In the military, you're issued exactly what you need to accomplish any given mission. Every piece of equipment is well-maintained, organized and serves a specific function. From deployments to training exercises, I always enjoyed beautiful simplicity of living each day with only what was needed. It may have been these experiences that attracted me to minimalism.
About a year ago, I gave away, sold or donated most of my possessions and moved to a new city out of the back of my car. My original motivation for taking on this project was to save money, as renting a small moving truck would cost several thousand dollars. However, as the weeks progressed and I watched the possessions I'd accumulated over the years slowly disappear, I felt a profound sense of happiness. The more I gave away, the better I felt.
Minimalism can work for you, too. Here's how.
What amazed me is how much stuff I had left. Even after I'd given away almost all my books (I have an e-reader), movies (there's plenty online), clothes (how many pairs of pants can you wear in a week?) and furniture (you'd be amazed what you can go without), I still had more than what I needed.
These choices don't limit my options at all – removing this clutter has simplified my life and given me the freedom to pursue the things I value most.
Although it's not necessary to go to sell your bed and move cross-country from your car, adopting a minimalist lifestyle can help you save money, cultivate a positive mental attitude and focus on the things in life that matter.
As human beings, we naturally grow and develop over time. Priorities change. Kids grow up. Spouses go on deployment. While minimalism can be portrayed as a rather radical lifestyle, it's more about becoming aware of all the junk that naturally accumulates during these changes.
This is why minimalism can be great for families, too. There are always going to be toys your kids don't use, clothes they don't wear and reducing those items can be a great way to teach your children good financial habits at young age.
Minimalism is also not about buying cheap things. Practicing being more frugal will certainly help you save money, but focusing on having fewer, higher quality items that will last is the ultimate goal.
When you're in the habit of continually buying new things, it's easy to overreach and start living beyond your means. Narrowing your focus and limiting the amount of stuff in your life is a great way to bring your budget under control.
Also, embracing minimalism doesn't mean you have to give away everything. Selling your unwanted items is a great way to bring in a few extra bucks while simultaneously freeing up space in your home. Even military families who are about to PCS can make the process a lot less stressful by paring down before the move. All that stuff can go to worthwhile homes, too.
Minimalism isn't just about trimming away the stuff, but also what you do everyday. It's about being realistic with your goals.
How long are you going keep that home gym you devoted an entire room to but never use? How about that boat that you only take out once or twice a year? What about that motorcycle gathering dust in the corner of the garage?
All of the stuff that we let into our lives represent a significant investment of time, money and energy. Aside from the hours spent researching, shopping, organizing and maintaining all of the clutter, there's also the additional hours we're forced to spend at work so that we can continue to pay for them. Living with less solves a lot of these problems.
Next time you're thinking about buying another pair of shoes or that new TV, consider investing in yourself or your community instead. Take a class, find a place to volunteer or just spend an evening with the people who matter most to you. You won't regret it.