Minimalism has become a movement these days.
Moving from beyond just a term, it embodies a vision, lifestyle, and path forward for a lot of people who are drowning in debt, jobs, and stuff.
I’m not huge on labels these days.
A label is good at quickly conveying a more complicated idea, but I think it’s better to simply live the life that makes you happiest – regardless of what society wants to label or call it.
With that in mind, I think the minimalism label, now that it’s gone “mainstream”, has become muddied.
It’s just like anything else in life. When an idea attracts a lot of people, you develop these factions of varying extremes. Human beings are very tribal.
To some people (like myself), minimalism means you own very little physical possessions.
To other people, minimalism means you downsize from a 4,000-square-foot mansion into a 2,000-square-foot house. You go from three luxury cars to two Toyotas. That kind of thing.
The latter is still extremely helpful on both the micro and macro levels, but I’d say it’s a rather liberal application of what minimalism is all about.
To each their own, but I’ve applied minimalism in a way that, in my opinion, is much closer to its full potential: I live a very simple life and physically possess only that which provides my life with daily value and happiness.
It’s not about conforming to a definition, though. It’s about doing what’s best for me.
Everything I own can fit inside of two small bags.
Owning very little certainly made moving abroad much easier, as I describe in my recent best-selling book: 5 Steps To Retire In 5 Years.
Now, I don’t live like I do because I can’t afford to own a lot of stuff.
It’s just that this way of living makes me happier. I feel more free. And I’m more content and satisfied than ever before.
The More You Have, The More You Want
I think there’s a big difference between the two ends of the “stuff” spectrum.
On one end of the spectrum are the people who own a lot of stuff.
We’ll call these people “maximalists”.
Those who own a lot of things tend to simultaneously want more things. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t own a lot of stuff in the first place. It didn’t happen by magic or accident.
They find temporary thrills (instead of lasting happiness) in the new purchase of Item X or Y. And so this action must be repeated over and over again, which creates a process in which the accumulation of more stuff comes at the expense of their money, time, and freedom.
The more you have, the more you want. And the more luxurious these things become, the more luxury you’ll want across your life. This is the Diderot Effect.
It’s counterintuitive to want more when you already have more, which makes the conundrum that much more confounding.
A maximalist places value in the size of the mass of their stuff. The bigger that mass is, the more valuable it thus must be. It becomes a thing where more is automatically assumed to be better. Because… well… more.
More money, more house, more clothes, more everything.
The problem with the “more is better” mantra is that there’s no end to it. More has no end point. It’s not a destination. And so it’s next to impossible to find contentment or peace when that’s your mantra.
Furthermore, working against whatever contentment you might be able to squeeze out of that lifestyle, is the fact that you’re committing to ever-more work in order to afford that lifestyle, all while experiencing ever-more worry about your ever-growing pile of stuff.
You’re working more, to make more money, to afford more stuff… all while chipping away at your freedom and contentment. You’re spending more to be less happy. It’s silly.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have the minimalist.
Their mantra is “less is more”.
Less stuff, more freedom. Less job, more life. And less worry, more happy.
When you downsize your life into only what’s necessary to execute the daily routine that you enjoy the most, you’ve arrived at a destination. You’ve found your enough. There’s so much peace and contentment in this, which shouldn’t be discounted.
Being able to right-size your life has immense value in and of itself, for there’s the knowledge that you’ve actually completed something. It’s not a never-ending journey into an abyss.
Meanwhile, being able to do this means you’ve eradicated yourself of this kind of sickness that most of society appears to be infected with, freeing you to pursue your passions. It’s addition through subtraction.
Finally, you’re more free when you’re living this way. No one wants to be chained to a mountain of stuff, debt, and work.
The less you have, the less you want.
It’s intuitive. You find the benefits so clear and present when you live this way, it wouldn’t come across your mind to ever want more stuff. The more you downsize, the more you want to downsize. It’s a holistic and circular lifestyle that feeds back into itself.
You Value Each Item That Much More, And You Learn More About Value
The movie Castaway was on the TV the other night.
I saw this movie for the first time years ago. But it was neat to re-watch it now that I’m on the other side of some major lifestyle transitions.
I noticed how much Tom Hanks’ character (Chuck Noland) in the movie valued this volleyball he named Wilson (based on the ball’s brand).
Wilson became his best friend, confidant, and sole companion throughout his time being marooned on the island.
Now, would Chuck have valued a volleyball so much if he were never marooned on an uninhabited island?
Of course not. It’d be just another trinket in a pile of trinkets.
But because he owned so little, that volleyball’s value skyrocketed.
Well, the same thing has happened in my life.
When you own only what can fit inside of two small bags, the value of each item becomes much greater. You’re able to take a more accurate inventory of your life. And you cherish what you decide to keep.
I have a laptop, a smartphone, some clothes, and a few personal effects. And I value each of those items far more profoundly than the average consumer. There’s no doubt about that.
My laptop may as well be my Wilson.
Likewise, when you decide to downsize to that extreme level (not something I’m necessarily recommending to you), you naturally only keep what you actually highly value in your life.
If keeping an item isn’t a hell yes, it’s a no.
Moreover, you learn to let go of valuing yourself (or your ego) based on what you own.
In a world that identifies your value based on the job you have, the car you drive, and the neighborhood you live in, adapting minimalism is a great way to develop your authenticity as a person and your real worth to society.
It’s precisely when you own less that you have more options and freedom, which is when you’re finally able to explore who you are and what you want. You can find yourself. You can (and likely will) become the genuine article.
Downsizing into a minimalist is an excellent exercise in developing your personal value system. And it’s a great way to build a keen sense of value.
Society often equates price with value. The more something costs, the more it’s supposedly worth. This is why luxury brands often have a certain cachet.
Well, living with such a small number of items has taught me quite a bit about intrinsic value and the true worth of certain items in my life, which has translated over into the investor side of my life.
Becoming a minimalist has surely helped me become a better investor.
Minimalism has helped me cut through the noise, almost completely disregard price, and get right down into the true value of something.
Being able to do that is invaluable for an investor.
Less is more.
It’s a mantra that’s infiltrated my sense of self right down to the core.
And it’s greatly improved my life across the board. I feel more free, content, and happy than ever before.
I’m also a more confident, insightful, and vigilant investor as a result. I’ve never felt better about being able to ignore the noise and separate price from value than I do today.
The more you have, the more you want. But the less you have, the less you want.
Indeed, I couldn’t imagine a world in which I’d ever want to own much more than I currently do. I’ve brought my ownership of physical possessions down to what can fit inside of two bags – and it’s pretty likely I’ll stay at that level for the long term.
What do you think? Has minimalism improved your life? Do you also believe that less is more?
Thanks for reading.
Image courtesy of: phanlop88 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
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