! Minimalism has simplified our lives to the point where we can enjoy the things we love most about life – consistently. In general, maxims turn me off, but “less is more” has always stood up to scrutiny and I am given to scrutiny in the extreme. Have a wacky weekend, M!!!

    Reply
    1. saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      @cj: Even Coco Chanel would agree that simplicity is beauty and elegance. 🙂

      Many designers say this too. There is a time and place for excess (feasts of food for celebrations!), but most of the time, it can’t be so excessive, or else we’d never enjoy it and would want even MORE as a result.

      Reply
  7. anna

    I think I like less stuff since I grew up with a mom that loved stuff, so I became the opposite. Plus, it’s less stuff to dust, and I never understood why people needed to get the latest and greatest of something (though if they want that, good on them)… the financial advantage of having more money by not spending is just icing on the cake.

    Reply
    1. saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      @anna: My parents are hoarders, so I think we are on the same page here.

      I get really uncomfortable when I see broken chairs just stacked in the basement. I want to get rid of them but they say things like:

      “What if we need that chair?!”

      “What? That BROKEN CHAIR?”

      “Yeah for parts!”

      Reply
  8. Chris Grande

    great points – I think almost exactly like that. Now that we have a baby, I have to spend a bit more and travel less. But having less “stuff” is freeing. Saving for a rainy day and enjoying the choices it allows is freeing.

    Reply
    1. saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      @Chris Grande: Babies have a way of wiggling money out of your pocket. They’re just so.. darn.. CUTE.

      I wonder what I will be like with children in the future.

      Reply
  9. Elle @ ForHerByHer

    For a long time, I didn’t know if I was a minimalist or just hated clutter. I read blogs with people who live with 100 things and less and I know I can never, ever do that. But as you said, when I see less clutter and only have the things that I need, I feel a certain sense of peace and ease. Minimalism is probably not for me, but order is… that’s what I’ve learned.

    I completely agree, what brings someone happiness will not be the same for someone else. Unfortunately, we live in a society that tells us what will make us happy and most of it is “stuff”, as Gail Vaz-Oxlade would say 🙂 The new trend is to to tell us that “less stuff” will make us happy. Life is about finding what works for you.

    Reply
    1. saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      @Elle @ ForHerByHer: It’s a balance.

      I don’t buy into that 100-item rule lifestyle either. I don’t get why 100 items is so special, it’s just so arbitrary as a number. Why not 1000?

      I’ve started to also learn how to tune out what I am seeing and hearing, but damn it’s difficult not to get the want-itis… until you realize that you don’t really need it in the first place.

      Thank goodness for return policies.

      Reply

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