Minimalism and money: are you poor?

Money Saving Cash Minimalism Coins Card Save Minimalist (1 Of 1) 2

What a question.

I’ve heard it many times within the minimalism community. People asking minimalists if their way of living is simply because they can’t afford to buy the things that everyone else can.

There are many reasons to adopt a minimalist lifestyle – stress relief, saving time, freedom from anxiety, sustainability and environmental factors, rebelling against consumerism.

And money.

That can certainly be a key reason why someone would want to embrace minimalism. And that comes in various guises:

  • Spending less on stuff so that you can work less and have more free time
  • Simply not having the excess income available to spend on anything above the essentials
  • Saving money for a financially stable future rather than spending it on trinkets now
  • Selling additional belongings to make much-needed money from your clutter
The Minimalists (2010-2015) pp 8

But it’s not necessarily about being ‘too poor’ to buy things; minimalism can be embraced for any number of reasons, not just to improve your finacial situation.

In my opinion, minimalists are the most wealthy of all – time rich, managed money, invested relationships. As The Minimalists said above, they know what adds value to their lives, which is an eviable situation to be in. Whether with lots of money or with none, their lives are complete.

But, if you have savings, a secure home, investments and all the essentials, what’s left to do with your money?

An interesting question.

I spent many years as a student (and in my twenties… and thirties) not being able to afford stuff. I had less-than the minimum needed to live on, and was often floundering in my student overdraft.

But, oddly enough, I spent more then than I do now. Having no extra money to play with didn’t ‘force’ me to become a minimalist – although that would have probably helped my financial situation at the time. Instead, I just carried on spending money, buying non-essentials and not considering my financial future.

Fields Milburn, J. and Nicodemus, R. (2021) pp 57

That is until the debts got a little too grand for my liking. Until I wanted to put down roots and save a deposit for a mortgage. Until I couldn’t even afford my monthly bills. Things had to change and I simply stopped spending.

I got a budget and started to save every penny. Saving became addictive – and I wasn’t even considering minimalism as a way to save money back then.

In truth, I’ve always been a saver, but just didn’t have the funds while I was studying to be able to do that. It was only after starting to manage my money more carefully that I discovered minimalism and all the things that it would help me with – primarily peace and calmness, but also saving extra money on unnecessary shopping.

Well, I’ve been decluttering and cutting back and not shopping and not spending for so long that it feels a little alien to buy anything now. My money automatically stays in my purse and in my bank account rather than being spent. The furthest it moves is into my savings account, and sometimes into my mortgage as an overpayment.

Minimalism brought extra money to me when I sold excess collections during decluttering. It saved me money when I questioned the need to buy anything new. It meant I didn’t need as much money to live on, because I didn’t need a budget for browsing the shops. So I could work less and save more.

After a decade or more of minimalist living, it’s just a way of life for me now. And money doesn’t feel scarce any more, all thanks to minimalism.

But that doesn’t mean I want to go out and spend it now that I have it.

It’s not that I don’t want to invest in new items when my old tech, clothing and homewares have worn out or broken, it’s because I’ve become so accustomed to not buying anything that I really consider it before I do.

However, when I feel more secure in my financial situation, I admit that I am much more likely to spend money. I feel more free to browse the shops, knowing that anything I buy won’t put me in a difficult position fiscally. From buying second-hand items from charity shops to purchasing the latest technology frrom glossy elecronics stores, I can be more free with my money because it doesn’t feel scarce.

And when I did hit the shops recently, it was rather exciting. I felt a little giddy when exchanging my money for goods. Carrying those bags home, bursting with new items. What an experience.

But that’s all it was – a one-off experience. The novelty of shopping soon wore off. I’m not NOT buying items because I can’t afford it. I’m just not interested in recluttering my home. I’d rather spend on experiences (meals out, day trips, theatre tickets) than things.

Kaplan, J. (2015) pp 95

I can spend money as easily as the next person; it’s just that I would rather buy an experience that’s not going to clutter up my home.

Minimalism persists, while money comes and goes.

We are not minimalists because we are poor. We are not poor because we are minimalists.

Fields Milburn, J. and Nicodemus, R. (2010-2015) Essential Essays by The Minimalists. USA: Asymmetrical

Fields Milburn, J. and Nicodemus, R. (2021) Love People Use Things. Great Britain: Headline Home

Kaplan, J. (2015) The Gratitude Diaries. Great Britain: Yellow Kite Books

Comfort without clutter

Theoretical Minimalist Inspiation Minimalism Home Lifestyle (7 Of 9)

As I’m writing this, it’s January.

Soon after ‘Blue Monday’, in fact. Said to be the most depressing day of the year

And I’m thinking about comfort.

The ways that we can soothe ourselves through the dark days of winter and the things we might need to help us achieve that aim.

Even though the Mental Health Foundation says Blue Monday is a myth, some of the factors that have caused it to be nicknamed are certainly true of the month of Janaury in general:

Gloomy and grey days. Cold and wet weather. Back-to-work feeling. Post-Christmas blues (and debts). Dark mornings and evenings.

It can be a lot to deal with emotionally, especially when you bring Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and general low mood into the mix.

