The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak. ~Hans Hofmann, Introduction to the Bootstrap, 1993
After the holiday season, our guess is that you are exhausted from visiting the store and buying (and even receiving) gifts. If you are like us, your closets, cabinets and drawers are suffering from some major spillage and as much as we love clothes, gifts, knick knacks and beyond, it is easy to get bogged down, both spiritually and physically by too much stuff. This is why minimalism and living simply should be your resolution for 2017.
Simple living has been around for centuries, and it hasn’t always been the Amish and the monks taking a Spartan lifestyle. The post-World War II economic boom brought with it a slew of consumerism and the “American Dream”: get a good job, have a big family, get a nice car, and settle into a white-picket fenced house. Along with this came the whole “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality that has stuck around to this day. In the 60s, hippies and communes sought to break this material living, but before them the Greek Epicureans and followers of Thoreau sought to break the cycle. While we have made strides, we think it is fair to say that our lives could all use a little lightening these days: We work and work and work to only buy and buy and buy–but is all that material wealth really contributing to our happiness? And are we stuck in a cycle where we don’t even have the time to enjoy what we purchase in our lives because we are so focused on working to accumulate more? Are we filling our time with Netflix binges, Facebook stalking, and countless latte runs, when we should be filling our time with friends, value and service?
An excerpt from the website, Becoming Minimalist, sums up the problems with this cycle in the best way,
“Nobody really believes happiness is directly tied to the number of things we own. Yet almost all of us live like it. We work more hours than ever before, earn more income, but save less. Personal debt has increased dramatically over the precious three decades. And consumer spending has ben exalted to a virtue in our society–even patriotic.”
Minimalism isn’t all about ridding consumerism, products and clutter from your life. Minimalism is about finding your own sense of self and focusing on the things your love. It is about creating a lifestyle that is streamlined and focused around only those people and things that enrich you. It is about the core of what makes you happy, and chances are it isn’t that boring office job that sounds cool or that bin full of purses.
Well, people are dialing into this, and within the last few years there has been a huge collective movement towards living a simpler life that we think you should join in on. Top business execs are trading in their penthouses for trailers, and CEOs are discovering that their dream job wasn’t corporate domination but writing a book. A pair of roommates made a pact not to buy anything for one year (including gas). An investment manager moved into 128-square-foot home and, as a result, has significantly lower expenses and more financial freedom to hold the type of job she loves.
For everything that you rid of, you will gain something much more valuable. Joshua Becker, a recent minimalist explains, “Nobody says, ‘My goal in life is to own a lot of stuff,’ and yet most of us live life that way. We try to find jobs that pay a lot of money, and buy bigger houses and faster cars, and that’s not really what we most want out of life. We want to make a difference. We want significance. We want to be good fathers and husbands.” That is what you will gain by cutting out, what you really want in life.
These days, minimalistic living can come in many forms and many varying extremes. We think the most practical form of minimalistic living for us college gals is to “do as the Parisians do” as they say.
And here is our list: How You Can Live Lighter in 2017
1. Purge Your Closet: Have only what you need and what you can see. Have an honest conversation with yourself and think about each piece. Do you really need six purses? Don’t one or two get the same job done? Need a good test when deciding whether to get rid of that top? If you walked into a store and saw it on a rack today, would you buy it? If not, toss it.
2. Use the Hanger Trick: Starting in 2017, turn all of your hangers backwards. As you wear a clothing item, turn the hanger the right way. At the end of the season, whatever hangers still remain facing backwards have got to go.
3. Quality Not Quantity: This may seem obvious but it is a hard habit to beat when shopping. Imagine your wardrobe as a beautifully curated collection and focus more on buying pieces that you absolutely love and will wear forever, regardless of price. The initial bite out of your wallet will hurt, but in the long run you will probably spend equal amounts on fewer pieces that you love and you’ll have a wardrobe more representative of your taste.
4. Purge: Take a day and clear out all of your drawers, loose papers, and bedroom knick knacks. If something doesn’t have sentimental meaning or adds no value to your life–pitch it or donate it. Also, rid of duplicates. Yes you need a set of sheets, but do you really need four?
5. Eat Fresh: Pretty much every other country in the world has this idea right besides the United States. Here in the good old U.S.A we like to stock pile our cabinets and freezers full of canned and preservative goods. Great if a nuclear war happens, but pretty pointless for everyday living. By eliminating meaningless tasks from your daily routine, you can carve out time to visit your local market every few days and buy fresh, healthy ingredients. Your cabinets will be more clear, your body will be healthier and you will actually know what you have hiding in the back of the fridge.
6. Live to Your Goals: Sit down with a journal and clearly identify what your life goals and values are. Then, identify the things, people and habits in your life that both contribute and hinder achieving this goal. Cut out that which doesn’t lead to your happiness and success and add more of what does.
7. Test Those Limits: See how long you can go without shopping. Give yourself a limit, whether it be two weeks or six months and a specific target, whether it be avoiding a certain mall or making clothes purchase. Then put your self-will to the test. After your allowed time, chances are you will realize all those extra blouses weren’t worth it and you will set yourself up for future spending control.
8. Cut the Cord: On the extreme end, this means giving up all those high tech gadgets: TV, cell phone, computer, etc. And sure, all research points to no TV people having happier, healthier lives. But on a more manageable “I need to have some communication with the world” level, limit yourself to only a few hours of TV per week, or only 30 minutes of social media stalking per day. You’ll make more time for the things and people that you love and clear out some unnecessary noise from your life.
9. Wear the Same Thing: Well, not exactly. But John Haltiwanger of Elite Daily, recently wrote a very thought provoking article about how some of the most successful people wear the same thing every day. Think about, Obama only wears navy or black suits, Steve Jobs also wore his black turtleneck and jeans, Mark Zuckerberg sports a grey shirt and jeans, Einstein even reportedly wore the same variation of a grey suit. every. single. day. “Why?!” your fashion-obsessed brain is probably thinking. It all comes back to “decision fatigue” which is an actual condition where “a person’s productivity suffers as a result of becoming mentally exhausted from making so many irrelevant decisions.” Adopt a uniform that is unique to you, and you’ll spend less time fretting over accessories and more time making life changing decisions.
10. Uncover the Latte Factor: David Bach, a financial author, says one of the best ways to accumulate wealth is to realize what small day to day purchases are hurting your wallet. Track your spending for one month and then the next month cut out all of your extraneous purchases (daily lattes, vending machine snacks, random magazines). Chances are you will identify your spending weakness and you will save a ton of money and can use the extra cash to save or buy an experience.
And if all else fails to remember, moderation, moderation, moderation. Give it a shot this year, and let us know how it goes!
Remember, a pared down lifestyle doesn’t mean less success, less status and less happiness. It represents your freedom to focus on the things in life that really matter.
There are a variety of blogs, books, apps and websites bringing together the minimalist community. If you are wanting to join the movement or just a curious passersby, here are some options:
The Buy Nothing Year: Read about how two roommates saved over $55,000 by swearing off all purchases for a whole year
Freecycle NYC: For all of our NYC gals, join this group to get in on the sharing.
How Living with Less Can Give You More: This article eloquently tells the before and after stories of families who took on the Spartan lifestyle. The switch wasn’t always easy, but what they gained was well worth it.
Give It Up!: My Year of Learning to Live Better with Less: This book by Mary Carlomagno walks us through her year of purging unnecessary vices every month. How did her journey begin? When she was quite literally hit over the head with a tumbling pile of designer shoe boxes from her closet.
7 Tiny Homes that Celebrate Simple Living: See real footage of tiny homes and all of their unexpected benefits.