Life is a continuous struggle for more. It all begins during early childhood, when we simply cannot have enough of those fancy little toys. But it doesn’t stop there, it’s just the beginning. As we grow older, our desire for more grows exponentially. Our dreams and wishes become much bigger – the pursuit of ever more becomes an integral part of our lives. As such, it greatly influences the decisions we meet in life. Instead of making sound choices, we opt for the financially most promising alternative. Many people’s lives are therefore not based on decisions that make them happy, but on decisions that help them to acquire more. They hope having more (of basically everything) will eventually make them happy. It’s a twisted way of thinking, but seems entirely logical when it goes unquestioned. But what if there’s an alternative to the rat race for more? What if less is actually more? Living a minimalist lifestyle can introduce a great variety of (unexpected) benefits. Find out here why less is more.
The world we’re living in is plastered with advertisements. Almost everywhere we go, we’re greeted by advertisements. Wherever we place our attention, there’s an ad trying to create artificial needs for (more or less) dull things we don’t even need in the first place. The consumerist attitude that permeates large parts of society is based on the fundamental principle that more is always better. We no longer define ourselves by our thoughts and actions but by the things we own. We regurgitate “the bigger, the better” and unquestioningly eat ourselves into the thoughtless acquisition of material possessions and debt. We simply cannot help it. We yearn for the huge spikes of happiness that we believe result from having a bigger house, the latest gadget, a fancy sports car or the latest designer handbag.
The problem, however, is that the pursuit of more is never coming to an end. It’s not a smooth journey with a specific destination. Instead, it’s a cycle that we repeat over and over again. We hope to reach the destination (i.e. long-term happiness, joy and fulfillment), but we never arrive. There’s no end to a cycle. The want for more is never satisfied. And it certainly cannot be satisfied by thoughtlessly adding ever more to our lives. We are therefore destined to repeat the whole cycle of pursing more again and again… until we learn the lesson.
“One of the advantages of being born in an affluent society is that if one has any intelligence at all, one will realize that having more and more won’t solve the problem, and happiness does not lie in possessions, or even relationships: The answer lies within ourselves. If we can’t find peace and happiness there, it’s not going to come from the outside.”
Deep down ourselves, we all suspect that happiness does not result from acquiring more. When we look at our lives, we see that they are cluttered with material possessions that are no longer of any value to us. However, before they came into our possession, we desperately wanted them and imagined for hours how they would enrich our lives. Unfortunately, we seldom reflect in retrospect if these things actually added value to our lives. Instead, our focus lies heavily on the future and all the fancy things we wish to acquire next. The problem is that we ignore one fundamental principle that can make all the difference, if understood correctly. We don’t understand that if a certain thing, for instance a Nokia 6110, did not increase our long-term happiness back then, the latest smartphone won’t either. It’s more likely that we’ll consider this particular smartphone as useless trash 10 years from now. Just as we consider the 6110 as “rather inconvenient.”
If adding more does not increase happiness significantly, we might have to reconsider how we think about the entire idea. What if less is more?
The Minimalist Lifestyle
At the very root of a minimalistic lifestyle lies the realization that a simple life can make us happier than the acquisition of any material possession ever can. It helps us to shift our focus from that which is unimportant and distracting to more meaningful and essential aspects of our lives. In fact, a minimalist lifestyle changes everything. It changes how we spend our time and where we invest our energy. There’s no longer the need to have the biggest mansion on the block or the fastest car in the social circle. As a result, there’s no longer the need to spend years of our life in soul-crushing professions in order to pursue a misconception of happiness that will never truly fulfill. Instead, it gives us the freedom to spend more of our time doing things that fulfill us and add meaning and value to our lives.
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Many people realize that what they have acquired so far has not contributed that much to their happiness. However, they interpret this as a sign that they simply need more. More power, more money and more material belongings. The alternative (living a minimalist lifestyle) is seldom considered. It seems unreasonable and illogical. Why should having less make us happier if we’re not even happy with what we have? A terrible misconception.
Let’s explore the manyfold benefits of a minimalist lifestyle. Here’s why less can actually be more.
1. Freedom from consumerism
A minimalist lifestyle can help you to free yourself from the tight grasp material possessions exert on your life. By learning to appreciate what you already have, you become more content with your overall life. Minimalism lays the foundation for desiring less while simultaneously being happier with less. A minimalist lifestyle resembles therefore the liberation from the excesses of consumerism. And by overcoming the consumerist mindset, an important step towards a more simplified and meaningful life can be made.
2. Higher focus on the essentials
Minimalist living does not imply that you have to give away everything you own. Instead, it means to redirect your focus on that which is essential by letting go of everything that doesn’t add value to your life. It means to de-clutter your life by turning it upside down and shaking gently. The possessions, activities and people that are important to you will stick. But everything of little to no importance will be washed away. The result is mental clarity and peace of mind.
It will also help you to spend less time worrying about things that are not important to you.
3. Mental clarity
When you let go of distracting things that add nothing but mental noise to your life, you gain a higher level of mental clarity. It’s therefore a major benefit of a minimalist lifestyle that one is less occupied with trying to acquire material possessions. Instead of owning many distracting things, you have fewer but more meaningful things. In short, minimalism keeps your life clutter free and helps you to establish clarity of mind. Mental clarity in turn enables you to focus more on the things that truly add value and happiness to your life.
