Several years ago I realized I was accumulating more in my life. More things that didn’t really matter to me deep down or speak to me on a spiritual level. More commitments I wasn’t passionate about keeping. More stuff. More friction. This was all leaving me feeling a little flat and unfulfilled.
A period of reflection followed. Importantly, I then started to take some action based on this reflection. Part of that action involved finding a whole community of people who had reached a similar crossroads in life. We were seeking something more meaningful. Something simpler.
What I found was that all around us, people are simplifying and improving the quality of their lives by minimizing. While this may seem counterintuitive in a mass-consuming culture, there’s also little doubt it can support living well.
Many of us are realizing that the more we give up, the more we get back. Here are five areas where we can all minimize to simplify.
1. Our Homes
There is a growing trend in tiny home purchases. This movement is supported by a thriving community of small home owners and enthusiasts who are all sold on the benefits of living in a smaller space intentionally. Not because they have to, because they want to.
Downsizing (or perhaps rightsizing) our homes leads to fewer overheads. Less cost and less time clearing up and looking after possessions means more time spent chasing our dreams or passion projects. Fewer overheads and a smaller space can also mean ownership is more likely in a much shorter period of time. Remember, technically we don’t own our home until the mortgage is paid up in full. Tiny homes or smaller spaces are more affordable, and may even be bought outright, alleviating mortgage stress.
When we live in a smaller space we focus on what we need. We have no room for excess. Instead, we focus on having enough and making best use of our space. Constraints can be useful if they mean our home is only full of things we find useful or beautiful.
2. Our Possessions
More stuff often equals more hassle and more maintenance. Most of our possessions need some degree of looking after and upkeep. This all takes its toll. We can minimize our possessions instead and be selective with what we let into our lives. If we focus on high quality possessions maybe we can do away with high quantity.
This doesn’t have to mean we become anti-consumers. We can settle on a baseline of possessions that works for us and we can then adopt a one-in/one-out policy. Importantly, we shouldn’t feel we are cutting back in an extreme way and missing out. That’s not the point. We can gradually reduce our possessions instead. Where this ends up is for us to decide but many of us will be surprised and empowered with how much we don’t actually need.
Better to have a few carefully chosen things in our lives we really love and enjoy than lots of things that don’t give us much back.
Overcommitting ourselves is one of the biggest reasons so many of us end up feeling stressed and like we never have enough hours in the day. Our diaries have become too cluttered. Instead, we can simplify our commitments and say “yes” to less. We can get more comfortable saying “no” more often. We can appreciate and protect the white space in our diary. We can create intentional buffers so we no longer have to rush from this appointment to the next.
4. Our Jobs
Reducing our possessions and the size of our homes (numbers 1 and 2 above) should free up finances for us. Our overheads should reduce themselves and this means less pressure to work jobs we hate, or work multiple jobs just to get by. It may even mean we can explore working part-time in our paid gig to have more time for hobbies and passion projects (perhaps our own mini business idea). Or perhaps some self-study we’ve long dreamed of but never felt we’ve had the time for.
We may decide that a 40-50 hour work week is something we can now leave in the past.
Many of us never reach our goals because we chase too many at once. We spread our efforts wide but never really to any depth and then get frustrated that we’re getting nowhere fast. In 80/20 speak we chase the trivial many without identifying the vital few.
The ability to narrow our aim and dig deep has become rarer. But digging deep brings its own rewards and can often support our biggest successes. Identify the most meaningful goals (the vital few) and then go after them in a focused way until achieved. Only then look to shift your aim to another goal.
The right sort of less really can mean more. Minimize to simplify.