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Understanding Minimalism: Why Less is More


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On our journey to becoming nomads, we are transitioning to a life of minimalism to help prepare us for this new lifestyle.


Over the last 15 years, we have accumulated so much "stuff". I like to prepare for anything, including natural disasters. Having been a single mom for the past decade, and relying solely on my income for the past eight years, it hasn't always been easy to meet the needs of myself and my two kids. Money has been extremely tight, and with the rising inflation it becomes ever more challenging.


I have supported myself and my kids solely on my income through divorce, building a business, the loss of the business, unplanned and short-notice moves due to the landlord deciding to sell our home, and a handful of other wonderful surprises (some sarcasm intended, although everything happens for a reason!)


My kids are also packrats. They are very sentimental and my son has school projects in his room going all the way back to kindergarten (he's going into Grade 10 in the fall). My daughter has a stuffed animal collection that looks like we have a build-a-bear workshop in our house. They love their things!


We're also a family of neurodivergents. My daughter and I have anxiety and ADHD. My son has Tourette's Syndrome, OCD, and ADHD. Our brains are wired to acquire things, "junk drawers", and organized messes. We are constantly "tidying", but really just moving things around from place to place with the thought "I might need this later".


Why are we giving up all of our possessions that we've accumulated over the past decade or so to live a life of minimalism, and eventually nomadic life? Not only will it be a new adventure, but there are multiple benefits to minimalism.

 

The Benefits of Minimalism

 

The Benefits of Minimalism

Minimalism is a lifestyle or aesthetic characterized by simplicity and the idea of less is more. The benefits of living a minimalistic lifestyle have been scientifically-backed and minimalism has recently become a popular trend, thanks to people like Marie Kondo.


1. Less Stress and Anxiety

Being someone who experiences anxiety, I can attest to the fact that having a clean, tidy, organized home certainly helps to ease my discomfort.


There is direct correlation between cortisol (the body's stress hormone) and clutter. Minimalism can help to lower cortisol levels, leading to less stress, fewer headaches, less anxiety and digestive issues, muscle pain, heart disease, sleep problems, weight gain, and cognitive impairment.


2. Increased Productivity and Focus

Our brains are designed to filter our surroundings, distinguishing what is important from that which is less so. Our basic instincts filter for danger, threats, and possible death. Our cognitions also focus on what we tell them to. For example, if you are told "don't think about a pink elephant", I can almost guarantee you thought of and pictured a pink elephant. Likewise, if you think about blue cars, it is most likely that everywhere you go, you will see and notice more blue cars. You get what you focus on. Our brains go "oh, she wants to see blue cars. Okay, I'll find blue cars".


The issue with clutter is that the more items there are in your field of vision, the more your brain needs to filter which can drain cognitive resources, leading to fatigue, reduced productivity, and overwhelm.


The opposite also holds to be true. The less there is in your visual field, the more focused and productive you can be.


3. More Money

I have been guilty of this one. We buy or rent a larger house because we need the space to store all the stuff. In most societies, they dwell in apartments or flats. In North America, we have large houses with garages, sheds, and large yards. We require the space for all the things we have. So not only are our monthly expenses higher because of the higher rent or mortgage for the larger space, but we also spent money on all the items - which if we're being honest, we never really look at or use and they sit around collecting dust.


Selling your extra things puts more money in your pocket. Personally, just from what we've started to filter through and sell so far, we've made over $2,000. And 90% of the things we've sold came from the storage under our stairs.


4. Fewer Chores

As most parents can relate, I got tired of the mess around the house all the time and the constant nagging or tidying up I had to do. Less stuff = less mess = less work


If my kids don't have things to leave laying around, they or I don't have to clean them up all the time. With less time spent cleaning, we have more time to spend together as a family.


5. Increased Happiness & Satisfaction

By letting go of that which we no longer need or use, we are able to practice the art of non-attachment. It is a tenant of Buddhism, which states that when a person overcomes an emotional attachment or desire to an item, it opens them up to a higher perspective.


In a world of materialism and consumerism, this can be a difficult concept to grasp. Rather than believing that acquiring the thing will bring one happiness, a practice of gratitude for what one already has enables one to see that they already have the happiness they seek.


