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:
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.
I had to literally eat my own words with a B12 supplement to boot.
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?
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.
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.
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:
- Spending time with family and friends
- Going on vacation (traveling)
- 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.