Voluntary Simplicity

As you've progressed in your minimalist journey, some well-meaning acquaintances may have asked if you were having financial difficulties, since that's the only reason they can imagine that you would choose to own and buy less.  It's much more common to buy more when you earn more – hence the assumption that you're struggling with money.

Some minimalists explore frugal practices, but not all.  And minimalism certainly isn't about being cheap, nor is it meant to glorify or romanticize real poverty.

a simple path

Not as happy as you'd expect

But study after study shows that the rich people of the world (and if we're in a position to declutter things we don't need, that definitely includes us) are not as happy as one might expect, given their level of comfort and opportunity.

A life of materialism can create feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety.  It consumes huge quantities of natural resources, creates pollution, and makes us less likely to share with those who really are in need.  It turns out that too much stuff, too much busyness, too much distraction, too much food, and too much debt is a ruinous combination.

Minimalism helps you own what feels right for you, what you need and what you enjoy, without having excess that makes your life more complicated than you would like.  If you 

  • often have trouble finding the things you need because of clutter 
  • find that your schedule is so packed you're constantly impatient and on edge
  • have no funds for an emergency or a good cause
  • are deep in debt but just can't stop shopping

then you're not living a life that meets your needs.  In that situation, you're probably not as happy as you could be.

In contrast, a minimalist removes the things that weigh her down, keep her too busy, or take energy and money away from things she'd rather be doing.  The choice is deliberate, purposeful, intentional.  It's voluntary simplicity.

It's okay to start small.  Remove clutter from your work area, and notice that you can focus more easily and streamline your productivity, resulting in less stress.  Remove clutter from your kitchen, and notice that it's easier to prepare meals and even eat more healthfully.  Remove clutter from your calendar, and notice that you're less rushed while enjoying your chosen activities more.  The results will ripple outward from wherever you start.

Minimalists have plenty of luxuries.  

They're just different from the ones most people choose.

Minimalism puts the emphasis on things that money can't buy, like time, space, purpose, energy, peace, satisfying work and satisfying relationships.  Things we all want which can get squeezed out by our consumerist, hyper-busy culture.

Minimalism's only guideline is less:  less clutter, less debt, less busyness, and less stress.  You decide what level of less will allow you to more effectively enjoy the people, activities, and things that bring value to your life.

Updated February 2023


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