When Sporty and I first embarked on this minimalist lifestyle journey, we were living paycheck to paycheck, relying on underwhelming jobs to keep head above water.
Those were shitty times, I’m not going to lie.
We had all the creature comforts (cars, nice furniture, a TV, etc.), but we lived for Friday and dreaded Sunday night. That’s not living, that’s existing. Not surprisingly, our relationship wasn’t that great, either.
Living a Minimalist Lifestyle
When you first begin living a minimalist lifestyle, the changes are subtle. Sure, you notice that you’re living with less stuff. But it takes a little while for the benefits of simplifying your life to start sinking in.
It’s a little like a snowball effect. The further down this less is more road you travel, the happier you become. You’re spending less, your debt is dwindling and you find yourself looking to experiences for fulfillment, rather than stuff.
You can’t put your finger on it at first, but eventually you realize that your shoulders are no longer at ear level. The stress that was once your constant companion has upped and left.
Thank God! (And good riddance.)
While still underwhelming, your job no longer feels like such a noose around your neck. You keep at it though, because the money is good and you need to line those retirement coffers.
You can’t work forever and let’s face it, good coffee doesn’t buy itself.
The Second* Wake-Up Call
Living with less stuff comes with numerous benefits. (Some of them unexpected.)Your expenses go down, you have more leisure time to do the things you want and you’re less stressed. Yay.
What you don’t realise (at least not right away) is that it frees up your mind to ruminate on things you never had the mental bandwidth to consider before. You start asking the big questions.
You know, the ones you used to drink wine and binge-watch Netflix to avoid.
• Am I happy?
• Is there more to life than this?
• What would I do if failure wasn’t an option?
• What would I do if I was a gazillionaire?
• Am I leaving a legacy?
• What can I do to make my life more meaningful?
On and on, your mind worries away in the background, mulling things over.
Until one day the inevitable happens and you come to the (obvious) conclusion that you could definitely be happier, that there has to be more to life than watching The Crown and you’re so far from leaving a legacy you might as well be on another planet.
*In case you didn’t figure it out, the first wake-up call is recognizing that you have too much stuff.
You Can Do Anything You Want
Sporty and I eventually reached that enviable point where our debt was long gone and our retirement coffers, while not completely lined, were no longer bare, either.
Sure, we could have carried on working at our well-paying jobs, but the thought of death by underwhelm propelled us to take a leap of faith and untether ourselves from life as we knew it.
We didn’t ride the Iditarod on a mountain bike or thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail, and nor did we take a spiritual stroll along the famed Camino de Santiago. Those were all out of our budget, so instead we moved to Oudtshoorn for four months.
As one does.
We returned to Cape Town at the end of our adventure with our coffers depleted. Our souls, on the other hand, were full to the brim. We felt more alive than we had in a long time.
Cue the sound of music.
It was as if the blinkers had been removed and we could see clearly (now the rain was gone).
Sorry, it was there, I had to use it
The time away showed us that there’s more to life than convenience. We made getting comfortable with being uncomfortable our new normal and while we didn’t always do it with grace, we embraced every situation as an opportunity to become antifragile.
We came back strong and raring for even more change.
Newsflash: You Can Change Career Paths
While the majority of people are looking to escape Cubiclenation, Sporty has always dreamt of life in a cubicle. When we lived in Toronto she wanted to be a streetcar driver.
What does this tell us?
First, she could very well set her sights on becoming a fireman or astronaut next. Second, and more importantly, these desires shine a glaring spotlight on her need for change.
She’s spent her adult life in a career that paid well but demanded a lot. She enjoyed it and she was also particularly good at it.
A winning combination if ever.
However, after more than two decades doing the same thing, it started getting a little long in the tooth. Also, the whole buck stopping with her thing began to wear thin. It was time for a change.
When an offer to work as a German Call Centre Advisor came her way she jumped at it. Along with the opportunity to speak auf Deutch, it also meant she’d be sitting in a cubicle and helping people.
She literally couldn’t be happier.
Now, this could very well be your idea of watching tennis with sand in your eyes, but for Sporty, it’s a dream come true. The pay isn’t great, but because we’ve been living a minimalist lifestyle, that doesn’t matter.
We can easily get by on a lower salary. You can too. Living with less stuff requires less money, because your overheads are lower. And when you’re debt-free it’s even easier.
What would you do if money wasn’t the issue it is now? How would you spend your time? Think about it, what is your great perhaps?
You could volunteer for an organization like Mercy Ships or one of the many other non-profits out there, all of whom would welcome an extra pair on hands on deck. It’s how Scott Harrison came to start charity:water and it could well be how you come to start your next big thing.
You could find a way to make a living online and live a nomadic lifestyle. Whether that’s writing, building websites, offering coaching, etc., nowadays if you have wifi and a laptop you’re pretty much set.
You could create a course and share your passion with the world. Joshua Becker created Uncluttered to people declutter and A.J. Hoge started Effortless English Club to help people learn English. What could you share with the world?
You could turn your hobby into a full time money spinner. On his side-hustle school podcast, Chris Guillebeau showcases people who’ve created a new source of income without quitting their jobs.
You could follow their example and find a way to make money on the side, but then go ahead and quit your job anyway. That’s the freedom that comes with living a minimalist lifestyle.
Pretty cool, right?