The lack of exposure to sunlight in the winter can cause distuption to our circadium rhythm and the body’s production of melatonin and serotonin, which are linked to lethargy and feelings of depression – symptoms of SAD.

So it’s no wonder that some of us might be seeking to improve our January by enjoying a little extra comfort:

  • Introducing extra blankets, hot water bottles and cushions to the bed and on the sofa.
  • Adding soft, cosy lighting such as fairy lights, lamps or candles.
  • Layering up with extra knitwear, thermal bases or dressing gowns.
  • Choosing warming baths over showers, with bottles of bubble bath, face masks and luxury hair products.
  • Treating ourselves to some new items from the January sales; clothing, tech, homewares, cosmetics.
  • Enjoying entertainment by buying new music, films, books, magazines, games.

All of these items – and anything else that brings you comfort – may be benficial to your wellbeing in January. Anything that can help you relax, feel supported and put a smile on your face seems like a positive thing to do.

But, to some minimalists, the list above constitutes clutter. Those items are all surplus to requirements, making them essentially non-minimalist. You are re-cluttering.

And we need to consider the cost factor; how much of your hard-earned money is going to be ‘wasted’; how much space are the items going to take up; how much time will you need to spend maintaining those extra pieces.

The novelty of buying new things can bring a short-term boost but, as I’ve explored previously, the desire to acquire soon wears off. So even though a shopping trip to get some new comforting items might uplift you now, it’s possible that you may regret those purchases in the near future.

But, does a sparse home with only the essentials provide enough comfort? Both physically and emotionally? If you’re looking around a room with only the furniture needed to house the small number of belongings you have and nothing else, is it going to soothe you when you need to feel ‘at home’ and comfortable.

Sometimes, having a little more than the bare essentials is important in keeping us satisfied.

Sure, have just one sofa – but adding a blanket and a cushion can make it into somewhere you’d like to settle down and relax. Yes, create a capsule wardrobe of items that all work together, but why not choose an extra-snuggly knit for those cold wintery days when you want to stay warm? Okay, a light fitting in the ceiling does the job of illuminating the room, but a lamp or string of fairy lights will bring that soft glow that’ll make you feel cosy.

Nothing is clutter if it feels right to you and has a positive impact on your wellbeing.

All of those non-essential items are what make a house a home, and can help you to feel abundant rather than scarce, both of which are uplifting when it’s a grey Monday in the middle of winter and you need a little extra comfort.

Stay snug.

NHS (2022) Overview: Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) [Online]. [Accessed 17th Janaury 2024]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad/overview/

Kousoulis, A. (2021) What does blue monday mean for our mental health? [Online]. [Accessed 17th January 2024] Available from: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/explore-mental-health/blogs/what-does-blue-monday-mean-our-mental-health

What would you put in one box?

Minimalism Minimalist Box Declurttering Theory Question Moving Move Storage

If you had to fit your life into one box (or suitcase, trunk, or even the boot of a car) could you do that?

Would you need to get rid of a lot of stuff before you could consider packing up and moving to a new place?

What’s essential for you to keep and what could you easily replace if you had to?

What would you find difficult to let go of? Would you try to cram it into your box, even if it meant giving up something else?

All these questions arose when I was reading 101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think by Brianna Wiest and was reading her essay titled ‘101 Things more worth thinking about than whatever’s consuming you’.

Although these questions I’ve posed above weren’t in the list of 101 Things, they popped into my head when I read the following question that Brianna suggested:

What you’d put in one box if you had to move to the other side of the country and could only bring that.

Brianna Weist (2017) pp. 70.

Amongst all the existential queries, this question grabbed my attention. It spoke to my wannabe-minimalist self and made me stop to really think about what I would put in that box.

Of course, I changed the question slightly for my own thought project – moving to the other side of the world is more likely to require you to only take a small amount of possessions, so considering a suitcase to take to another country made the question more real for me.

When I began to consider it seriously, I soon realised just how many items I would quickly drop from my list of essentials to take with me.

I first thought about clothing and toiletries but soon realised that I could probably re-buy everything I really needed when I got to the other side of the world. Aside from a couple of days’ worth of travelling clothes and personal care essentials, everything else could be replaced.

So, what actually IS irreplaceable and essential in my life?

My first thought was the people and animals I love but, of course, I’m not squishing physical beings into a box, so I’m taking them out of the equation.

I started to look around my home. What did I actually need? What would I be sad to have to give away forever?

The photo albums always seem to be a big pull for me. I don’t have the best memory but, when I see a photo, I can probably tell you the exact location, the occasion, even the year, month and date. So, photos are a BIG memory prompt for me.

But I don’t need the albums for that. In fact, the yearly scrapbook albums I make would take up all the space in the box and then some. So they couldn’t come with me anyway.

Instead, I’m taking a hard drive with digital copies of every image with me in that box. I’d scan all my childhood photos and wedding albums and transfer all my jpegs from my computer so that I can still see all those photos in the future.

Although, thinking about how important my photographs are to me, I don’t trust that the hard drive would make it to the other side of the world in one piece, so I might even back up the hard drive with a second one that I keep on my person while I’m travelling. That sounds like the safest option.

