Is the minimalist lifestyle for you?

THE promise of all the material stuff we buy -- whether it is a 3D TV, virtual reality headset, designer chair, “wearable” or some “exclusive” clothing -- is that it will make us happy. 

But does it ever? It seems it rarely does, especially for a prolonged period of time.

Just like you can’t fix your problems by running away from them (because you carry your problems with you), similarly, your unhappiness will follow you around regardless of how much you spend on “retail therapy”. 

A house filled with stuff is not enough to replace an empty heart.

So according to minimalism, the pendulum should swing the other way, towards owning less stuff. 

Would that actually make you happier? Probably not directly, throwing away some items that have stories attached to them might even be painful. But it might help indirectly. 

First, by allowing you to discover that you will not become unhappy without most of the stuff that you have lying around (except that old ragdoll from when you were young). 

Second, by having fewer distractions, which allows you to focus on the things that truly matter. 

Minimalism can give you freedom from worry, decision paralysis and allow you to reclaim your time by simplifying your life. 

Minimalism is a growing trend and is definitely “en vogue” today. You can find minimalism in design, art, photography, finances, fashion, architecture, writing, and even coding: basically, all human activities. 

There are no set rules but it is instead more of a mindset shift, a new perspective on living life.

But is it all that it is cracked up to be? Some people have already proclaimed minimalism to be the new materialism, obsessed with getting rid of stuff instead of buying stuff, but still focused on stuff nevertheless. 

Others find it plain boring and perhaps hoarders are more fun to be around? It has also been described as a lifestyle suitable only for bachelors and the well-off, who can afford to throw everything away and buy new things whenever they need them.

We should also distinguish actual minimalism from hipster minimalism, where it is just an excuse to buy the latest overpriced gadget and declare it “minimalistic” because of its design and quality.

So, is minimalism for you? It doesn’t mean you need to live like a monk, live in a cabin in the woods without electricity or running water and disconnect from all technologies around you. 

It is about saying goodbye to excessive consumption, but not to consumption per se. It is more about living (well) within your means, rather than trying to keep up with the Joneses by working crazy hours because you need that promotion to support your already inflated lifestyle.

To practice minimalism, ask yourself these two questions: “Do I really, really need that?” and “Could I live without that”? 

First, ask these questions whenever you are about to buy something. Once you notice you’re buying less, ask yourself the same questions about all the stuff you have already collected over the years.

If you are a person who naturally likes to clean up, has little attachment to things and doesn’t become sentimental or nostalgic when going through childhood belongings, minimalism will come easy to you.

Minimalism definitely has its advantages, not in the least related to your personal finance. 

But if you love trash, it might be more worthwhile to start collecting piggy banks and start filling them, than trying to convert to the minimalistic lifestyle. To each his own.

Mark Reijman is co-founder and managing director of dedicated to increasing financial literacy and to help you save time and money by comparing all credit cards, personal loans and broadband plans in Malaysia.


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