Money, Now + Beyond

Minimalism helped me create a new version of my life

Sometimes buying less helps you create more in your life.

My journey into minimalism started when I began cleaning out my childhood bedroom. I had just come home from my first year at university, and I didn’t bring too many things home with me. Then when I got back to my room, I realized how much stuff I owned that I hadn’t needed the past year. So why did I still own it?

I started with my clothes. As someone who hasn’t gotten any taller or grown too much since I was 12 years-old, I kept accumulating clothing without getting rid of anything. My closet was stuffed with clothes. My bureau was stuffed with clothes. I had an extra bin in the attic full of clothing that didn’t fit in my room. I got back from college and was shocked. How could I own thing much stuff? Where did it all come from?

My biggest problem with getting rid of my clothes was that I didn’t know what my personal style was. The clothes I owned I’d had for years, and just kept wearing them because that was what I should be wearing. It was mainly trendier stuff, that I kept wearing when it went out of style. I was fed up with it. I wanted to look more put together, more adult.

So I went online and discovered minimalism. The first concept of minimalism that I had applied to my life was the idea of a capsule wardrobe. I watched so many videos about what a capsule wardrobe could look like, and the cultivated, intentional aspect of the wardrobe really appealed to me. I had been struggling with mental health problems and finding ways to reduce my anxiety and promote happiness were on the top of my list of priorities. Minimalism really seemed to fit into those goals.

I began donating and selling old clothing until I was left with the clothing that I truly loved. I still had holes in what I thought would be my ideal wardrobe, so I made a list of what I thought I was missing and then only bought those items of clothing.

Creating a new, smaller wardrobe for myself required really knowing what I wanted my wardrobe to look like. Instead of mindlessly buying things I liked in the store in passing, I waited on purchases, searching for the perfect new addition to my wardrobe. It was an excellent lesson in self-control. I had never been one for impulsive purchasing, but this new mentality still made me rethink before I bought anything. Was this thing I was purchasing something I needed? Did I need it right at this second? Was it something I wanted? If I wanted it, could I possibly wait so I could compare pricing and make sure I was making the smartest purchase?

Even though it started with my clothing, the minimalist mindset has crept into every aspect of my life. Even to purchases you wouldn’t expect, like food. If I’m at the grocery store, and I see something I want that wasn’t on my grocery list, I still ask myself those questions. Was this bar of chocolate something I needed? Do I need the chocolate right this second? Do I want the chocolate (that answer is always yes)? And if I want the chocolate, could I wait to see if I can buy a larger bar or more bars at a lower price?

These questions – this lifestyle – are never meant to deprive me of anything. There are some days where I ask myself those questions and still buy the bar of chocolate because the happiness that it will bring me outweighs whatever the cost is at that moment. But for the most part, living a life with less has helped me live more, and save money for things that bring more value into my life.

The things that I value now – travel, experiences with friends, good food – these things might cost more money upfront, but because I have reduced my spending in other aspects of my life, they are what I spend that saved-up money on. There is no point in really hoarding money. I’m not a dragon, it isn’t my treasure. Money is a tool. It can definitely hurt us, but it can also help us live our best lives. If me living my best life is getting to see a comic I love with my best friends, then $50 (USD) is worth spending to have that fun experience to me. Buying plane tickets to travel around Europe during my semester abroad was worth it. Buying flowers every once in a while enriches my life. And so does chocolate.

Paring your life down to the essentials doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Once you reduce, you find you have more time and money and energy to do the things you love. Why fill your life with the unnecessary excess? The most important aspects will rise to the top if you let them. Then, it’s up to you to refocus and rededicate yourself. And you can do it. Sometimes, all you need is the first push in the right direction. For me, it was needing space in my closet. I wonder what it will be for you!