I am not a good minimalist. I tend to collect things. I hold onto things.
And then I go through phases where I purge, like when Tracy and I moved to Mexico back in 2010.
We sold just about everything we owned except for what would fit into two suitcases and four carry on bags. All of our Earthly possessions fit into our travel luggage for the six months we lived in the Yucatan.
I had never felt so free and light.
While we built our online business, we lived comfortably in modest but cheap accommodations in Mexico. After our six-month tourist visa expired, we hunkered down in a studio apartment in Chicago for a year while we continued to grow our website.
We were short on stuff, short on money, but oh so free.
I am no stranger to minimalism, and yet, as I write this, I am sitting in my own office in a four bedroom house. I am surrounded by things. We have a basement full of boxes (full of stuff) that we moved here last summer, and haven’t yet unpacked.
It is amazing just how quickly and effortlessly you can fill a space with stuff. It’s like a house is a magnet for stuff. The bigger the house, the more stuff gets sucked into it.
And you don’t have to even try. People just give you stuff.
It feels like I get distracted with life and once I catch my breath, I realize that I’m drowning in things.
Minimalism takes practice. Lots of practice.
What Is Minimalism?
Minimalism, in essence, means simplicity.
By simplifying my lifestyle, I cut out everything that interferes with living the life I want.
I cut everything from my life that doesn’t directly contribute to my sense of purpose, fulfillment, and significance.
I embrace the essentials of happiness and I avoid, or get rid of, everything else.
Minimalism can be used as a tool. Use it to shrink your cost of living so that you can save more money.
Use your money to buy freedom, time, and experiences rather than things.
Some people use minimalism to enjoy life more. Instead of spending your money on things and stuff, you can invest it into a few high quality items.
Getting rid of 90% of what I owned, like I did when Tracy and I moved to Mexico, sounds like a huge sacrifice. It was also a huge relief!
I can’t say that it was easy, but it was worth it.
How To Use Minimalism To Create Abundance
Step 1: Define What You Want (and What’s Important)
The first step to embracing minimalism to create abundance is to define, exactly, what you want in life.
For me, I wanted more time, I wanted to travel, and I wanted to focus my energy doing what I loved to do.
If you are unsure about what you want in life, consider defining what you don’t want – your dead-end job or living in your small town (or big city).
A great exercise is to write a journal entry where you describe a perfect day from your dream life. Write it in detail and don’t worry about being “reasonable”.
Once I decided that I wanted to take at least a year off to travel and live abroad, I realized that a lot of the stuff I had lying around the house wouldn’t be coming with me.
In fact, this stuff acted like anchors, or weights, that tied me down.
I suddenly became very aware of how unimportant most of it was. I imagined how my days would be living in a tropical paradise and I no longer saw myself crashing in front of a TV at night, or needing any of the things that helped me “escape my life”.
I once listened to an interview with a young woman who lived in a tiny house. What she said about living in a tiny home really struck me. She said that unlike most people who work for their house, her house works for her.
It’s inexpensive. It’s portable. It’s minimal, and it gives her a level of lifestyle freedom that you just can’t get with a 3000-square foot mini-mansion with a mortgage that takes up a huge chunk of your pay, and takes you 30 years to pay off.
Step 2: Get Rid of Your Stuff!
Okay, this is the hard part. It’s also extremely liberating, not to mention a fantastic way to get money to fund your new life!
It’s amazing how much stuff (junk) that Tracy and I accumulate over the years. More than half of it we never even use or want anymore, yet we find places to store it – and there it sits in closets and cupboards for years and years – unused!
If you want to change your life, then purge the things in your life that don’t support your new direction.
I have one rule when I purge stuff. If I haven’t used, looked at, or touched something in the last year, it goes. I’ve always had this policy when I cleaned.
As we were planning our Mexico relocation, I had much more rigid rules for dealing with stuff I found in closets.
If it wasn’t something I’d fit into a suitcase and use regularly, and if it didn’t contribute to my overall happiness or immediate goals, then it goes.
I did end up filling a trunk with memorabilia and sentimental items that I stored in my parents basement while we were gone.
It wasn’t easy to get rid of everything, though. Some things I was relieved to finally get off my hands while others did have memories attached to them.
After spending the last three years in Chicago making my living as a freelance videographer, it was very difficult at first to sell my professional equipment in order to fund the Mexico relocation. I felt like I was selling my identity with the gear!
But with each item gone, my load got lighter. I had more space in the apartment. I had less to think or worry about.
Best of all, I had a growing amount of cash in my bank account! We generated thousands of dollars by selling things on Ebay and Craigslist – everything from used books to furniture. What didn’t sell was donated to families in need, or given to friends.
Don’t underestimate how much your “junk” is worth. If you need or want extra cash to fund a new adventure, you just might have that cash disguised as clutter in your closet or basement!
Step 3: Quitting (Jobs, Obligations, Relationships)
The next step to embracing minimalism is to become a quitter. Cut anything out of your life that doesn’t fit with what you want to become, and how you want to live your life.
Resign from any obligations that feel more like a chore than a joy.
Take a look at your relationships. Is your partner supportive of your dreams in life? What about your friends?
Even your day job might need to be cut from your life. This is the big hangup that most people have. After all, jobs put food on the table and keeps a roof over your head.
But there are many ways to generate an income without a job. In reality, a job isn’t as necessary as you think it is, and it’s a lot easier to create an alternate source of income than you think.
Step 4: Living Life Intentionally – Filling The Void
The final step toward embracing minimalism in order to create abundance is to live life intentionally.
When I was working at a full time job that I hated, I felt like my life wasn’t all it should have been. Like many people, I had a lot of things that helped me escape and distract me from my discontent.
I’d crash in front of the TV. I’d lose myself in video games. I’d escape into the evenings and weekends, only to be caught up in the perpetual cycle of Monday morning dread.
When I finally left my day job, I realized that I needed a lot less (money and things) to make me happy.
I felt like I had finally woken up. I was free to live my life because it was my life.
When I embraced minimalism, I filled my life with abundant experiences rather than things.
And you know what? Experiences contribute so much more to happiness and fulfillment than any massive TV screen, gaming console, or trendy new car ever did.