I was always an overachiever and thought success meant having a good job that brought in a good salary. That’s exactly what I strove for and attained for myself after college. I grinded, I made money, and I spent money.
Although I was never a reckless spender, I also never actively thought about what I was spending my money on. Allowing myself to buy this trendy thing or another blouse to expand my work wardrobe or two grande Starbucks drinks everyday were luxuries I didn’t hesitate to think twice about.
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It wasn’t until I left my first job post-college about two years ago that I began to consciously think about how to incorporate minimalism in my life. Not only because I needed to rethink about my finances after being unemployed, but I felt tired of the automatic spending lifestyle I had fallen victim to.
Minimalism helped me reevaluate the important things in my life, and the big realization I had was that I don’t need a lot to live a content life. On the contrary, I only needed a few things to be really happy.
To me, minimalism is an ongoing process of simplifying all aspects of your life in order to sustain a happy, low-stress state of being. It teaches you how to spend your money and time wisely.
Practical Steps I’ve Taken Towards Minimalism
Declutter by donating or reselling stuff
Raise your hand if you hoard things for its sentimental value or its potential future use, which usually results in the item sitting idly in your closet (*raises hand).
I noticed that I had electronic gadgets I didn’t use and tons of clothes I didn’t wear anymore taking up space in the closet.
Gradually, I packed bags full of older but still wearable clothes to donate to Goodwill. For the newer pieces of clothes or brand name items, I felt there was still resale value in them, so I searched for an online platform to sell them on.
I came across Poshmark, an online marketplace where peope buy and sell clothes from “closets” created by individuals or boutiques. Because the app has an established marketplace for all kinds of fashion brands, it was extremely easy to list and sell items. Buyers pay for shipping, and all you do is print out the shipping labels and drop packages off at USPS. The catch is that Poshmark takes a 20% fee from each sale. It’s a big cut, but I thought it was worth it for access to Poshmark’s customers which helped increase inventory turnover. Overall, I loved the ease of use on the app and how easy it was to sell, package, and ship packages to my buyers. How much you make depends on how much work you put in (like anything in life). I was able to make about $800 selling most of my used items in a few months time.
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I also used eBay and Facebook Marketplace to sell used electronic and furniture items like a camera, a bed mattress, a Surface Pro, etc. These platforms required more patience to find serious buyers, but I was able to sell everything in the end!
It felt amazing to purge the apartment of all the things I didn’t need. It made my space cleaner and lighter. Not to mention that I made money out of it too. 🙂
Be conscious of what you buy
Questions I ask myself before buying something:
Can I use this enough to make it worth its price?
Do I really need it or do I just want it?
A good way to think about a purchase being worth its price is to think about cost per use. If you buy a dress that costs $100 and only wear it twice a year, that’s $50/wear. Is that worth it to you? Of course, the more you wear, the more that it’s worth it. But in my experience, there are things that sit in the closet after a one-time use, and those are things we need to question before purchasing. When it comes to clothes, I like to buy pieces that are versatile and long-lasting.
Do you need a new dress to wear to the wedding, or do you want the new dress for external reasons (people are going to see you repeat an outfit, it needs to fit the occasion, etc)? Frequently, we confuse what we need with what we want, or we succumb to our wants because material things give us satisfaction in the moment.
Try to be conscious of what you buy more often. It’s hard at first, but the more you scrutinize your purchases, the more you’ll get rid of the impulse and unnecessary buys that take up space in your life.
It’s been gradually easier for me to say ‘no’ to purchases that I think I want but don’t actually need. If I get an urge to purchase something because an ad lured me in or I see others have it, I would check out the item and let it sit on my mind for a day or a week. If I still want it after that and have assessed the item thoroughly, then I’ll make the purchase. Usually though, I end up forgetting about it and realize it’s not necessary.
Value experiences over material things
Research shows that spending money on material things gives you immediate satisfaction and then we adapt to them, meaning that satisfaction quickly fades. Additionally, we tend to be victims of lifestyle inflation, for example, when we get a raise or promotion at work, and we increase our spending accordingly – a better phone, a more comfortable car, a newer watch.
I’m not saying these things don’t necessarily bring any value to your life because, in fact, an upgraded phone when needed can make your life easier. All I’m saying is you don’t need to upgrade your phone every year or buy every item that is the new hotness.
Instead, spend your money on experiences. Go see the ballet, book that trip to a foreign country, take your family to the zoo. Experiences usually define us more than things do. Every new, fun, scary, wild experience contributes to our life experience as a whole and leaves more of an impact on us.
When you look back on your life so far, your memories are filled with experiences rather than the things that you’ve bought. I know you guys know this, but I like to beat a dead horse on this topic because experiences are so crucial to our growth and development. They also help us bond socially.
As you may have guessed, I spend my money on traveling. Every trip is enlightening and teaches me many things about life, history, human interactions, and beyond.
Because travel is a big part of my life, I like to incorporate minimalist practices to simplify things in this area as well. I travel hack by accumulating credit card points to spend less but travel more, I look out for ways to make traveling easy, and I use financial resources that help me maintain a sustainable travel budget.
Reprioritize, not deprive.
Having said all this, the practice of minimalism isn’t to deprive you of your joys in life. It’s a process of reprioritization of what’s important and valuable to you, helping you hone in on what truly makes you happy and getting rid of the extra fluff.
It’s skimming down to a lighter load in all aspects of your life and becoming less wasteful with things and with time.
For me, there is a list of non-negotiables/priorities in my life: spending time with family/friends/boyfriend, travel, skincare/health, gadgets that increase productivity/efficiency, and visiting cafes. Once you’ve established this list, you can then analyze everything else that falls outside of this to see if it’s worth spending your time and money on.
Keep in mind that you can reevaulate your list anytime and add or remove things. Be true to yourself, and make sure you focus on what’s truly important.
Focus on internal state/health and not external appearance
When you focus on improving your internal state, you’ll start worrying less about your external appearance.
This is the pinnacle of practicing minimalism that I’m always striving towards.
And it makes sense. We worry about our external appearance to others because we are self-conscious creatures. We want to keep up a certain facade because it’s easier than looking at ourselves in the mirror. It’s difficult and uncomfortable to scrutinize ourselves and dig deep into our vulnerabalities, but it’s necessary.
As you uncover your flaws, you’ll also learn to appreciate them, for they give you a chance to improve yourself. You should equally give praise to your virtues. Double down on them.
Don’t take your health for granted either. When we take care of our body, our body takes care of us.
Learn what makes you tick, and work to cultivate that flow. I love finding and fostering inspiration and creativity. Whenever I get wind of them, I feel like nothing can stop me. I meditate to help with anxiety, and I listen to self-help/motivational podcasts from time to time. I’m certainly not great at upkeeping my mental and physical state at all times, but I’m aware of when I need that realignment.
Focusing on myself internally has alleviated a lot of external anxiety. I’ve learned to do things for myself and not for others. Because of that, I direct my time and attention to the few things that feed my internal state of being and filter out the things that don’t.
I hope you found this useful and that it may spur some of you to start your own journey towards minimalism. How hard core you want to be is up to you (I’m not a hardcore minimalist), but I think the ideals of minimalism can be universally beneficial.
It’s an ongoing practice for me, but its positive influence has been tremendous thus far and has made me truly grasp the concept of less is more.