8 Valuable Lessons I Learned from Becoming a Minimalist

Originally appeared on my blog.

Some time ago, I decided to be minimalistic. Not because it’s trendy and sounds fancy to describe myself as a minimalist. I simply started to experience all the benefits associated with having less: less garbage, fewer distractions, fewer obligations. I’m far from an extreme minimalist, but I already jettisoned unimaginably large amount of stuff. I’m definitely closer to the desired point than I was a year ago. It’s hard to tell exactly when it all started, but I can easily tell my why and my who.

My “why” to embracing the minimalistic approach to life was the overwhelming feeling that comes with a mindless consumerism. It comes whenever you add a new item to a never-ending list of stuff that surrounds you. I couldn’t really answer my why for having so much, but I could easily list tons of arguments to declutter. So I began actually either throwing away or contributing.

There were two “whos” that served as a source of inspiration. The first serious influencer was Leo Babauta from Zenhabits. His approach to life opened my eyes and encouraged me to start this journey. As I was enthusiastically absorbing more minimalism-related stuff, I stumbled upon TheMinimalists founded by two guys, Joshua, and Ryan. While Zenhabits showed me the how, TheMinimalists showed me the why behind this lifestyle.

Today, I’d like to share 8 valuable lessons I learned after welcoming minimalism.

1. You don’t even remember what you got rid of

When I look back in the past, it’s actually impossible to remember most of the stuff you removed. Most of the things were so frivolous and worthless, so it’s no wonder my mind quickly removed it from the memory.

I didn’t know this at the beginning, though. So I was asking myself a lot of superfluous questions. What if at some point I’ll really need this thing? What with all the memories attached to that item? Maybe I should wait and see? You get the point.

Rationalizing at its finest. But back then, it wasn’t so obvious to me that “some point” will never come and the memories will last anyway, which bring us to the next lesson.

2. Memories live in mind, not on the shelf

One of the excuses I could easily come up with were memories attached to various things I owned. Some items had different stories behind them, so removing them was like losing the valuable and interesting stories as well. In fact, the beautiful part of any story stays in your mind. I could have lost that thing accidentally as well, would it expunge what is in me? Definitely not.

Grasping this helped me to clear my shelves and eventually give them away to people who needed them. The benefit? Way more space which feels unimaginably better comparing to a cluttered room.

3. Organizing is not always the best choice

Back then, when my space was filled with many different items, I was also spending wasting a lot of time on organizing stuff. I didn’t even question the purpose of this task, I just did. As you can probably imagine, it can be really time-consuming and there is no benefit in doing that. Sure, a tidy room is a tidy mind, but why would you do this the hard way? When you remove most of the crap in the first place, then cleaning becomes quick as a wink.

Joshua actually helped me to truly comprehend this lesson:

The easiest way to organize your stuff is to get rid of most of it.
— JoshuaFieldsMillburn (@JFM) June 17, 2014

So when it comes to possessions, the best move you can make in order to organize is to throw away most of them.

4. Possessions overwhelm you

I learned it once I renovated the room I work in. Before the renovation, it was completely stocked with unnecessary furniture filled with needless stuff I wasn’t using at all. After transformation, a clear space where I can work focused, without being constantly distracted and feeling overwhelmed.

The more you have, the more obligated you are. What I’m getting at is you have to clean your stuff, relocate it, store it once you won’t need it for some time etc. Once you add up all these tasks, it’s pretty overwhelming. And it’s definitely avoidable.

5. You get a broader perspective on consumerism

In today’s world, we buy a lot, consume a lot and produce a lot. It’s something that drives whole economies and changes the way we all behave. For mindless consumers, there is so much stuff to buy, that they visualize how their lives would be after buying any particular thing.

It couldn’t notice that before, as I wasn’t much different. Generally, I never was an extreme consumer, but I bought a lot of useless garbage that didn’t serve me well. The conscious mind was switched off and the buyer-mode took control over the buying process.

Once it happens, you tend to spend your money senselessly as you crave that instant gratification and mood boost. The cold truth about buying is, however, that it never satisfies.

6. You are less prone to buy discounted stuff

Something being on sale used to be a good reason for me to make a purchase. When I think about it now, it’s ridiculous, but it’s a marketing technique working wonders. You believe it’s a great deal, so you take the chance to “save money”. This is what deals are for, they should save you money.

However, when you buy something only because it’s on sale, then something went wrong. Buying something you probably won’t use is throwing your money away. There’s not a single dime saved in this process. Now, that I realized it, it’s both funny and sad to see people freaking out over sales and special offers.

7. You spend your time online more wisely

Applying minimalistic changes to my computer was a smart move. This includes Simple wallpaper, a few essential folders, uninstalling unnecessary software, sticking to the single tab rule or writing using distraction free program. My desktop no longer distracts me, there are no more icons begging for my attention. I can work on anything I intended to, without worrying to suddenly switch to other task, back and forth.

All these modifications helped me tremendously to work more efficiently and effectively. I spend less time on mindless browsing, I have a better focus when I work on my projects. I finally started to fully take the advantage of the technology, in lieu of being idle.

8. “Less is more” is actually true

After gaining more space in your life and clearing up your mind, you start to see why it was worth trying. Negligible stuff fades away. Fewer things fighting for your attention means more control over yourself. Less urges, fewer time-suckers, fewer confusions, and fewer complications. Less unnecessary things, possessions, costs, and obligations. But in reality, it actually gives you more, more time, space, freedom and money. Without wishing to sound clichéd, “less is more” turned out to be true.

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I’m Oskar and I write on Growthzer, where I help people create a better life. Recently, I published a book: “In Control: 5 Weeks To Stronger Self-Discipline”, which you can get for free.