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What Is Minimalism and How Can It Improve Your Life?

Updated on February 10, 2020
Miles Barnham profile image

Former Hedge-Fund Analyst trading cash stocks, options, spread betting and CFD.

What is Minimalism?

When people think of minimalism, they may think of the quirky YouTube videos of people with trimmed beards living in impossibly small homes. Others may think of Edward Norton from Fight Club, giving up everything (or nothing) to form fight clubs around the country.

Both of these certainly are examples of minimalism, but are archetypes, extremes that aren't meant to be practical. I haven't left my career to live with the wolves in Alaska (yet)! I used to work at a hedge fund and I still highly value money and financial freedom.

For me, minimalism is predominantly a mindset, like stoicism. That in order to get by in life, you don't need to consume a lot of noise and garbage. A belief that life is more free and focused when you have small, daily habits that remove objects and choices that don't matter in the long-term.

How Do I Practice Minimalism? Simple Examples.

Minimalism is a mindset that can manifest in simple but effective actions. Below I detail straightforward examples that can be used in everyday life:

  1. Choosing not to check social media first thing when you wake up. To me this is minimalism. Checking social media before saying good morning to your spouse probably isn't necessary. Unless you're a journalist/social media influencer, you're likely consuming content that is 90% garbage. I'm not trying to disparage social media, I use it too, but every time I pick up a cell phone, I am very aware that I am a consumer.
  2. Having black coffee, no sugar or milk. After I wake up, I want very little to eat, and usually fast until the afternoon. In the morning I will have a coffee, but for me adding sugar and milk defeats the point. The sugar and milk is unhealthy, adds unnecessary calories to your diet, doesn't taste that nice and gives you a sugar crash shortly after. Through a minimalistic mindset, I just want something simple and healthy, and that can keep my brain sharp and clear. If I want a beverage with sugar, I'll have a Coke. So next time your colleague is getting the coffee, and someone says "I need two sugars and a milk", think to yourself, do they?
  3. Bin items if you haven't used them in the last year. I don't have too many possessions, but I still do have items of clothing that I cling on to and haven't used in years. By my nature, ironically, I'm a hoarder, but even I have forced myself to stop carrying around stuff that I don't need. Through moving apartments recently and carrying my belongings in heavy boxes, it really made me feel aware of the subconscious weight of possessions that have no use. If you have the discipline to get rid of a sock here and an old jumper there, you really feel a sense of freedom and sharpness that is hard to match.
  4. Do you really need 4 lotions for a shower? I used to shower with a generic fruit-scented gel, but through a mindset of minimalism (and for health), I got rid of it all. Sure I still use a shampoo, but I just want something simple and effective. Having to buy countless fruit-scented gels and lotions at the grocery store seems ephemeral and adds unnecessary expenses. Sure it's small, but having to lug them around to go on vacation or move is not worth it to me. Also many of these gels have harmful Estrogenic compounds that disrupt hormone functioning. I was already getting rid of these, but reading the book "Estrogeneration: How Estrogenics Are Making You Fat, Sick, and Infertile" by Anthony Jay really opened my eyes. At the end of the day, with minimalism in mind, a regular shower, without any winter-berry, lemongrass, lavender scented gel works just fine.

Taking Minimalism Further

Although I like to keep minimalism pretty simple and straightforward, I have experimented with a few more committed ideas. I will expand on 2. in a future post, but here is a brief sample of where minimalism can go:

  1. Intermittent Fasting. I know this is currently in-vogue (before the next fanciful diet comes along), and I am by no means providing any health advice, but for me this diet has provided many benefits. It has given me more time not spent preparing food, allowed me to focus on work that I want to do instead of continuously gorging, and reduced my calories overall. All this is in-line with a minimalistic philosophy and when I only eat for several hours in a day, life is much simpler.
  2. I spent the last 4 years without a smartphone. After having used a Nokia "burner" and iPod Touch for 4 years, I finally got another iPhone. Yes it's inconvenient having to connect to Starbucks Wi-Fi anytime you want to check the internet outside your home. And yes, I do enjoy the luxury of a more convenient, connected life. But during the past 4 years, there were many moments throughout the day when I would actually be thinking creatively and reflecting or engaging with people. Now many of those moments are replaced with a Twitter IV Drip. Although I don't necessarily recommend going to the extreme of 4 years, a week away from smartphones here and there gives you time out of your hectic life, provides some perspective and allows you to focus on what's important.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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