Most recognise the Greek philosopher Diogenes as the guy who held a lantern to the face of the citizens of Athens, claiming he was searching for an honest man. But what led him to this point, and this mindset, started with his teacher — Antisthenes — who advocated asceticism and simplicity.
Diogenes took this advice to the utmost extreme. Renouncing all of his physical possessions and embracing a life of homelessness. Living in the streets with nothing but his cup. Eventually, he even threw away his own cup after seeing a boy cupping his hands to drink water.
It is believed that Diogenes survived until he was 90, answering the question of whether such a radical way of living is doable.
The story of Diogenes is an extreme example of how little things we need in our daily lives. We definitely don’t need to go to that extreme, but having lesser things can often help us live better and in our modern world, help us save money while at it.
Today, we know this concept as living minimally.
What is living minimally?
Leo Babauta, the author of Zen Habits, describes minimalism as: “Simply getting rid of the things you do not use or need, leaving an uncluttered, simple environment and an uncluttered, simple life. It’s living without an obsession with material things or an obsession with doing everything and doing too much. It’s using simple tools, having a simple wardrobe, carrying little and living light.”
There is a misconception, equating minimal living to having nothing in life — empty, boring, and sterile. Not at all. Rather, the goal of living minimally is to make room for things that give us the most joy. Starting with clearing the non-essential items.
How minimalism saves money
Before jumping in, keep in mind that a minimalist lifestyle does not automatically save you money. Especially if after decluttering, you’re thinking: “More space = I can buy more stuff”. In a sense, this perspective might even cause you to spend more, as long as you keep decluttering to balance the equation.
In juxtaposition, if you view minimalism as having value as opposed to merely owning items, then yes. Minimalism absolutely can save you money.
1. Becoming intentional with your spending
Here’s a question: How do you decide what you’re going to buy?
For some, most of what they buy can be impulse purchases. For others, it’s their credit cards that make the decision — if it isn’t maxed out, they can afford it.
But then, the follow-up question comes: Is your life better after buying this?
Whenever we go out, we see flashing billboards and advertisements plastered across the streets. Even when we don’t go out, our screens are specifically designed to show us these cool gadgets every second. Every time, that item just feels like something we must buy.
Catch yourself before hitting the checkout button. Put a few seconds in between. Sometimes, a few seconds is all you need to realise that item is not what you need. Ask yourself one question: Will this item make my life better?
Read more: Smart Shopping Tips that Reduce Overspending
2. Encourages long-term focus
When you declutter your home and life and are intentional about what you keep, you’re forced to rank how much a specific item can serve you. Soon, this habit will trickle down to your purchasing decision where you’ll start to value the quality of the item instead of how it’s packaged.
Beyond this, you’re also creating the kind of life where you’re not chasing vogue.
Put sustainability and utility above other aspects.
You’ll feel good about spending less.
Happiness with contentment
Contentment is being happy with what you have, who you are, and where you are. Accepting the reality as it is, not clinging to a fantasy a few steps in front, or a thousand. Appreciating what you do have and where you are in life. Not to be confused with the absence of desire, it is simply trusting that your life will take a turn for the best.
Okay, but what does that mean?
Once you’re sufficiently exasperated by the status quo, once what comes with the status quo is intolerable, once your current state is no longer acceptable, simplicity will be appealing because of its longevity.
Simple is never effortless. Although, the good news is this epiphany will be far mightier than any half-hearted action sparked by a trendy movement.
- Clutter doesn’t make you feel discontented; chasing contentment through consumerism does.
- A lower income figure doesn’t make you broke; pursuing happiness through hedonism does.
- Food doesn’t make you fat; seeking satisfaction through surfeit does.
Seek to understand the source of your troubles. If you want your wealth to double instantly, decide you only need half as much.
2. Better mental health
When you are able to distinguish between wants and needs, you stop overburdening yourself. You free yourself from the stress of wanting more. So, instead of wanting your possessions to grow, you grow as a person.
When you realise that having a lot doesn’t equal happiness, you let go of some cravings that can’t ever be satisfied. As a result, acceptance settles in, where you allow yourself to be happy with where you are and begin being grateful for what you have.
Four practical ways to practice minimalism today
Create empty space
As you declutter your home one step at a time, you might start seeing empty spaces. Although it might look unfamiliar at first, don’t give in to the temptation to fill it.
Enjoy having empty surfaces. They’re easier to clean and look less cluttered.
Stop impulse buying
Nothing good really comes from impulse buying.
Pick up the habit of shopping with intention instead.
Read more: 5 Tips for Overcoming Emotional Spending
Assess free things entering your home
Free things are great! Who doesn’t love free things?
But, if we aren’t careful, these things can accumulate and clutter up our home. There is often a hidden cost that comes in the form of taking care of it, even though we don’t need that item. Most free items end up sitting in your home collecting dust.
A giant problem of living in a cluttered space is that we don’t know where to go to find the items we want. We can end up spending hours searching for something that we’ll only use for a few minutes. Worse yet, we don’t know that we already have the item, so we go out and buy another that’s exactly the same.
That’s quite the opposite of productive.
Organising your house accordingly helps you keep track of what you have and where to find them. Do it regularly too, because it’s inevitable that things will start to get messy after a while.
The minimalism journey
Here’s one of the most important parts of living minimally: taking some time to figure out your why. Whether that’s because you want to save more money, spend more time creating memories, live happier, or are simply tired of chasing possessions.
Minimalism is never about limiting yourself to only basic needs; it’s about leading a more intentional life of purpose. Allow yourself to enjoy the basicness of life itself.