There are three things that kicked my financial mindset in a totally different direction years ago: The concept of Financial Independence (I don’t have to work forever?!?), the book The Wealthy Barber Returns (taught me that finance can and should be interesting), and the documentary Minimalism. I’ve discussed the first two in older blog posts. but what can you gain from minimalism?
The first time I watched “Minimalism: A documentary about the important things” I was stunned. It was a completely different way of life, and there’s always some part of me that’s drawn to extremes. Am I a minimalist now? Not at all. I easily own a dozen coffee mugs; they likely wouldn’t let me into the club on that aspect alone. However, I still highly recommend watching the documentary (It’s on Netflix!) because there were principles worth considering.
I watched it at a time that I was living with a man in his very expensive and large house.
He was obsessed with things and status.
Fancy house, pricey liquor, sports cars (or *ahem* “super cars”), designer furniture and decor.
Everything was beautiful to look at, but he was one of the most unhappy people I’ve met.
He hated his job. His whole mood would shift on Sunday night thinking about going to work Monday. But he couldn’t walk away from it, because that lifestyle requires a certain kind of income.
I remember thinking that I viewed life so differently. I love the small things: Baking, getting outside with my dog, being active, lazy coffee mornings. What I wanted was time and fun, not more things.
[Needless to say, that relationship did not work out. Pretend to be surprised]
There were 4 main concepts in the documentary that stuck with me.
What can you gain from Minimalism?
1) “There’s a template called the American dream, or keeping up with the Joneses. But it’s just A template, not THE template”
So much of life is lived in automatic habitual behavior. You don’t even realize how much advertisements and media shape what you view as “normal”. Minimalism allows you to take a step back and figure out what works for you. Have you ever questioned WHY you want the things you want? Do you actually really even want them, or are they just what people do? You get one life. Design it by your own rules for maximum happiness. I always suggest doing the Ten Things Exercise to figure out what actually makes you happy. Determine your list, compare to your current life, and adjust as necessary.
2) Take a look “up” before you attempt to climb the ladder
There was a (very, very attractive) man on the documentary that was discussing his ah-ha moment. He was being offered a job promotion to everything he thought he dreamed of, and realized at that moment his life would be over. He looked at the guy above him, and did not want his life. So he walked away.
It’s important to look above you before you start devoting your life to climbing a corporate ladder. Do you really want that persons life? Sure, you may want your bosses paychecks. But do you truly want their life? The hours, the stress, the demands. Do they see their family? Do they get weekends off? Make conscious decisions in life about what you’re willing to suffer for, because you can never get time back.
3) “We’re living our lives depending on the space we’ve got, rather than creating our space to fit our needs”
In other words, choose your home wisely. How many bedrooms do you really need? Do you even use the dining room?
Wasting space is one of the most irresponsible things you can do financially. Typically the larger the space, the bigger the housing bill. You’ll also feel the need to buy things to fill that space. Heat costs more. It can be a massive waste.
Choose a home that satisfies your requirements, but really consider what those are. Imagine needing to spend less years working simply by giving up a bedroom.
4) “Use things, and love people. The opposite never works”
Unfortunately, you cannot buy your way to happiness. After your basic needs are met, the happiness points of extra money begin dropping off rapidly.
People purchase things in an attempt to fit in. Maybe you picture what impression you outfit will give people, or what your home decor says about you as a person. Humans have a need to belong.
The way to get closer to people is not by purchasing things to impress them though. It’s about being authentic. Making time for them. Truly being someone of value. If you want great people in your corner, be a great person in theirs. Like attracts like. Best part? It’s totally free to be a good human.
I will likely never be a true minimalist.
I like a tidy home and hate clutter. However, I will never be someone who owns only 2 pairs of jeans or doesn’t have a bookshelf. The mindset around minimalism appeals to me much more than the idea of “owning less”. I love how minimalism focuses on value and intentionality in life. Make sure the life you’re living has a purpose and fits within what really holds value to YOU.
Watch the documentary; it’s well worth your time.
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