No truer words were ever spoken than this quote attributed to both “Fight Club” and Dave Ramsey – apparently, even the internet can’t make a clear decision on who to credit for it… But who cares?
Regardless of whoever said them, these words hit the nail on the head; as do those in the next quote, which – sorry Mr. Ramsey – without a doubt has our favourite soap-making-underground-brawler written all over it:
“The things you own end up owning you.” ~ Tyler Durden
And to be clear, my intention isn’t to go all “Fight Club” here, but rather to note that – despite being delivered by the sexy package that is
Dave Ramsey Edward Norton Brad Pitt – both quotes reflect the true essence of a movement that is becoming so huge, so popular and so strong; a movement that – for those who join it – provides a renewed sense of hope for not just their lives, but more importantly: Their future happiness.
Such bold statements might have you wondering (a) “What movement is he talking about?” or even (b) “Where do I sign up?” – both excellent questions, of which I will now endeavour to explain.
The movement I’m talking about the known as “Minimalism”; and it’s a movement that, if Tyler Durden were here, he’d likely describe something like this:
“Minimalism means you stop buying shit you don’t need and doing shit you don’t want to do; then you invest what money and time you have into doing things that genuinely make you happy. It’s about taking control of your life, rather than allowing your life – including (but not limited to) your job, your possessions, your bank account or mortgage company control you. It’s about FREEDOM!”
“And the Oscar for coming up with a fictional response from an equally fictional character to a real question goes to… me!” (Cue: Thunderous applause!) All kidding aside, does this idea make you wonder…
DO PEOPLE ACTUALLY DO THIS?
The answer is a resounding yes, yes and yes! And not only are people doing this, but more importantly, their numbers are growing. It’s true: More people than ever are now subscribing to the minimalist philosophy as a way to regain control of their lives AND their happiness. But before I get to my 29 favourite “tried and true” methods to help achieve this goal, let me clarify what I mean with the title “Minimalist”…
When I use the term “Minimalist” I’m not referring to all those wacky gin-soaked American painters from the 1960’s who’d paint a single dot in the middle of a canvas, then declare their brilliance to the world – Nope, far from it.
By “Minimalist” I mean those folks who are fed up with all the blatant materialism, waste of natural resources and constant pressure society puts on people to spend, spend, spend – usually money they don’t have – in order to impress their “friends” and colleagues (and sadly, strangers who really don’t give a shit) with status seeking activities and material possessions such as new cars, 5 bedroom houses, luxury holidays in the Mayan Rivera, this week’s version of the iPhone, 50″ flat screens in every room, sparkly new outfits, overpriced jewelry – and of course – multiple nights out each week at pricey restaurants and bars… I think you get the point.
More importantly, they are fed up with the massive debt, phoniness and ongoing stress that comes with these lavish – yet usually unaffordable – lifestyles; and so they opt out.
Now to be clear, Minimalists don’t turn their backs on many of these “luxuries”; they turn their backs on the EXCESS of them. In fact, the very term “minimalism” suggests that rather than NOT doing or having something, they simply do or have them as minimally as possible.
Let’s look at some of the examples above:
- Minimalists would never buy a new car; they’d either get a second hand one and keep it for years. Of course, this is only after they decided if they needed a car at all. Chances are they’d prefer to walk, take the bus or ride a bike instead. Minimal!
- Rather than a big house, they might buy a small condominium, if they buy at all. Most minimalists would rather rent out an small apartment and keep their costs down – or then there is the Tiny House option which combines the best of both worlds! Minimal!
- They still might travel to Mexico for a holiday, but would either get a cheap flat and cook and clean themselves, or go during the shoulder seasons when prices are about half. Minimal!
- They’ll only have one television set, if any at all. Most likely they’ll watch movies on a computer, and usually entertain themselves by reading or working on a hobby or project they enjoy. Minimal!
MINIMALISM IS GOOD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
Minimalists are fully aware that by consuming less, they have a positive effect on the environment; that’s because the less “stuff” consumed is the less “stuff” produced, which in turn means less stuff to wind up in our the already over-stuffed landfills – landfills burgeoning with items that people got bored with and figured they could (a) dump, and (b) easily replace with the swipe of a credit card.
Throwing anything – and I mean ANYTHING – away is a last resort for Minimalists. If something is broken, they try and fix it; if it can’t be fixed, they’ll recycle the materials. If they no longer have no use for an item, they’ll give it away or donate it to a thrift shop so that someone else can benefit from it. They avoid disposable items like razors, shopping bags, magazines, cameras etc. instead favouring better quality products that have a long life in them, and in case I didn’t mention it before, stay out of landfills.
