Can everyone become a minimalist? In 2017 when we decided to begin traveling full time, we sold our house and most of our belongings, to finance our dream. Traveling is fantastic, but all of a sudden we became minimalists too. An unexpected gift and something we will never step away from again. And why is that?
1. Clutter distracts you
Have you ever had the feeling of being about to explode, because there’s too much stuff on your desk or because your living room looks like a mess, even though you’ve barely used it today? That’s what clutter does to you.
Some people may say, that a lot of stuff around them, sparks their creativity, but that only works for very few people. I’m a very creative soul myself and do a lot of writing, designing jewelry, working on digital platforms, etc. and because I live in a camper it’s very easy for me to get distracted by stuff I don’t need for the task at hand. Simply because of the lack of space. That clutter absolutely doesn’t inspire me. It distracts me. If my laptop is open and I am working on a piece of jewelry, it’s hard for me to abstract from what is going on with my latest blog post or how my newsletter is performing. In no time, I find myself putting half the effort into two things, instead of focusing on just one. I’m sure, this has happened to you too. Several times.
The same thing happens when you try to work or relax and take a glance at the ugly picture frame your Aunt gave you last year for Christmas. Your mind starts wandering off. Could you do something to make it look better? Would it be okay to move it into the guest room? What would Auntie say, if she found out? During that time you have done absolutely no work or relaxing. An unwanted picture frame distracted you.
You need to get rid of all the stuff that distracts you, to be both more productive and calm. Let’s be honest. You have one or several things in your home, that others wanted to throw out, but you thought it was a pity, right? You also have things, that someone has given you, but you actually dislike those things. You even have a few things, that you have bought by mistake, but since you’ve paid for them you keep them. Am I right?
All those things send out bad and distracting energy. You need to get rid of them. Why not do it once and for all, and if Auntie asks about the picture frame, you have a good excuse: I have become a minimalist.
2. You can’t buy happiness
When we began packing our belongings into moving boxes 3 years ago, we literally went through every item and decided whether to keep it or not. We had to, because our belongings had to be stored, while we are traveling. We actually sold and gave away more than half of everything. As we were going through our things, we discovered so much useless stuff, that we didn’t even care about. Things we had bought because they made us happy at the moment. Or at least that’s what we thought. When reflecting upon it, we found out, that we had tried to fill a hole inside, by buying stuff. A hole that wasn’t really about a new flat-screen TV, a pretty sweater, or a 15 piece set of cutting knives for the kitchen. It was a hole, that wanted to be filled with time, adventure, and joy. None of that could be replaced by buying things.
Realizing that was an epiphany for us. Imagine how much money we had wasted on piling up like that, without even becoming happy. That became the base of our life as minimalists. I, for one, quickly realized that I had 3 kinds of clothes. My favorite clothes that I wore all the time, the clothes I would wear if my favorites were dirty and the never-used clothes I had no idea of owning or remember buying. I kept the first category and got rid of the others.
The same happened in the kitchen, where I had so many utensils, that someone might have mistaken me for a hoarder. Cupboards and drawers were full of things, even though I only used a few of them. As in the rest of the house. I ended up with 20 moving boxes, 3 pieces of furniture, and a bike. All the things I kept made me happy.
3. Own only favorite things
Imagine getting up in the morning, going to your wardrobe, closing your eyes, pulling out a random blouse, opening your eyes, looking at that blouse and feel happy inside, because it’s your favorite blouse. That’s how a minimalist feels and that’s how we live now.
Due to the lack of space, we only surround ourselves with our absolute favorite things. Our favorite clothes, our favorite coffee cups, our favorite facial creams, and even small things like our favorite pens. We never have a hard time deciding what to wear or use, because everything is our favorite. It sounds like a dream right? It’s easy to do. Just get rid of everything, that comes in second. When you think about it, why on earth would you want second best anyway? We all want the best because it makes us happy. That’s why becoming a minimalist and opt-out all the stuff that doesn’t give you joy, is the obvious choice.
As an extra bonus to our new lifestyle, I also changed the course for birthday and Christmas presents. My friends and family felt really sad, that they couldn’t gift me anything, because I was traveling and they desperately asked me, how we solved that. I thought to myself, that I actually have everything that I need, so I came up with one single wish: Time. Next time, we met they could gift me their time. It has been amazing! I have been out for dinner with my father, out for lunch with my daughter, have had my best friend cook me to brunch and so much more. I have been spending valuable time with people I cherish, talking, laughing, and enjoying. Again, things that you can’t buy. It’s like a gift wrapped in a hug.
4. Take care of the environment
I read an article one day, based on an American study. It wrote that more than half of all Christmas presents are never used after Christmas. Only to a very small extent anyway. Most children’s toys are discarded after half a year. Either because they are defective or no longer interesting. It’s scary to think about.
It can’t be a surprise to anyone that the earth is suffering, because of human’s overspending. We use up the natural resources and replace them with our leftovers, and an ecosystem can’t handle that kind of abuse. Deciding to become a minimalist will not save the world all at once, but at least you will know that you are not a part of this thoughtless killing of nature, and hopefully, more people will join your ideology.
In our camper, we don’t only surround ourselves with fewer things. We also only use fewer resources. We have a water tank with a capacity of 120 liters and even though that water is used for washing the dishes, washing our selves and flushing the toilet, we can easily go for 4-5 days without refilling the tank. We have learned to save water because we had to. And we actually still do, even when we for some reason stay at places with unlimited water supply. Its a habit now.
The camper also has no direct power supply, only a battery that runs on power stored while driving or from the solar panel on the roof. So we don’t use a lot of electricity and we think smart. We mostly charge our phones and laptop while we drive, which is free electricity, and charging without driving is done through 12V outlets. Yes, it takes a bit more time to charge like that, but it saves resources and 12V outlets can easily be installed in regular homes too. Since we don’t have a bunch of irrelevant electrical gadgets, we also don’t waste electricity on things like standby power, as we used to do.
Because our fridge is small and we can’t go to the supermarket every day, we also think a lot about planning meals ahead and using leftovers. To be honest, that wasn’t the case earlier. So maybe downsizing your fridge could also help you save electricity and avoid food waste? Every little thing you do will leave the earth grateful.
5. Set yourself free
Don’t we all hate cleaning? Well, some individuals like it, but they would still benefit from minimalism. What if you didn’t have all those knick-knacks everywhere collecting dust? What if you just had a few pieces of light furniture and not a ton of plaids and pillows creating dust bunnies? Wouldn’t that be great? Wouldn’t it be great if you only had a minimum of clothing items, so doing the laundry wouldn’t take forever? Think of all the time and suffering you could avoid. Also when choosing what to wear.
Think about how fantastic it would be if you could walk through your home smiling, because everything you looked at, was your favorite things. Things that had all been chosen carefully because of their functionality, comforts, or a good and true feeling in your heart. 3 years ago I found minimalism interesting, but not a lifestyle just anybody can adopt.
But it is, and the feeling you get when you’ve freed yourself from useless stuff is one of the best feelings ever. All of a sudden you have more space, not only around you but also inside your head. Ideas will flow better, problems will seem smaller, tasks will be easier and at the same time, you have become somewhat an environmentalist, without even breaking a sweat. As I see it, there are no downsides to becoming a minimalist.
All the money you save on not buying worthless things or wasting unnecessary resources, you can put into a bank account. First of all, it will amaze you, how much you had actually spent earlier on things that didn’t make you happy. Later you will have enough money to live out some of your dreams. Maybe it’s to go on the travel of your dreams or simply buy a camper and take your minimalistic life even further.
- Text and photos: Eva