Since adopting the minimalist lifestyle, I can honestly say that my life has improved in many ways. My relationships have improved, I’m less stressed, and I’m starting to accomplish things that are important to me. Right now, that means writing for a growing audience and connecting with really cool people.
If you’ve been following a minimalist blog for anytime, I’m sure you’re read about its uncanny ability to change a person’s life and set them on an entirely new course. It’s remarkable; and that’s why so many people are starting to listen.
And that’s why I’m writing this post. I think there are a lot of people frustrated, stressed, and burned out. They see others living radically simpler lives and they’ve become curious. In the information age, the first things these people will do is fire up a search engine and type something like “ways to live a simpler life” or “reasons to become a minimalist.”
Those are the people I’m writing for. Just a few months ago, I was in their shoes, and I was looking for a resource like the one I’m about to provide. I guess, in a way, this is my way of giving back for the awesomeness I’ve discovered in living a radically simpler life focused on the stuff that matters.
1. Create white space in your life. There are so many things begging for our attention. Appointments, meetings, TV shows, newspapers, shopping, and so much more. With all that noise, its not surprising that we don’t have time to sit down, think clearly, and ask the questions that matter. If you want an example, read this post by Everett Bogue. Few people create the amount of white space necessary to wrestle with these types of questions.
2. Get your finances under control. You’re probably stuck in a trap and that you don’t even realize. Advertisers, marketers, and your own discontentment have you convinced that buying a new ____ will help you ____. I’m not going to fill in the blanks because their are a million things you buy for a million pointless reasons.
Stop buying this stuff and you won’t need to work long hours at your boring job just to make ends meet. Adam Baker knows way more about this stuff than me – his ebook, Sell Your Crap, is mind-blowing. Yes, its another thing to buy, but I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t believe it could change your life.
3. Improve relationships with friends and family. A lot of people are unhappy because their relationships are strained from years of neglect. The busyness of our lives leaves little room for connecting with other humans. But that connection brings us joy and makes life meaningful. Minimalism means slowing down to say hello to the cashier, taking a walk with your best friend, being still with those you love.
4. Increase freedom to take risks. If you’re buried in debt or bogged down by a billion commitments, there’s no chance you’ll be taking an extensive traveling adventure to embrace a world of new experiences. You’re probably stuck at a job you don’t enjoy because it pays the bills. You’re probably stuck at another meeting because you’re trying to climb the corporate ladder.
You’re probably stuck inside organizing your stuff instead of outside enjoying the warm sunshine. Minimalism is a means to pare down your belongings, commitments, and expenses to embrace a life of unexpected adventure.
5. Get fit and lose weight. Staying in shape doesn’t have to be a chore. If you’re actually living life and spending time outside, fitness will happen naturally. Wrestle with your kids, go for a hike, chase someone cute – just get out there and play. The point is, you don’t need much to stay healthy. Just have fun and let exercise be the reward instead of the chore. If you have children, why not use your kids as the gym.
6. Take your spiritual life to a new level. This is big. It’s so big I could write an entire post (or book) about it. Minimalism only makes sense in so far as it gives you time and space to pursue stuff that matters. Faith matters. And if you’re serious about conscious living, you need to slow down and figure out why we’re here.
7. Decrease “bad” stress. Some stress is healthy, like the kind you feel during an intense game of ultimate frisbee with friends. Stress can increase your performance and elevate your awareness. Other kinds of stress aren’t so good. In fact, they can wreck your health and leave you feeling anxious and on-edge. That kind of stress comes from living at break-neck speed and setting goals that leave you striving for a destination always in the future. Instead, minimalism helps you to live perfectly content in the here and now.
8. Simplify and radically improve your diet. A lot of the food that you eat is processed. It’s a far cry from the stuff that humans were meant to consume for energy and vitality. The minimalist approach to eating is based on the idea that food is best when its closest to the way it can be found in nature. Fruits, vegetables, lean meats and other unprocessed choices lead to a healthier body in peak condition for enjoying outdoor adventures and pursuing anything that excites you.
9. Meet awesome people. Right now, I love this aspect of minimalism. I don’t know why, but minimalism seems to attract people that are really excited about life. Or maybe that’s just what happens when they begin the process of unshackling themselves from a million fake needs and start focusing on the essentials. Either way, these people are awesome, I’d like you to meet a few: Nina, Everett, Glenn, Baker, Matt, Jenny, Joshua, Courtney, Karol, Diggy, and Jonathan.
