Minimalist Mindset: How living a minimalist lifestyle can benefit your life
Over time I developed a mindset where I cared less about things. This has helped me when hitting refresh and going on a five month leave. In the past I had skipped on refreshing because I was – at that time – overwhelmed with what to do with my stuff. Which is something I sincerely regret.
I want to take you on this journey of how I stopped valuing the things I own as more important than experiences. If you are in a similar situation and feel burdened by your things, I hope my minimalist lifestyle can inspire you!
Living a minimalist life
The three biggest impacts a minimalist mindset has had on my life:
1. I now share my apartment with others.
I don’t need all the space in my apartment, so I rent two rooms out and apart from having amazing roommates who enrich my life I am saving on rent which easily eats half my available income.
2. I spend less money on ‘stuff’
I am happy without having the latest i-Phone, buying every book I read, or keeping up with the latest fast-fashion trends.
3. It allows me to rent my apartment out while I am away WITHOUT having to store my belongings each time.
I wondered if renting my apartment for a short stints was worth the trouble. Having to pack up everything I own, rent a truck, schlep everything down the stairs, then pay for a storage unit…only to move everything back to my place when I’m back and having to unpack, and even ask friends to help out. Is it really worth it?
So instead I decided on further decluttering using the KonMari-Method and made room for a lovely girl who was happy to find a place to stay. I narrowed down my belongings to one small box of items and left it at a with a friend who agreed to store everything that would be heart-breaking to loose. If you need help on how to declutter and downsize before moving abroad check out these 7 steps.
So it basically boils down to, if things are too important for you, they will end up eating up a lot of your time and money.
When my consumerism hit me
I love traveling by bike for various reasons and my bike has been a part of my journey to becoming a minimalist and helping me reflect on my consumption.
On my first long-distance bicycle tour I went from Shanghai to Singapore – that’s about 8000km (4971 mi). It’s on this trip were the costs of our consumerist-lifestyle really hit me. On the third day out of Shanghai, I was cycling along factories that dyed clothes and work with a variety of chemicals which pollutes the air, water, overall environment.
Being on my bike, the air-quality really affected me. It was so bad, that even though I wore a filter-mask to minimize the effect of pollution, I still felt sick. I started to think about all the things I bought in the preceding months that had all been manufactured. Which all added to this pollution.
I decided I was never-ever going to consume anything ever again. However, the next day as I passed pharmaceutical plants, I realized that this isn’t exactly an option, but the thought, the urge to consume less, stuck to me.
Do you own your things or do your things own you?
When I travel by bike, I have to carry everything I need and use on a daily basis with me. Every time I go uphill, the weight holds me back, making the journey harder. This is a very obvious metaphor for the things in our lives. As yourself, “do you own your things, Or do they own you?” There were things that I had to take with me, but of course there were things that I didn’t need.
The same can be said in your home. Every item in your home is using up a part of your energy and space. Some things are important – like the cup for your coffee in the morning or the tools you need to fix something or just hang a picture. Some things help you grow – that inspiring book. Some things help you remember good times – a thoughtful present or the photos from a special trip.
However, some things don’t serve any purpose for us anymore. We keep them out of duty – ‘it was a present’ – ‘but I always wanted to learn Russian‘, ‘this cup [which I don’t like anymore and don’t need] was really expensive’ and – this especially applies to books – ‘because you just keep these‘.
Another reason for me to keep things is that they symbolize something. For example my collection of travel books from the places I’ve been. They represent my relationship to travel. But do I really need them? If am long-term traveling or living abroad, I don’t really need this symbol of traveling anymore.
One of the biggest reasons why we hold on to things is because ‘just in case.’ We keep things just in case we need them one day in the future. Which I think is totally fine if you live on a farm and have a huge barn to store all these things. But most of us live in places where space is, limited, valuable, and expensive.
Figuring out what to keep
For some people figuring out what to keep is easier than the actual process of getting rid of their things. When you assess your things, you’re figuring out what is so important, invaluable and irreplaceable that you want to keep it?
Visualize WHY you want to have less things. What is the goal you can achieve if there is less stuff in your life? What does the additional space make possible? In my case it has meant transitioning to a living in a shared space, as well as needing less furniture. For example, I halved the size of my book shelf and my closet. This additional space has allowed me to invite and seat a larger groups of friends and family to mine, which I totally enjoy. It allowed me to rent out the extra rooms in my apartment while I am traveling without having to remove anything I own.
For me, the KonMari-Method was a real game changer. The concept is that you group all things of one category on a pile (books, shirts, coffee mugs, etc.) Pick them up, one at a time, and listen to yourself to see if they make you happy or not. If they don’t make you happy, you thank them and then get rid of them.
The most precious things
I asked a friend if I could store everything that is really valuable to me at his place while I travel and rent my room out. He agreed and even came around with his car to pick up my stuff and I hoped we would only have to make one trip. He initially offered me a lot of space on his attic and I hoped it would be enough.
After decluttering my life and becoming a minimalist, I surprisingly just ended up with one small, not-even full box. It mainly contained my diaries, calendars, diplomas and certificates and a few pieces of jewelry I inherited.
What about everything else? I left my books and furniture in my apartment, and mind you if anything is taken or breaks I wouldn’t be happy. But I wouldn’t be heart-broken and these things aren’t irreplaceable. Looking back, I was shocked that a year earlier, my stuff was part in what was holding me back to hit refresh.
Having less makes it easier to let go
All this decluttering and listening to different minimizing and purging YouTube-channels led to my change in perspective. It helped me realize that it’s just stuff – it’s not that important in my life journey. None of these things I can keep forever.
And it’s weird – the less I owned, the easier it became for me to let go. I realized I didn’t miss my things. I realized I didn’t need them. I became aware of the things I actually used and needed, and which things were just in the way.
Every time I get rid of an item I’m happy because I will never have to use any energy on it again. Also, someone else will be able to make use of it. I never had the feeling that I had to replace something that I gave away. An additional bonus was that I actually felt less like getting new things that I inevitably would have to make space for somewhere.
Knowing what you need and what you don’t need
On my last bicycle tour I packed non-cycling clothing, but some items didn’t match each other. A yellow shirt just doesn’t go with an orange skirt. Since I had just a few items of clothing this was a bit of an issue.
I didn’t want to be in the same situation again, carrying things I don’t need. Luckily my previous purging prepared me for this, as I learned what I need, what I don’t, and what makes me feel comfortable. Prioritizing became much easier.
So this time around, I was more aware of what matches and packed black clothes, choosing three shirts that I loved and felt comfortable in. Knowing that these were the three shirts I would be wearing for the next five months I wanted to make sure I would feel great when wearing them. It’s not just about having less, it’s also about truly loving the items you decide to keep.
Last thoughts on minimalism
Life is too short to drag around excess stuff and have it hold us back. Live light. Concentrate of what is important to you and what helps you on your life’s journey!
Travel light. Your adventure is awaiting you!