Even living a minimalist life has become overcomplicated. There are many different interpretations — many of them not practical for the average person.
Back in 2005, Professor Kasser conducted a study on minimalism and its impact on wellbeing. He found that “despite age, gender, geography … voluntary simplifiers reported significantly higher levels of life satisfaction, more experiences of pleasant emotion and fewer experiences of unpleasant emotion.”
One publicized example of minimalism is podcast host and writer James Altucher. He is one of my favorite writers, although not everything he says is practical. James has practiced minimalism many times in his life and this is the most extreme example he wrote about:
“I have one bag of clothes, one backpack with a computer, iPad, and phone. I have zero other possessions. Today I have no address. At this exact moment I am sitting in a restaurant and there’s no place for me to go to lie down”
This is not practical minimalism advice for a lot of people.
You might have a family, a career you love, or parents you want to be close to. Living out of one backpack with no fixed address could be more like torture than a beneficial minimalist approach to life — let alone making life easier on yourself.
My experience has been different. In 2018 I wrote about the “The Power Of Only Doing One Thing” and to date, it’s one of my most shared articles. The basic idea I experimented with was to selectively go into each area of my life and choose one thing. This minimalist experiment seemed to strike a chord with people because it was simplistic in its approach and easy to test.
For me, living a minimalist life has been a journey into self-discipline and learning to say no to people politely (even to an event ticket and the opportunity to meet one of my biggest heroes).
The minimalist lifestyle has allowed me to find more time to write, work four days a week, make more than $25,000 a month (while investing that money and seeing the magic of compounding take effect), and most of all, it has helped me to make life easier on myself.
This thought sums up what minimalism is to me the best:
“Making time for less so you can experience more of what life has to offer.”
Minimalism is about more than what you own
When we think of minimalism, the first thought that pops to mind is to get rid of physical items we own. The cliche quote “What you own, owns you,” comes to mind. My experience with minimalism has gone much deeper than that, though.
Minimalism, to me, is a way of life. It’s about being comfortable saying yes to less in all areas of your life, not just in what you own. Areas you can look to minimize include:
- Physical items
- Negative thoughts
- Tasks on a to-do list
- Events you attend
- And other people’s priorities you say yes to
The Most Important Reason To Consider Minimalism
We all value different things in life. A minimalist approach to life helps to reduce the clutter in your head that can cause you to feel like you need to recover, delay taking action, or procrastinate due to the overwhelm you’re experiencing.
When you have less to think about, you make room for those 1–3 parts of your life that you gain immense fulfillment from. In other words, the most important reason to consider minimalism is to make time for what you value.
The top three things in my life that I value are writing, family and my career working in technology. Minimalism has allowed me to open the flood gates of my focus and channel them consciously into these three areas of life.
Here are some examples of minimalism from my experience over the last three years.
Saying no to meeting a hero
An opportunity came up this year to meet one of my biggest heroes and I said no to the opportunity. Around the same time as the opportunity was presented to me, I had started a new career and had several writing projects that all had deadlines.
Flying out of Melbourne, staying in a hotel and sabotaging my focus for the promise of meeting a hero was a sacrifice I wasn’t willing to make. The old me would have said yes. The minimalist version of me made a different decision.
My writing used to be epic walls of text that would take a long time to read. I applied the minimalist approach to my writing and decided to write some shorter pieces.
Instead of being obsessed with length, I changed the focus to being conscious of the reader and delivering them value in as quicker time as possible without all the filler in the middle. This decision substantially increased the number of readers that read my work.
Reducing physical possessions
While minimalism is about more than physical possessions, this was still one area of my life that benefited from minimalism. In October last year I moved house and it forced me to make a conscious decision about everything I owned.
The new apartment just didn’t have room for all the junk I’d collected over the years. As a result, I discarded most of my excess items and gave them away to charity. My wardrobe was cut in half, my tie collection was discarded, the number of work clothes I owned reduced and the recording studio equipment I was hoarding out of guilt was finally sold to the highest bidder.
Having less physical items meant that there were fewer things to take care of. Perhaps the biggest realization from this exercise was that the less stuff I needed to own, the less money I needed to earn. This was one idea that helped me enable the four-day workweek at my 9–5 job.
The digital area of my life was also blasted with a firehose. I deleted every app on my phone and then slowly only added back the ones I couldn’t live without. The end state was ten apps on my homescreen, which allowed me to spend less time being distracted and more time thinking about life and then distilling it into articles.
The traditional advice of “your network equals your net-worth” had become lost in my life. I had collected friends and acquaintances like items placed in a storage container for ten years that have no use.
My LinkedIn network was out of control and there were entire weeks spent catching up with far too many people so that I could maintain the relationship.
During my period of unemployment in 2019, I realized that many of these people were not the close friends I once thought. Unemployment helped me to apply the minimalist approach to relationships and discard many of them. Strangely, this led me to spend more time with people that I love and who care about my success, and less time with people who only care about my success as a writer or the size of my social media following.
Simplifying buckets of money
Finances were another area that needed a clean up because it was making life harder, not easier trying to manage every investment strategy on the planet.
I settled for the following buckets when it came to money:
- Surprise and delight fund for readers
- Index fund to invest in stocks
- Digital currency for a small high-risk investment
- Couple time (dinners, movies, overseas holidays)
- Household expenses
- Random acts of kindness
If you want to make life easier on yourself, you don’t need to sell everything and live from a backpack. There are easier ways to embrace minimalism and make it practical for your own situation.
Minimalism is about more than reducing what you own. It’s a way of life and an opportunity to spend more time on what you value and less time in areas of your life that don’t bring you any joy or fulfillment.
If a tall, skinny guy from Australia with big ears can do it, I’m sure you could experiment with it too and see if it fits.