Minimalism Breeds Abundance
January 2017 was the worst month of my life to-date. But I can’t help but find myself quite thankful for all that my momentary hardship did to focus me on matters that I have long ignored. One of those key areas was applying minimalism to my life.
Minimalism is becoming an increasingly popular term and philosophy these days, but what does it really mean? The Minimalists have written a very helpful overview, summarizing its various definitions by saying:
Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important — so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.
Holding to this definition, it was important that I first determine where my life contained excess.
Over the years, it is very easy to let things pile up, one by one. I’m sure everyone can think of a time in which, upon opening a drawer or a closet — perhaps just looking around at everything we own — we have gazed upon the clutter bewildered, muttering to ourselves…
“Why do I need this, again?”
To help rid myself of this excess, I purged every closet, drawer, and storage space in the house with my wife, Nicole. We began repeating a simple mantra as a family, “More storage, less stuff.” I’m a sucker for the Container Store, so needless to say, that was one of my go-to spots during this period.
It wasn’t just my material possessions that required reevaluation. I had to look to the effect that minimalism could have well beyond my home, storage spaces, and office. While beginning purging efforts within physical spaces felt easy enough, it felt more daunting to begin that effort in my digital spaces.
The average person has 27 apps on their phones. Around 50% of people’s inboxes are cluttered with newsletters, while the other 20% is filled with social media updates. And oftentimes, our desktops can look even worse than our closets. This was true of me, too.
To help declutter my digital life, I:
- Unsubscribed from every email — about four dozen — except two newsletters.
- Deleted every app from my phone on which I am tempted to waste time, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and most games (though I did keep TwoDots for an occasional fix).
- Turned off all mobile push notifications and those nasty little red badges that can cause undue anxiety when looking at my phone.
- Secured all family passwords, notes, and confidential information using LastPass.
- Cleaned up all my folders in Dropbox and deleted any old or unnecessary files.
- Update: I also added an email auto-responder and applied Affordance Theory to create my optimal mobile experience.
I had put on more weight than I had realized. After an unexpected trip to the hospital and a few tests later, it was a wake up call. With a few easy and sustainable changes, I fixed my diet and minimized my late night food intake. The result was that I lost a very tangible 30 pounds of excess fat.
Update: Make that over 40-pounds, and there were even more health benefits.
With Everything-as-a-Service these days, it has become just as easy to accumulate unnecessary recurring transactions as it is to accumulate unnecessary material goods. Lethargically, I had grown accustom to letting my expenses accumulate rather than navigating the “hassle” to cancel such expenses.
While it took a bit of work, I reduced my family’s monthly recurring expenses by canceling eight superfluous subscriptions and changing our plan on four other bills. I even navigated the living hell that is canceling a gym membership.
I’m sure many folks can relate to their calendars looking like a never-ending game of Tetris. While habits and routines can be helpful, blocking my schedule with unnecessary events to help me “stay organized” was often just a rote justification for unnecessarily busy weeks.
To begin, I cleared my calendar’s unnecessary recurring appointments and started encouraging people to just call me rather than scheduling something. It has benefited me greatly to carefully weigh obligations before now committing myself to them or granting it space on my calendar.
In all of these areas, as I purged, simplified, and minimized the excess from my life, it resulted in clearing one of the most cluttered spaces — my mind.
Every email newsletter I unsubscribed from, I gained those bytes back in my brain. Even if I knew to just skip reading it and ended up archiving it, it still took up mental space just by virtue of having received it.
The same was true of my finances when I looked at our bank statement. These nominal $6.37 charges cluttered up my finances and added up rather quickly. No longer.
By not having something on my schedule this afternoon, not only have I freed up that particular block of time, I have freed the mental space that it took preparing for the meeting, thinking about traveling there, dealing with the traffic while driving, etc.
These examples just scratch the surface of the mental space I released from its self-inflicted bondage.
The point of all this is not to minimize for the sake of minimization alone. No, the point of all this is to breed abundance.
As I have rid myself of the mental clutter that is a direct result of my previous excess, I have produced the space — literally, the space in my family’s home, the financial resources in our bank account, the free time on our schedules — to enjoy what actually matters to me. More experiences with family. More time with friends. More worry-free living. More opportunities to contemplate, think, create. Just … more.
The abundance I have experienced as a direct result of these efforts has been astounding. In a rather short period of time, I have:
- Enjoyed more quality time with family and friends.
- Slept more.
- Had the most productive quarter of my life, personally speaking.
- Read more books.
- Studied things I’ve wanted to learn.
- Written an 80-page novelette.
- Given more money to people in need.
- Saved more money.
- Increased my credit score.
- Gained more energy.
- Clarified our family goals.
- Been more present.
- And, you guessed it, more.
You Can, Too
I know I’ve been quite surprised by the results that I have experienced personally, mentally, financially, professionally, and even spiritually, as a result. There’s nothing stopping you from enjoying the same. Small steps and choices every day lead to big changes. You can start how I did, by simply asking yourself this question:
Where’s the excess in my life?
Resolutely, I know that I don’t want to live a life of excess any longer. I want to encounter, experience, and engage the abundant Life.