The digital age has made it easier than ever to get wrapped up in consumer culture. We’re constantly bombarded with advertisements enticing us to buy the next great thing, and there’s always the temptation to keep up with our neighbors.
But is all this consumption actually good for us? The unfortunate truth is that many of the tech advances we rely on every day are hijacking our brains, fueling our thirst for social approval and our fear of missing out. Research from the American Psychological Association has found that these and other factors have made Americans “more likely to report feeling the effects of stress” than in the past.
In reality, the best way to eliminate this stress from our lives is to embrace a more minimalistic lifestyle — and this doesn’t mean that you have to give up all your possessions, either. Instead, as The Minimalists explain, “Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment and freedom.”
So how can you start living a more minimalistic life today? Here are a few ways you can get started.
1) Practice Self-Restraint
For many people, learning to exercise self-restraint is one of the biggest obstacles to embracing minimalism. Impulsive decisions may feel great in the moment, but more often than not, they lead to wasted money and regret.
Rather than simply buying something because you want it right now, take a moment to consider why you actually want it. Is it something you’ll still use a year from now? Is it built to last? A few extra moments can help you avoid buyer’s remorse.
As professor Douglas T. Kendrick notes, exercising self-restraint is also much easier when we “capitalize on the immense power of stimulus control.” In other words, if you have trouble avoiding impulse buys, don’t go shopping in that tempting location in the first place.
2) Develop Gratitude
A cornerstone of minimalism is that you aren’t constantly looking for more — instead, you are content with the things you already have. Feelings of gratitude can envelop all aspects of your life, from being more appreciative of friends and family to focusing on the convenience and enjoyment you get from the possessions you already own.
Make a conscious effort to cultivate feelings of gratitude. You could even write down a list of the things you have in your life that you’re grateful for. As you do this, it becomes much easier to be content with what you have, eliminating the misconception that buying more will bring you greater happiness.
3) Use Tools That Help You Spend Less
While exercising self-restraint can eliminate impulse buys and unnecessary wants, many people still struggle with overspending on basic needs. While minimalism doesn’t require that you give up spending entirely, a key part of it is that you spend less — and thankfully, there are plenty of tools to help you out.
The Wolfie app helps users connect to local businesses that are offering special deals. No matter where you live, this includes companies that address actual needs — not just wants.
For example, should you live in the northeast and find yourself in need of some untimely dental work, a quick search using Wolfie might not only lead you to a place like Dental Beauty, but take you there with a discount on an otherwise painfully (pun intended) expensive procedure.
Of course, the same applies for other costly, yet necessary purchases: auto repair, real estate, tax filing, etc. Doing thing this way, Wolfie — amongst a host of other like-minded tools — will help you keep more money in your wallet for the things that matter most.
4) Eliminate the Clutter
As you probably suspected, to truly embrace minimalism, you need to remove the excess clutter and purge unnecessary things from your life. While going through your closet to get rid of unwanted clothes is a great way to start, material possessions aren’t the only way our lives can become overcrowded.
The negative effects of over-scheduling children with extracurricular activities has been well-documented, but the same principles apply during one’s adult life as well. Adding too many commitments and activities on top of your most essential responsibilities can bring stress and anxiety. Eliminating the unessential from your life will help you find peace.
5) Live Life
Perhaps the most important step on your journey to a minimalist lifestyle is coming to the realization that happiness isn’t dependent on the things you own. A new book or phone is only a temporary source of happiness. What brings true joy and lasting memories are the friendships you cultivate and the things you go out and experience.
Rather than focusing on possessions, find the activities and people that bring you joy. Whether this involves dedicating time to a hobby or setting aside one night a month to go out with friends for some face-to-face interaction, enjoying life for its experiences — and not for the items that so often fill it — will ultimately bring lasting contentment and help you kill off those excessive buying habits once and for all.
Minimalism isn’t as much a lifestyle as it is a mindset — a mindset that helps you focus on what really matters, eliminate unnecessary excess from your life and find greater purpose in your day-to-day activities. As you embrace minimalism, you won’t try to find happiness through possessions or social media likes. Instead, you’ll find lasting satisfaction through a more meaningful lifestyle.