At first wash, you may think minimalist living starts and ends at your front door.
Once you’ve decluttered your home and garage, what can there possibly be left to do?
Well, everything really.
It frees you up to view your life, and the world in general, from a different, uncluttered perspective.
Too much stuff has a tendency to block our vision. We’re so busy taking care of our belongings (cleaning, maintaining, insuring, organising, etc.) that we fail to look up and notice what’s going on around us.
Side note: Social media has a similar effect on us, which is why I decided to follow Cal Newport’s advice and quit (mostly).
I get it. It’s the reason Sporty and I sold almost everything we owned and moved into a furnished apartment. We’d had enough. We were tired of being beholden to these things that made our lives comfortable, but didn’t really add value.
Stuff is time-consuming. There’s just no getting around it. The more you own, the more your stuff owns you. Each item you buy comes with its own set of tasks.
You have to wash and fold your clothes, dry clean those fancy jackets, service the car, clean your house. These things are a given, they’re part and parcel of what it means to live in the world.
But think about it. The more stuff you own, the bigger your house, the fancier your car, the more time and money you’ll need to spend looking after them.
You suddenly have time on your hands.
It’s at this point that you start noticing all the other areas where minimalist living can be applied. The truth is, pretty much everything can benefit from a less is more approach: your relationships, your health and wellbeing, even your work.
Minimalist Living in Relationships
Decluttering clears up your physical space. We know this. But a not so obvious benefit is that it also results in increased mental bandwidth.
It makes sense when you think about it. Without all that stuff to worry about, your mind is free to ponder on other, more useful things.
This is why people often find their relationships improving post-declutter.
When you have more time, more money and less stress (all byproducts of living with less stuff), you become happier. It’s almost impossible not to.
I say almost, but I don’t really believe that.
The gurus tell us that this moment is all there is. But when you’re overwhelmed by clutter, it’s impossible to find peace.
Your mind will keep returning to the past (blame, regret) or racing ahead to the future (worry). Minimalist living helps you stay rooted in the present.
Minimalist Living at Work
They’ve probably done studies on it, but even without the science to back it up, I’m willing to bet dollars to vegan doughnuts you’ll get more done without the clutter.
I know I do. (Sporty gets more done regardless, but she’s a unicorn.)
Humans are like clutter magnets. I’m not sure why this is, but I’ll tell you this much: even minimalists aren’t immune.
Left to its own devices, our junk drawer would stage a coup.
It takes focus and dedication to keep the stuff from piling up, but it’s totally worth the effort.
Clutter is especially bad in a work environment because the workers are too busy working to do anything about it. Also, it’s not their stuff, so they don’t feel comfortable tossing it.
The owners and managers on the other hand, are too busy worrying about profit margins, quarterly averages and whatnot.
Clutter is the least of their concerns when it should in fact be a priority.
Throwing away that pile of old newspapers seems like small potatoes next to winning new business, but it’s actually not. Applying the broken windows theory in business can make all the difference.
As the former Los Angeles and New York City police chief William J. Bratton points out, “If you take care of the little things, then you can prevent a lot of the big things,”
He’s of course referring to crime, but the sentiment applies.
Nobody enjoys spending time in a messy, cluttered environment. A less than stellar working environment makes for unhappy and unproductive staff.
The physical aspect is only the tip of the minimalist living iceberg though. It can just as easily be applied to other areas of the business.
Take meetings, for example. I spent two years working for provincial government. I loved everything about the job except the meetings.
They’d have meetings for everything, including meetings about meetings. I kid you not. Time that could be better spent working was wasted on what boiled down to a lot of posturing and chinwagging.
HR is another place that can often benefit from a minimalist approach. Staff turnover is costly and time-consuming. People won’t hang around forever (those days are gone), but they could be persuaded to stay longer if they’re happy.
A 2015 study by Gallup concluded that 50% of people quit their jobs to get away from their manager. There’s an easy minimalist living fix to this.
Have your staff give their manager an honest performance appraisal. Their feedback will let you know whether or not you have a problem on your hands.
Avoiding a potential problem is far easier to deal with than cleaning up the mess when it’s too late. Ultimately, practising minimalism at work can mean the difference between real progress or stagnation.
Minimalist Living as a Path to Health and Wellbeing
We humans have a knack for making things more complicated than they need to be. We’re also all about the quick fix.
You might have spent years packing on those extra pounds, indulging in various bad habits and not exercising (walking to the kitchen for more chips doesn’t count). And then you’ll want one miracle cure-all to fix everything.
If only, right?
Minimalist living can be the cure-all you’re hoping for, but there are a couple of caveats. First, it’s not a quick fix. Second, it’s not a quick fix.
What it can be, is easy. Wait, what!? Seriously, anything is easy when you have the time. The biggest problem for most people nowadays is that they don’t have enough hours in the day.
At least, that’s what they want to believe. The truth is, they’re just spending their time on the wrong stuff. Like stuff.
Here’s how that looks.
You work long hours at a job that doesn’t particularly enthrall you to afford a lifestyle you don’t have time to enjoy. Sound familiar?
When you downsize you give yourself options. Without the bigger mortgage or second car payment, without all the credit card debt and the miscellaneous monthly expenses you really don’t need, your salary can be put to far better use.
You could save up and take a sabbatical, for example. You could even look at changing careers or working less hours and studying again.
More importantly, it frees you up to focus on your health and wellbeing. You’ll have time to exercise and cook and take that yoga class you’ve been meaning to get to.
It’s up to you. You can have it all, but only if you stop shopping for stuff you don’t need.
Groceries are fine, obvs.