We go to work, spend time away from our families, to make money to buy things or pay off debt from buying the things which takes away from our happiness. We then have to work more to pay off debt or buy more things in the pursuit of happiness. It's a vicious cycle. When instead, removing attachments to the things and focusing on what one already has and spending time with family could bring more happiness (getting off my soap box now). There is nothing wrong with this way of life. But if it doesn't bring you contentment, then you may want to consider if a life of minimalism would be a good fit for you.


If you're familiar with the Love Languages, anyone with the Gift love language will really struggle with this one. My daughter and I love giving gifts. We love spending money on people and showing our affection through shopping. Sometimes though, this can be misunderstood as trying to buy someone's love. Or if the gift isn't well received, it can be emotional for the gift giver. I also have a bedroom full of stuff that my daughter gave me that I don't have the heart to throw out, solely because she gave it to me and I know it's important to her.


What we've started doing is taking pictures. We are making a scrapbook of the gifts, projects, artwork, and different gifts and items so that rather than having clutter and attachment to items, we still respect and remember them without the mess. A small scrapbook takes up a lot less space than years of gifts and every scrap of paper since kindergarten.


6. More Space

This seems like a catch 22. We get larger spaces to contain the stuff. But if we get rid of the stuff, we have more space. Every time we clean and declutter, one of us usually turns into the guys from Stepbrother and quotes "so much room for activities"! It's true though. Once we clear out the items, we realize how much space we actually have. More usable space allows for a more enjoyable home.


7. Less Environmental Impact

Consumerism wreaks havoc on the environment and climate change. Reducing consumerism helps to decrease this impact. I encourage you to sell, rehome, donate, refurbish or repurpose as much as you can rather than just throwing it out. If it all ends up in a landfill, it's not making much of a difference than if it were taking up space in your home.


I came across the concept of dharma during my Yoga Teacher Training, and my teacher had, what I feel was, an excellent point. She talked about how we might have a china cabinet, filled with beautiful dishes. They only come out maybe once or twice a year for special occasions. By having these items stored away where they are rarely or never used, they are unable to live their purpose, or their dharma. Where if they were donated to someone who could use them regularly, they could live out their purpose.


8. Healthier Eating Habits

It seems unusual, but in a study researchers found that people who were in clean and clutter-free spaces were more likely to make healthier food choices. Whereas, people in messy, cluttered spaces chose the less healthier options, like chocolate bars.


If you're looking to shed a few pounds or start healthier habits, you may want to consider a life of minimalism or to tidy up your space.


9. Fewer Lost or Misplaced Items

I'm on the fence about this point. As mentioned, my daughter and I have ADHD. Anyone neurodivergent will probably agree with me that after we clean and tidy, we can't find anything! We thrive in organized chaos. One look in my purse is proof of that. It is a mess, with all kinds of random objects, and most people I ask to grab something out of there for me, cannot find it. I walk up, stick my hand in, and 2 seconds later have retrieved the item of which I seek. I have a mental inventory of my purse, the size, shape, and feel of all objects, and their general location at all times.


But for those of you whose brains do not work that way, then this may have something to it. If you are always looking for items and losing your things, then you may want to try to declutter. It makes sense, since if you have fewer items, they should, in theory, be easier to track.


I think this comes down more to organization than number of items, but decided to include it for you anyway.


10. More Freedom

"The more things you own, the more they own you". By releasing attachment to possessions, you open yourself up to more freedom. When you're not tied down by things, then you have the flexibility to move and flow according to your discretion.


There is also the financial freedom. By not giving in to consumerism, you free yourself from debt and the financial burden or always wanting and trying to have more. As mentioned previously, by selling your unused items, you have more money, More money also offers more freedom.


 

The minimalist lifestyle isn't for everyone. But if these benefits resounded with you, then you may want to consider it. You don't have to do a complete purge of your home. You can start with baby steps. Go through your closet and remove items you haven't worn in the past year. TIP: I like to turn my hangers backwards in my closet and as I use an item I turn it to face the right way. Then after a few months or at the end of the year, I get rid of anything that is still hanging on a backwards hanger. If I haven't worn it in the past year, I most likely never will. It helps to remove the emotional attachment to the item.


Think of all the things you could do with more time, money, freedom, and health.

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