Minimalists are mindful consumers who only keep high-functioning items in their life. This movement arose  to counteract the hyper-consumerist nature of many developed societies, including America. Americans are bombarded with choices every day and can be overwhelmed by the sheer number of options available. Minimalism seeks to treat that issue by living without excess. Marie Kondo, often thought of as a pioneer in minimalist mindsets, advises consumers to only keep items in their life that “spark joy”.

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The popularity of minimalism largely coincides with the popularity of the zero waste movement.  Due to this inherent link, many minimalist philosophies tie together with zero-waste practices. For example, the zero waste movement commonly encourages consumers to invest in quality products that will last a long period of time and create little-to-no waste. Many minimalists abide by that same methodology by either buying or holding onto items that will last a long time.

Minimalism has a very loose definition that is open to interpretation. It might be difficult to know where to start, or what path is the “right” path towards minimalism. After extensive research, here are some principles that are commonly associated with the lifestyle.

Frugality

Many minimalists consider themselves to be frugal. Although this doesn’t always overlap with financial hardship, it is often used as a way to prevent excess spending and make truly conscious decisions about the belongings in your life.

Diet

Veganism, vegetarianism, and overall “clean eating” are common in the minimalist lifestyle. This branches out into a more broad idea of excess, in that consuming animal products produces excess carbon emissions and waste into the environment.

Value of time

When you own fewer belongings, you tend to spend less time cleaning, organizing, and looking for things. This allows you to spend that extra time on more fulfilling activities.

What Does Minimalism Look Like?

With just a quick search on Instagram for the minimalism hashtag, you can see what social media portrays minimalism to be. The empty space and lack of clutter gives the impression of luxury. Almost looking like a staged home or hotel room, this style of design encourages few material objects, with the idea that unnecessary material belongings do not hold the key to happiness. True beauty lies in simplicity.

via Instagram app

While many abide by a strict minimalist diet, keeping a quantitative goal of how many items they allow themselves to own, others abide by a looser structure, keeping any items that are truly important to them.

While it may be easy to think that fewer belongings would cost less, that is not always the case.

Will Becoming a Minimalist Save You Money?

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It depends. If you decided to throw away all of your possessions and buy new ones, then no. It will not save you money.

One of the benefits of minimalism is the freedom to act within it. There are no strict guidelines to the label, and you can be a minimalist no matter how many items are in your life.

Minimalism will likely not increase your income, at least not directly. However, there are ways to make it decrease your expenses. Here are some ways to implement minimalism into your life without breaking the bank:

Shop secondhand

This is a great way to get high-quality furniture/clothing/etc. without a high budget. If an item is being sold second hand, you know what the item looks like after some wear and tear, and you can rest assured that it will last.

Keep the things you love

You don’t have to abide by the instagrammable #minimalism interior design style. Minimalism in the media is often characterized by black/white/earth toned color palettes and simple designs, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Instead of overhauling all of your furniture, keep the items that you love and only buy new items that will bring you joy.

Cut back on single-use expenses

This tip is more to reduce clutter and waste. By purchasing items that will last longer instead of single-use items, you will automatically have fewer belongings. Some easy switches are using cloth masks instead of disposable ones, investing in quality cookware instead of ordering takeout, and using rags instead of paper towels.

Sell the items you don’t need

When you first embark on this minimalist expedition, you’ll realize that there are many things that you just don’t need in your life. Selling those items is a great option for your finances and for the environment. Throwing them away will go directly to landfill and donating them has a high chance of going to a landfill as well. Selling your items will put them directly in the hands of the next owner and will earn you some extra cash.

How to Get Started:

Once you decide that minimalism is right for you, it can be overwhelming to get started. Here are some ways to dabble in this lifestyle as a beginner.

  • Live out of a suitcase for a month. This can be an insightful way to assess your understanding of your belongings. You can determine what you pack in the suitcase that you ended up not using and what you wish you had packed over the course of the month.
  • Keep a log of everything you use over the course of a week. Everything not in this log at the end of the week is on the chopping block.
  • Assess each habit you have, and find ways to make each one more minimalist-friendly. This is a great way to gradually ease into minimalist thinking.

Final Thoughts

Minimalism has gained traction in recent years as a way to escape from materialistic ideals often instilled in capitalist societies. It is a mindset that provides freedom from choice and values experiences over material possessions.

Critics of this lifestyle claim that this way of frugal living is a privileged way to act less financially fortunate. The problem of having too many belongings starts with an excess of money to spend, which is not the case for many Americans.The conscious choice to be a minimalist and rid yourself of belongings is a privilege that assumes the ease of access to high-quality, long-lasting items. For those in less fortunate situations, frugal living is forced upon them and instead of the label “minimalism”, it is just called making ends meet. This is still a largely debated topic, with some minimalists making the case that minimalism can be implemented regardless of financial status. There is no clear answer, but definitely something to consider when making the transition.

With some creative interpretation, you can use minimalism as a way to cut costs and reach your financial goals. If nothing else, it can at least make you more conscious about your belongings and spending habits.