WHY I BELIEVE I’M A MINIMALIST
Growing up in a cash-strapped navel family, it’s safe to say that I came by frugality honestly. Money was always tight, and I still remember how my mom would do everything possible to stretch a dollar, from dressing us kids in “hand-me-down” clothes to making curtains out of bedsheets. If there was a possible way to save money, my mom would find it – In a way, I guess she was a minimalist long before her time!
The good news is that my mom’s good influence rubbed off on me, and today I absolutely 100% HATE waste of any kind. It’s true: I hate wasting money, time, resources, food and even opportunities… HATE, HATE, HATE! Which is why, looking at my personal habits I’ve concluded that I too, am a minimalist.
But where my mom embraced this lifestyle out of necessity, I’ve embraced it by choice, and here’s why: I’ve discovered that living mindful and purposeful life of minimal consumption (of everything) is NOT about denying ourselves the things we want, nor is it just about having less “stuff”; minimalism is about understanding how doing with less equals more PERSONAL FREEDOM – The kind of freedom that means not having to go to work at a job we loathe to pay for the useless shit we bought at Costco last weekend.
Think about it: The average Canadian’s “non-mortgage” debt is currently over $23K per person, having risen 2 points over last year; and since this is non-mortgage, it means this debt is not contributing to any roofs over heads. No, this debt is for “stuff” people figured they could “buy-now-and-pay-later” for – meaning crap that is wants rather than needs.
But here’s the rub: Eventually they WILL have to pay this money; either that or slowly go broke paying the credit card minimums each month. Either way they need to pay for this crap ; and to do this, they need to earn, which brings us back to them going to the job they hate. And so the vicious cycle continues, over and over again. Unless…
They embrace a minimalist lifestyle, and stop spending their money on crap they don’t need. If they do this, then use their savings to first pay off their debt, then either (a) put future earnings away in savings or (c) earn less by working less (or taking a lesser paying job they actually enjoy) which frees up time for them to enjoy themselves.
Because if you are going to spend 8 hours a day somewhere, shouldn’t you be happy there? I think so too. But as this scenario proves, constantly buying crap we don’t need keeps us stuck, and makes our world sick at the same time; and for me, this is simply something I’m not prepared to do any more.
Which is why I’ve adopted all the habits below; habits that have me convinced I’m a fully-fledged-card-carrying minimalism myself. Oh and by the way, I use all the money I save to travel to cool places like this or this or this.
WHEN LESS IS MORE
So without further adieu, here are my top 29 tips for a minimalistic lifestyle:
- When Grocery Shopping Only Buy Sale Items: Limit shopping to once or twice a week, and buy large quantities of sale items and freeze them. Chicken legs for a buck apiece? I’ll take 8 packs please!
- NEVER Shop Without a List: Avoid impulse buying by scanning flyers, and then making a list and sticking to it. This is especially important when shopping at Costco or Wal Mart.
- Make Soup; Lots and Lots of Soup: Use leftovers in the fridge to make soup; it stretches the food dollar huge and makes really healthy meals. Bonus: Freeze old, wilted veggies to later use in the soup.
- Don’t Buy Any Pre-Made Foods: Learn to make everything from scratch; it costs way less and provides more meals of better quality. Besides, cooking is a great activity!
- Prepare Each Meal to Have Leftovers: While you’re at it, why not make extra for tomorrow’s lunch, or Wednesday night’s dinner at the same time? It’s less work AND less money!
- Eliminate All Monthly Payment Plans: Pay insurances, gym fees, etc. in one lump sum each year. It might make things fiscally tight for 2 weeks, but then frees up cash for the next 50 – plus it’s cheaper.
- Don’t Buy a New Car: If you need a car, buy second hand. If you have a car, then weigh out the cost of repairs versus getting a new (used) one – you might discover you actually don’t need one.
- Before You Drive Anywhere, Map Out A Route: Making a route that includes all your tasks ensures you don’t waste time or gas when running errands or doing your daily chores.
- When It Makes Sense, Use Public Transport: Eliminate parking fees, ferry costs, etc. by using public transport. A return trip to Vancouver costs me about $45 – instead of the $180+ it would cost with a car.
