One of the great myths of modern society is that happiness and success are somehow linked to the size of your home and the amount of worthless garbage that fills it. In a previous post, I listed the 32 benefits of owning less. But how does one simplify one’s life? Here are the 10 commandments of minimalism.
1. No impulse buying, period
Whenever you feel like buying anything, give yourself at least a week to consider whether its benefits outweigh not only the cost, but also the hassle of owning, maintaining, moving and one day replacing it, and the diminished freedom it represents. This also applies to free things – think long and hard about whether you really need it before taking it home.
2. Items should have many purposes
Obviously, if one thing can do two jobs, you need one fewer thing. One good chef’s knife will replace half the kitchen gadgets at Walmart.
3. Hire help
Instead of buying stuff to make your life easier (which often really complicates your life) pay people to do things for you. Do you really need a carpet cleaner to use once a year? Just pay professionals. For advanced minimalists: do you really need a washer and dryer? Try a laundry service. You don’t like doing laundry anyway!
4. Buy quality
One of the major benefit of minimalism is less time wasted maintaining and replacing your stuff. This benefit is eroded by low-quality goods, so buy things that last.
5. Live in a small home with no storage
Two reasons here: you won’t have to buy things you don’t need to furnish rooms you don’t use, and having no storage will force you not to keep things you no longer need, or should never have bought. As an additional benefit, you pay less for your home. In a related note…
6. Live in an apartment or condo, not a house
Living in a stand-alone building means you have a extra things to take care of, such as a lawn, driveway, garage, patio, etc. You need a shed-full of tools just to keep a typical house from disintegrating. If you live in a condo or apartment, someone else takes care of that crap. Do you really enjoy mowing your lawn, painting your patio, sealing the driveway and cleaning the garage? I didn’t think so.
7. Focus on the present
Never mind that you might use it in 5 years, it’s taking up valuable space and funds NOW. If you haven’t used something in the past year, get rid of it. For every fifty things you get rid of, you might only need 2 or 3 at some point in the future. If that time ever comes, just got a new one, or borrow one, or rent it, or buy it second-hand and then sell it again when you’re done.
8. Focus on experience
Life is about what we do, not what we own. When you’re old, you’ll remember the trips that you took, not the kind of shoes you were wearing. You’ll remember your wedding just the same whether you bought, borrowed or rented the silly costume you were wearing.
9. Avoid gifts
This is really the hardest part of being a minimalist. People don’t understand that you just don’t want that new thing, whatever it is, because you value freedom more than gadgets. Make it clear to your friends and family that you don’t like stuff. If they insist on getting you gifts, tell them you only like four kinds: cash, gift cards, experiences, and better versions of things you already have. If someone gives you a new watch, for example, don’t forget to give the old one away.
10. Be minimalistic in each purchase
For example, if you absolutely must buy a car, buy a small car. Yes I know that once a year you want to go on vacation with your whole family, and you need than 8-seater minivan to fit them all. Do you have any idea how much money you would save by driving a compact car 51 weeks a year, and just renting the van the other week? The fuel savings alone would more than cover the rental, let alone the money you save from the initial purchase. Big cars are not a sign of wealth, they’re a sign of social irresponsibility and stupidity.