“Living simply is not about living in poverty or self-inflicted deprivation. It’s about living an examined life where one has determined what is truly important and enough…and then just let go of all the rest.” ~Duane Elgin
While I don’t consider myself an expert or authority on minimalism or simple living, I do recognize the value of focusing on aspects of the practice. That’s right, I consider minimalism or simple living to be practices that lead to a more happy, balanced, and meaningful life. But because there are so many rewarding aspects to the practice, and so many juicy benefits to share—I’ve decided that a focus on each one as an individual “tip” would be helpful for myself—and perhaps you as well. So to start with, I wanted to come up with best benefit of them all. And I couldn’t do it! The truth is that since I started practicing a more simple approach to life—the benefits keep showing up. That’s when I decided that the primary SMART Minimalist tip is to let you know that simple living offers more benefits than you can imagine—and the only way to start experiencing them all is to just begin discovering them for yourself.
Of course, if you Google “Benefits to Minimalism” you’ll see dozens of reasons to start down the path—honest. But it might be a little like going on a diet. Even if you know all the benefits in advance, that doesn’t necessarily translate into the motivation to give up that chocolate cake. That’s why the SMART approach takes into account all the other necessary aspects of awareness, meaning, responsibility and even gratitude. Sustainability is in there too, but it often isn’t as compelling as the others. I happen to believe that once you go in the search of a happy, more peaceful and more meaningful lifestyle (aka: SMART Living) then you’ll naturally be drawn into a more minimal approach to your life.
So in order to discuss the benefits, it might be best to acknowledge that most people don’t start going minimal because it sounds like fun. If I was to guess, I think most people do it because they’ve tried the alternatives and discovered that the penalty for an everyday, over-consumptive, extremely busy, stressful life style is way too extreme. Sure you might be able to buy a bunch of stuff that some people envy, and you might even be able to do some things that sound cool—but you’ll likely be so stressed and over-anxious figuring out how to pay for that stuff or experiences—that the benefits get old really fast.
So to use the diet analogy again, many people who really should diet, don’t diet, until the doctor tells them that their health depends on it. Likewise, many people who would benefit the most from a more simple and sustainable lifestyle don’t do it, until the banker calls them with the worst news possible, or they lose that coveted job and can’t find another anywhere close. It’s been said that most of us learn either after something painful happens—or when inspired. While inspired might be easier—many end up going minimal because of the pain of their former life.
Then of course, there are others of us who just sort of stubble onto a more simple lifestyle because we were at the right place at the right time. I said in a previous post that I was first exposed to the idea of simple living from the work of a man named Duane Elgin—who is actually a sort of grandfather to the movement. A futurist and a social scientist concerned with population growth and the American Future, Elgin wrote the classic, Voluntary Simplicity in the early 1980s, and has been actively involved in envisioning possible futures for our planet ever since. But just because I read Voluntary Simplicity back in the 90’s doesn’t mean I “got it.” In fact, it was nearly another 10 years before some of his ideas suddenly started showing up everywhere I looked and in what I was growing to believe important.
I have no idea what may have attracted you to a more minimal lifestyle—only that if you’ve read so far into this article without stopping there’s a good chance that something about it appeals to you. That’s why I want to make it very obvious to you that you are on the right track. In fact, the benefits you’ll find when you consciously (or even unconsciously!) decide to move toward greater simplicity in your life are so numerous I can’t even hope to share them all with you. I’m actually going to be so bold to say that unless you are addicted to speed (and no I’m not just talking about a drug) then you’ll probably find that a more simple life is the one you’ve been searching for your entire life.
But just to give you a little taste of what you might expect, here is a short list of qualities inherent in a minimalistic lifestyle:
- More freedom to be and do as you like (Thom’s favorite!)
- Peace of mind
- Better sleep
- More time to do the things you love
- More time to spend with those you love
- Better health
- More opportunities to find work you love
- More money to use in ways that bring you joy
- A greener and more healthy planet for you & others (including your kids)
- Ease & agility when making life choices, decisions, exploring opportunities
- Clarity about what is important and what makes you happy.
Again, even though this list might seem impressive to you, until you start living and experiencing it in your life, they may not have the strength to keep you from reverting to a habitual lifestyle of consumption and busy-ness. But as you gradually slow down and start working them into your life, I’m convinced that each of us will begin recognizing just how powerful each of these benefits are—and then that will make it easier and easier to work in ways that are more simple and minimal.
But make no mistake—there are plenty of forces and influences that are working very diligently to make you believe otherwise. Our culture and economy run on the idea that more is always better—so that means the messages you usually hear on the radio, from television, from your parents, from your kids and just about everywhere, will tell you that you’ll never be really happy until you have more. It doesn’t really matter what the more is—more beauty, more money, more house, more stuff, more safety, etc. And because of that just about everyone I know, myself sometimes included, feels guilty if we aren’t running around staying as busy as possible. So, unless we’ve begun to glimpse the benefits of a simpler life style, we are usually unaware of that message of more constantly being played over and over in our head.
With that in mind I’m going remind myself on a regular basis, and for any of you who are following along, that the benefits to a minimal lifestyle are more numerous than we can know. Let’s never forget that we can always change if we want to. And in the end, I think we’ll learn that together we can help show each other that going minimal is a very SMART thing to do!
Question: If you’ve been going minimal for a while—what’s been YOUR #1 benefit? Or if you’re just getting started, what most appeals to you about minimalism?