- Read Everyday: Get free books on Kindle, or buy used books at the thrift shop. Get books that educate you on topics you are interested in, so you grow your knowledge base at the same time. Or better yet…
- Use Your Library Card: Get all the books you want; plus get music c.d.s and up to date blue ray and d.v.d.’s for FREE. This means you can now…
- Cancel All Subscription-Based Entertainment: As in cable T.V., Sirius music in your vehicle, magazines (online subscriptions included), and yes, even Netflix. These costs really add up.
- Drink Water From A Britta: A one time $30- investment of a Britta jug and a $3- filter every 3 months creates all the purified water anyone could want – Better yet, with no plastic bottles going into landfills.
- Make Your Morning Coffee At Home: Much cheaper than stopping off at Starbucks or Tim’s each morning… But what if you have a mid-morning meeting or just want to chill at the coffee shop? No problem…
- Only Buy Drip Coffee And Bring Your Own Cup: A “Double-Soy-Skinny-Machiado-Whatever” costs about $5- but a drip coffee will cost barely $2-. Plus bringing your own cup saves you a dime and means no waste going to the landfills.
- Always Take Your Own Re-Usable Bags Shopping: Not just for groceries, these bags hold liquor, toiletries, paper goods etc. – You name it! Keep a few spares in your car “just in case”; Oh, and keep plastic out of the landfills…
- Never Pay Full Price for ANYTHING: Everything goes on sale at one time or another – so if there is an item you want, keep an eye out and wait until you can get a deal. Or better yet…
- Get Things Second Hand: Unless it’s very important that an item be new (like a mattress) get your items off of Used Victoria or Craigslist. You will pay far less, and recycling at the same time.
- Go Thrift Shopping For Clothes: Why not spend about 20% and get something that is the same as your new items after they’ve been washed once or twice? Thrift shopping is totally worth it, and actually pretty fun to do!
- When You DO Buy New, Buy Quality: Spend the money so you won’t have to replace items every couple of years. I own Apple computers, a Dyson vacuum cleaner, a Cusinart coffee maker and a Miele Washer & Dryer. Oh sure they cost double up front, but outlast the cheap items by 5 times.
- Give Gift Cards or Homemade Gifts: Give gift cards towards experiences, or actual needed things; or create gifts that have a functional use – like a “meal in a box” or a candle holder, etc.
- Go To Movies On Tuesdays: We HAVE to see movies in the theatre; but always go on “Cheap Tuesdays”. Also we never buy the popcorn or candy from the theatre – we bring our own!
- Use The Dollar Store: While they have a lot of junk, Dollar Stores also have some good value items too. Wander through and make a list of the things they carry for next time you need them.
- Practice The “If It’s Yellow, Let It Mellow” Rule: I’ve travelled to enough countries where clean water is a luxury to know I don’t need to flush every time there’s 3 oz of pee in the toilet – Just close the lid instead.
- Use Groupon For Dinner Deals: Tired of eating at home? No problem; log onto Groupon and pick up dinner coupons for up to 50% off. Just remember not to get sucked into spending any additional cash!
- Dump The Extra Credit Cards: Let’s face it, you only need one – maybe two – credit cards at the most. Choose one that works best for you, then buy EVERYTHING on it to maximize the rewards. Oh, and don’t forget…
- Pay Off Your Credit Cards Each Month: This is critical, because paying them off means not paying interest; in other words, paying good money and getting NOTHING in return – a minimalist’s nightmare!
- What To Do If You Can’t Afford Something: (A) Don’t buy it. (B) Save up for it and buy it when you can afford it. Or (C) Get tired of waiting and allow it’s awesomeness to wear off so you don’t want it anymore.
- Find Free Things To Do for Entertainment: If you look, you’ll find there’s lots to do that doesn’t cost anything. Have friends in for a potluck. Go for a walk. Stay in and watch (free) movies. Volunteer. Play board games. Join a Meet Up Group. Take a look, check ’em out, then go meet some wonderful people and have some fun!
If any of what I’ve said strikes a cord with you and you’d like to learn more, simply Google “Minimalist” blogs and search until you find one or two that resonate with you. I can promise that if like me, you too are sick of debt and consumerism, and instead want to bring more freedom and time and money and happiness into life, then this is a great place to start – you can bet your bottom dollar on it!
Oh, and if you don’t believe that the whole “landfill” and “resource” dangers are serious, I DARE YOU to watch “The Story of Stuff”. Do this, and I promise you will quickly change your mind.