Minimalism: Own Less, Gain More
I recently watched a documentary on Netflix called Minimalism, and it really resonated with me. After watching, I took a moment to reflect on my own lifestyle and how I have almost naturally transitioned into a minimalist due to my nomadic lifestyle. I realized that the lifestyle change has been very beneficial for me and hope to share some of these benefits with others interested.
My transition into minimalism
Much like most (if not everybody) reading this, I did not start out as a minimalist. Before I first moved abroad, the majority of all money I earned from working was spent on material things such as video games, DVDs, clothes, or home decor. After moving to Japan, my habits were still the same, but I bought less due to the lack of living space to work with. However, after moving from Japan to South Korea, I couldn't just pack up everything I owned into a moving truck. I had to condense 3 years worth of "stuff" into 2 suitcases. It was tough for me to part with years of memories, but after the move, I realized I didn't really miss the stuff as much as I thought I would.
My plan at that time was to only stay in Korea for one year. Because of this, I held back on buying lots of material things I knew I would have to part with soon. I ended up staying for over 5 years, but every year I told myself it would be the last year before returning to the US, so my material purchases were rather minimal.
After finally going back to the US, I realized I still had a ton of stuff just sitting in my family's house that I never used or had a plan to use. I also landed a job that gave me the ability to work remotely. So, I decided to make the ultimate step towards minimalism and condense all of my belongings into a single suitcase so that I could freely travel the world. The transition was very natural as I had slowly gotten rid of material things for years leading up to this point.
Less stuff = Less stress
The reason I got rid of belongings was because it would cost me way too much money to haul everything I owned overseas. When I was throwing things out, I didn't think my life would be affected in any way other than that I would own less stuff. However, I started to notice that the less I own, the less stress I had.
Currently, I am in South Korea, and lately, threats of war have been all over the news. I played a scenario in my head of North Korea attacking and me barely escaping with my life but losing everything I owned. If I had owned a giant house with lots of expensive furniture, losing my empire of "stuff" would have been devasting. But since I travel with 1 suitcase and 1 backpack, if faced with this scenario I could easily brush off the loss and pick life back up with no problem.
Always having to buy the newest hottest items can be financially stressful and it is surprising how little people buy that are actual necessities. Everything I own right now has a functional purpose, and I buy to satisfy needs instead of wants. Since many of my purchases are now planned out and serve a purpose, I have cut a lot of stress trying to worry about places to keep extra stuff and spending too much on things I don't need.
Quality over Quantity
Every time I got ready to move to a new country, I hated the feeling when I had to part with a lot of my favorite clothes. After finally choosing what items would get the ax, however, I realized that I never truly missed the things I no longer had. On top of that, buying fewer clothes gave me an opportunity to buy things of higher quality, and I learned to take better cafe of what I owned. Why buy 10 cheap shirts that only last for one season when you can plan out and color coordinate 5 high-quality shirts that will last for years?
My shoes are the perfect example of a minimalist view of quality vs. quantity. I managed to condense 20 pairs of shoes that matched multiple outfits to 4 pairs of functional shoes. I have one pair of white and one pair of black shoes that match any outfit, one pair of trainers for when I exercise, and one pair of dress shoes for formal occasions. This causes me to take better care of my shoes and wash them regularly to ensure they have a longer life. When they finally meet their end, it is now very easy for me to throw them out and buy a replacement without any emotional attachment to worry about.
Growing up, I accumulated a mountain of video games and DVDs. Sadly, most of these games and movies would just sit on a shelf forever after 1 play-through. Did I really need to keep all of these? Were they serving a purpose to add value to my life? No.
We are fortunate these days that we can condense all the entertainment we need into one laptop. On my laptop, I can stream movies with Netflix, music with Spotify, and even download and play games for free online. I cannot think of a single reason to own CDs, DVDs, or games.
For some, it might feel like a bit of a sacrifice to give up a large TV and surround sound speakers. However, the mobility gained, and money saved from condensing everything to a laptop and headphones is completely worth it in my eyes.
I always noticed personal benefits of living as a minimalist, but it wasn't until I recently watched the documentary Minimalism that I realized I wasn't the only one benefiting from my actions. After some reflecting, I realized that my reduced consumption means I have a smaller than average carbon footprint on the planet. People always talk about conserving electricity, water, etc. as ways to help the environment, but reducing the amount of useless, low-quality consumption is also very helpful.
Yes, my living situation is a bit special, and I take minimalism to the extreme, but it does not mean you have to live like I do to enjoy the benefits of minimalism. First, remember that living as a minimalist does not mean that you have to give up everything. Minimalism is about consuming less, but it does not mean you have to give up everything. If you want to keep your photo albums or coin collection then do it. Keep what makes you happy and just get rid of things you buy without purpose. This will help you save money and be more conscious about what you purchase. People gain emotional attachments to stuff over the years, so don't suddenly get rid of everything at once, this will just cause you pain and stress. Start off slow and make a list of things you truly need. Over time, work towards condensing your belongings and I guarantee that your stress will start to fade as well.