10. Declutter your life. There’s nothing like the feeling of a clean, uncluttered room. Emptiness and white space create a calm, tranquil environment that promotes a more sensible approach to life. Plus, when your house and mind are cluttered with distraction, there’s a sense that your work is never done. It leaves you restless and unsettled.
11. Increase productivity the natural way. I’ve read countless articles about how to increase productivity and achieve lofty goals. Everyone, it seems, is looking for a way to get more done than ever before and rush through life at super sonic speed. That’s incredibly dumb.
A good man once said, “there’s more to life than increasing it’s speed.” Instead, try forgetting about how much you get done, and focus on doing things that excite you. The natural by-product of doing what you love is that you’ll accomplish more than you ever imagined.
12. Become more adaptable and willing to change. Like a kid clings tightly to its favorite toy, adults cling to their possessions, their nice job, their status, and their security. Unable to imagine a life without this stuff, they resist change and end up miserable when it arrives unexpectedly. Having less attachments to the material things in your life leaves you less vulnerable to this common form of unhappiness and it frees you from the associated anxiety.
13. Help others live better lives. I can’t fully explain it, but minimalism has a powerful tendency to transform people into more caring individuals. I think it has something to do with letting go of attachments to material possessions and goals that has a way of making people more concerned with the world around them.
14. Learn to appreciate the little things. In the modern world, we tie our happiness to the things we accomplish. When we’re succeeding, we’re happy. When things fall apart, that happiness wanes. The minimalist approach frees you from that constant striving towards a future destination and instead invites you to enjoy the present just as it is. For example, instead of going on 5 mile training run, try going on a run with no destination – just enjoy the sites, sounds, and smells of the world around you and arrive back whenever.
15. Create work that matters. What do you do with all the extra free time that the minimalist lifestyle creates? Easy – you do whatever excites you and use it to add value to other people’s lives. Right now, I’m using this blog as a way to help others live a better life. I love writing articles for others to read and especially enjoy the conversation that follows.
16. Quit supporting a flawed system. At some point, you’ve got to say to yourself – this is stupid. We’re working our butts off at jobs we hate, for what? So we can fill our bloated homes with more stuff we don’t need and buy more stuff that distracts us from the people around us and keeps us from doing stuff that actually matters. It’s obviously a flawed system and its time we do something about it. Don’t make excuses. Dusti Arab is a mother and radical minimalist. She believes the two are completely compatible and she wants you to know why.
17. Sleep better and wake up with a smile. In the past, I’ve struggled with terrible sleeping habits. A lot of the problem came from the fact that I couldn’t turn off my brain when I climbed into bed. I think a lot of people have this problem and its because there’s always so much we need to do. Assignments, projects, chores, meetings, appointments – it never ends.
No wonder we lie awake at night staring blankly at the wall as our overstuffed minds try to cope with the madness. Now, I let go. I let go of a lot of stuff that I once thought was important. So far, I’m sleeping better and waking up much calmer – this reason alone is enough to adopt the minimalist lifestyle.
18. Restore the planet for another generation. We’ve really messed things up. It doesn’t take an environmental scientist to notice the changes already. Less grass, less trees, more cars, more pollution. This stuff adds up. And the more we buy, the more we’re contributing to the problem. When you step back from the madness, you’re actually giving the planet a chance to breathe.
19. Spark change in others. When you start traveling the world with less than 70 things people notice. Colin writes about minimalism, mobility, entrepreneurship, sustainability, and self-improvement. And people are starting to ask questions.
What really excites me about minimalism is how many awesome conversations it’s sparked. Since I’ve started living a radically simpler life, people are always asking me to explain what I’m after. I share. They listen. A seed planted.
20. Never stop learning. The main premise behind the minimalist lifestyle is that by living more freely we can do the things that excite us and focus our attention on what really matters. The biggest change in my life is that I’m starting to act like a child again (in a good way, I think.)
When I’m curious about something, I pursue it. If I see a mysterious path in the woods, I take it. If something excites me, I dive head first into it. The difference, as you can see, is that I’m not tied down to a future destination. I’m here. I’m now. And I’m learning more than ever.
James has come to writing and blog writing in particular, late in life. When not working as a systems analyst for an American Telco, he spends his time honing his writing skills on our blog and commuting between Houston and Dar es Salam to the family home in Mikocheni.