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Should You Adopt a Minimalist Lifestyle?

Explore the pros and cons of popular minimalist methods like the 90/90 rule, the 30-day declutter, and the 100-item life.

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The minimalist movement, or the idea of living with just the barest of necessities, has exploded in popularity in recent years, especially as everyday expenses are at an all-time high. Let’s take a closer look at this trending lifestyle choice so you can make an informed decision about embracing its philosophies.

What is minimalism?

In a twist of irony, the generally accepted definition of minimalism is itself as sparse as possible, diluted into just three words: Less is more. The less you own, the more you have. But adopting a minimalist lifestyle is more than just a massive decluttering. It also means getting rid of, or whittling down, any expense category in your budget and any activity you engage in that is not absolutely necessary for your life or peace of mind. In an ideal minimalist life, your home, wardrobe and daily schedule hold only what you need and nothing more.

The trending minimalist lifestyle is a takeaway from the art genre of the ‘60s and ‘70s and was initially made popular by “The Minimalists,” Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, who have spread their message through their documentary, podcast and nationwide tour. Since its introduction in 2011, the movement has grown by leaps and bounds. At its core, the minimalist philosophy is a focus on the present, as well as a decision to really feel every experience by eliminating all distractions and non-essentials.

Getting started on minimalism.

There are lots of ways to live a minimalist life. Here are some popular ways to get started:

  • The 90/90 rule. Choose an item in your home and ask yourself if you’ve used it in the last 90 days. If the answer is no, ask yourself if you will use it within the next 90 days. If the answer is still no, toss it out.
  • The 30-day declutter. In this challenge, you throw out one item in your home on Day 1, two items on Day 2 and continue like this until Day 30, when you throw out 30 items.
  • The 100-item life. Here, you choose 100 essential items that you need to live with and toss out everything else you own.

It’s important to know that there is no “right way” for embracing this lifestyle. Since minimalism means living with what you need and what brings you joy, it will look different to everyone. In addition, some of these approaches may seem extreme and unattainable to you, and that’s OK, too. For example, if you’ve decided to go with the 90-day rule, and you have a large collection of books you haven’t touched in years and are cluttering up your home, causing you stress or landing you in debt, you can decide to hold onto them in defiance of the rule. As long as you are left with a home and a lifestyle that fills you with peace and serenity, you have adopted the minimalist lifestyle.

Pros of living a minimalist life.

Here are some benefits of minimalism:

  • Define your values and think clearly. When you get rid of all the extras in your life, you’re left with what truly matters.
  • Improved mental health. Evidence suggests that a cluttered life is a stressful life.
  • Increased opportunities to experience life at its purest level. Walking away from extraneous commitments, or even a career, can free you up to experience the true pleasures in life.
  • More room in your budget. When you throw out all the unneeded expenses from your budget, it’s easier to save and avoid falling into debt. In addition, when you remove yourself from the rat race, you will likely find you need a lot less money to support your lifestyle.

Cons of living a minimalist life.

Minimalism does have its disadvantages as well, including:

  • Feelings of deprivation. If taken to an extreme, a minimalist life can be depriving and ultimately backfire.
  • Unhealthy obsession. Minimalism can require a lot of brain power as you try to determine which items you really need. If you spend all day thinking about your stuff, it still owns you.
  • Owning just a few items doesn’t work with cheap stuff. If you plan to go forward with only having one laptop, or just two pairs of jeans, you’ll need to invest in items that will last for the long haul. But durable goods don’t come cheap. Ultimately, it will likely come out less expensive than owning lots of cheaper items that frequently need replacing, but the initial outlay can be challenging for some people to cover.
  • It can be isolating. Unless you jump into this lifestyle with a partner or friend, it can be a very lonely life.

A minimalist lifestyle can clear your home, life and budget of clutter, but it’s not for everyone. Use this guide to make an informed decision about embracing a minimalist life.

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CUNA 2023 diamond award trophy icon

CUNA 2023 Diamond Award Winner

Financial Education

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