Oh, or I could upload them to a cloud storage facility – if only I could figure out how to do that. Maybe I don’t need those hard drives after all? That’ll save me some space in my box.

So we’re back to zero items.

The Minimalists (2010-2015) pp 76

Let’s not be so strict. I’m going to think about what I would take if the box was quite large.

My computer would be nice to take and expensive to replace. Likewise my phone and all other smart tech in my home. But they’re not sentimental items and are completely replaceable. Urgh.

I would like to keep my important documents; my undergraduate and master’s degrees, my marriage and birth certificates, my passport and driving license, maybe even my NRA. Not very imaginative but I’d ideally like to have these documents with me.

There are some artworks in my home that I wouldn’t want to have to give up; important pieces handmade by my creative friends and family, or given to me as gifts on significant occasions, or ones that commemorate an important person or era in my life.

Again, most books I can access digitally or replace, but I’d like to keep a few; my childhood copies of The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark and poetry books by Janet & Alan Ahlberg (which got me into reading for pleasure at a young age) and my original The Darling Buds of May by H.E. Bates that I studied with during my A-Levels and which I still re-read every year.

As a writer and avid reader books are an important part of my life and although I’m willing to give most of them away, those are the handful of books that I don’t want to give up. I’ve only once regretted decluttering a book from childhood so I’m going to cling on to these ones and make sure that they fit into my moving box.

I might cut out and keep all the magazine articles I’ve written rather than moving shelves of magazines with me. But, then again, I have PDFs of most of them already, so that’s not really necessary.

We need to look more closely at sentimental items. I would take a handful of jewellery items that I’ve inherited or have been given by my husband. I’d keep a perfume that is no longer in production but that transports me back to my youth. Maybe the first music album I bought with birthday money as a kid.

I have a pair of sparkly shoes that are so uncomfortable that I’ve only worn them a handful of times but that was my first shopping trip purchase as a teen. Actually, no. They could go if there wasn’t space in my box.

As you can probably tell, I’ve been working through the question posed by Brianna Wiest in real time, so you’re getting a kind of stream-of-consciousness answer from me. But I wonder how similar your thoughts would be to my own when considering what you would pack into that one box?

What you might have initially thought of as being essential, important or sentimental might just turn out to be replaceable for you too, when you really think about it.

Perhaps this exercise will be helpful in determining what you could declutter as part of your minimalist journey. I know I’ve certainly identified a lot of things I thought I wanted but don’t actually need.

Maybe I could make some more changes now to help me achieve a more clutter-free home…

So, what’s going in your moving box?

Fields Milburn, J. and Nicodemus, R. (2010-2015) Essential Essays by The Minimalists. USA: Asymmetrical

Weist, B. (2017) 101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think United States: Thought Catalog

How to prevent recluttering

Minimalist Home Decor Hotel Decluttering Boxes 5

If you’ve managed to declutter your belongings, good on ya!

You’ve made a decision to live with less and I bet you’re thoroughly chuffed with your efforts – I know I was every time I ‘completed’ a room.

However, within the physical and mental space left behind by the decluttering process, you may become tempted to fill that void.

You might feel the urge to reclutter.

You might not feel it quickly, as you’ll probably enjoy basking in your decluttering success for a while. But, if you don’t keep an eye on things, you might end up recluttering in a week, a month, a year, a decade.

Here are come common causes of recluttering:

You’ve got extra space. If there’s an empty cupboard, box or drawer, it means you can store stuff in it without it getting in your way and impacting on your day-to-day space. It’s tidy – but it’s still there.

You take a second look at the things you’ve decluttered. If you didn’t donate or remove your belongings immediately, there might be in a box in the garage. A box that you can easily access and decide that no, in fact, I don’t want to get rid of that… it’s coming back into the house.

You buy more stuff. Space in your wardrobe, kitchen or toolkit means you can ‘treat yo-self’ to something new. One-out-one-in, right?

You keep it ‘just in case’. You take a look at that bag of items you’re taking to the charity shop and realise you shouldn’t have decluttered that ball of wool. You might need it in the future so you keep hold of it.

This was certainly the case for me. I decluttered but I kept the boxes of stuff in the garage, ready to give away or sell. And then, the pandemic turned me into a hoarder. I went out to those boxes and decided that I might need these things – who knows when I’ll get a chance to go out to get them in the future? So I brought items back into my home.

HOW TO AVOID RECLUTTERING YOUR HOME

I know some of these ideas will sound simple, but it’s all about giving yourself a bit of a talking to. Here’s how to deal with recluttering:

  • Avoid the shops so you can’t buy anything new.
  • Get rid of decluttered items immediately so you can’t change your mind.
  • Remove excess storage solutions so there isn’t space to reclutter.
  • Know that if you need something that desperately in the future, you can buy it.
  • Take time to consider purchases. Give yourself a month and if you still want and need the item, maybe getting it is the right thing to do.

Have you had the urge to reclutter after a clear out? Do you have any tips for avoiding recluttering your home? Please let me know how you handled this issue in the comments below.