4. Less stress
Minimalists are comfortable with less. In fact, a great proportion of their happiness comes from the ability to draw happiness and fulfillment from a simplistic life. They have realized that the pursuit of ever more does not automatically lead to a meaningful existence. Consequently, they no longer feel the need to bend over backwards in order to continue trying to fulfill desires that are insatiable.
If you are more comfortable with having less, you will be less inclined to pursue a profession that you hate in order to bring enough money in so that you can acquire material possessions you don’t even need. This in turn can greatly reduce stress. You’ll have much less to worry about, which helps you to be more mindful of things and activities you really appreciate.
5. Appreciation for the little things in life
The minimalist mindset will help you to understand that you already have everything you need to be happy. Happiness is a choice and can only be found within. That’s the reason why extremely rich people can be just as sad, unhappy and unfulfilled as poor or middle-class people. Nothing external can ever add significantly to your long-term happiness.
Living a minimalist lifestyle makes you a lot more appreciative of the little things in life. Usually, these are the things that are magnificently beautiful, but largely ignored. People these days are heavily occupied chasing more that they have great difficulty to truly appreciate the wonders and joys of their present lives. Instead, they take these things for granted, which makes it incredibly difficult to feel grateful for these little wonders.
6. Purpose and meaning
Deep down ourselves we know that consumerism does not truly satisfy. We understand that all it does is to help us satisfy some of our desires. But it does not add the sense of having a purpose. If a person draws purpose from the mere acquisition and collection of material belongings, they might not be living that much of a meaningful existence.
A minimalist lifestyle is largely centered on the ability to identify and appreciate the meaningful and beautiful aspects in your life. It helps you to steer all your actions towards a more meaningful existence. As a minimalist, you’re less likely trapped in an unsatisfying career path that you only pursue for the money. Instead, minimalism gives you the opportunity of pursuing a profession that adds purpose and meaning to your life.
7. More time
The minimalist lifestyle comes with the great benefit of having more time. Not only will you spend less time with all the activities necessary to acquire material belongings, but you will also spend less time with activities or people that are not meaningful to you. You might no longer feel the need to watch TV for hours or celebrate the birthday of someone you don’t even know or like. And that’s the true beauty of living a minimalist life. It’s not about letting go of things that you hold dear or denying yourself certain experiences. Minimalism is about making room for the really important and meaningful aspects of life.
8. Extra money
It comes as no surprise that you will automatically buy much less if you desire less. In this sense, minimalism is a great way of saving money. It will encourage you to spend less money for the purchase of a great number of things with little to no value for your life. Consequently, you save money and some of this extra money can be used to buy things of a higher quality that really add value to your life.
9. Less comparison
Another great benefit of a minimalist lifestyle is that it puts an end to the comparison game. After all, why should you continue to compare yourself with the wealth or material accomplishments of other people if you don’t even desire these things? With minimalism comes the realization that comparisons are almost always unjust. It’s simply impossible to compare the accomplishments of your life with those of another person. A simplistic lifestyle does not require comparisons. You’ll feel comfortable with what you have and you’ll be just fine with the fact that others have much more (material) things. And once you stop comparing yourself with others, you free yourself from the unhappiness and discontent that comes with unjust comparisons.
10. Less afraid of failure
Admittedly, you’ll be a lot more under pressure when much is at stake. At the same time, if you have much to lose, you will be a lot more afraid of failure than someone who does not have anything to lose. But if you don’t have to pay $2000 a month for a fancy flat and another $800 for a nice car, you’ll be less haunted by the fear of losing it all. Minimalists don’t have much to lose and can be perfectly happy with having nothing more than the bare essentials.
Here are some important tips for you if you consider living a more minimalistic or simplistic life:
- Start with an assessment of your life. Find out what exactly you’re spending your time and money on and evaluate if this is actually necessary or worth it. Usually, people have all kinds of financial commitments that are not even important in the first place. At the same time, they spend a great deal of their time with distracting activities of no true value. See if you can reduce the amount of time and money you spend in a meaningless and unfulfilling manner.
- Discover what is really important. At the root of a minimalist lifestyle lies the ability to discover and cherish what is really important to you. It’s therefore of great importance to develop a good understanding about your priorities. By knowing what is important, you will be better able to focus on the pursuit of the aspects of your life that are of real value to you.
- Get rid of time-wasting activities. We all know the activities that do nothing but waste our time. Some of these activities are pretty entertaining, but they don’t add much value. Have the courage to name these activities as what they are and to eliminate them from your life. You will see that you gain much more than you give up.
- Let go of the things you no longer need. Don’t just keep things because you enjoyed using them 10 years ago. De-clutter your life from everything that you no longer need. Even more importantly, get rid of all those things that no longer add any value to your life.
- Get rid of toxic relationships. Some people are simply toxic. They poison you with their negative attitude, manipulate you to do their bidding or drain your energy. Regardless of what they do, if you feel a person has an extremely negative influence on your life, consider letting the relationship come to an end.
- Focus more on timeliness. Whatever decision you meet, see if there is a more timeless or versatile option. It’s not always a great idea to base your purchasing decisions primarily based on latest (fashion) trends. At the same time, focus on buying things that are of a higher quality that will last much longer.
- Eliminate distractions. If your attention is regularly disrupted by regular electronic notifications or other kinds of distractions, see if you can get rid of them as best as you can. No one needs notifications from Facebook and Twitter. All they do is distract you from focusing on what is essential.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article about the benefits of a minimalistic lifestyle and the reasons why less is more. Be sure to also check out our 40 Tips to Simplify Your Life. What are your experiences in living a minimalistic lifestyle?