[Average read time: 6 minutes]
Two years ago I Threw Out Everything I Owned. Maybe I’ll regret that decision one day, but today I don’t. It has been one of the best decisions I ever made. It was almost as good as my decision to commit to a lifelong relationship with the woman who became my wife. Just kidding. My marriage didn’t go quite as I expected. You can read all about that roller coaster of a relationship in my first book, Divorced Before 30.
Every day I try to do at least one of the following:
a) Throw out a physical item. Even just one will grow your minimalist muscle.
b) Throw out an emotional burden. Someone who is a shitty person, a grudge from the past, one of the 357 worries you have about the future that will probably never happen. All this crap drains your emotional stamina. Let all that shit go. Your future self will thank you.
c) Throw out a mental burden. An unrealistic or unnecessary goal. I used to have a strict writing schedule, but that made writing feel like a job – I don’t like that! I no longer have deadlines and something very interesting happened. To my surprise, I have actually written more than ever before. In the past 60 days, I’ve published eight articles and a new book.
There is a method to the madness…
9 Surprising Benefits to Being a Minimalist
1) Mental Clarity
I often write about the 80/20 rule. The rule states that 80% of results are caused by 20% of activities. Therefore, it makes sense that 80% of my happiness comes from 20% of my life. I am self-aware enough to know that my kids, family, creating things, and new experiences contribute most of my happiness so I focus on that.
This realization makes daily decisions really easy.
Everything I do allows me to better focus on my priorities: kids, family, creating things, new experiences.Having less stuff is not about decluttering my home, it's about decluttering my mind so I can focus on what matters.Click To Tweet
2) Greater Purpose
Physical and mental burdens are like a dense fog that was clouding my path. As soon as the fog began to fade, I could now see the road ahead and begin to map my journey with clarity.
I have a full-time job so 2/3 of my life is work and sleep. The other 1/3 is now used to think about what I want to do or be in the next 5 to 10 years and more importantly, I have the time to turn my thoughts into action.
I can focus on what matters: Kids, family, create, experience.
3) Better Health
I now have less stuff and more time. Great! Now what?
More time and mental energy can be good or bad depending on how I choose to deploy it. I use some of my time to cook meals at home and go to the gym.
4) Freedom From Comparison
After purging 99% of possessions from my life, the urge to impress others slowly faded. I don’t worry about buying things I don’t really want with money I don’t have to impress people I don’t even know.
If there’s something I really need or want, I’ll buy it. This journey is not about being an urban nomad, it’s about simplifying my life so I can focus on things that matter. There is space in my life for stuff. The main difference is I now have a very high threshold before I allow myself to bring something into my life.
5) More Time
Duh! This article is about “Surprising Benefits,” right?
This may come across as complete bullshit and cliché, but life is short. I turned 32 earlier this month. An average life for a healthy dude is about 75-80 years. I’m almost halfway there and that scares the shit out of me. The actual dying part doesn’t scare me. What truly scares me is FOMO – fear of missing out. There’s so much I want to do, see, and accomplish.
I want to spend as much time with my kids and family as possible. I want to create. I want to experience.
6) Relationships Improve
When I stopped competing with others about who has cooler stuff and worrying about all the other shit that doesn’t matter, life gets pretty easy.
I have more time to connect with family, friends, and even reconnect with old acquaintances. Great relationships are not built on competition or who has better things; they’re built on being present and creating memories together.
This journey has changed me in ways I never expected. Stuff doesn’t define who I am anymore. I wasn’t high maintenance before, but my relationship with objects changed. I own less things than ever before, but I feel incredibly wealthy. Not financial wealth; a deeper, spiritual wealth.
I used to want an iPad. Now I just want to be with my kids and write.
My self-worth is based on how I treat others and creating things that hopefully adds value to people’s lives.
8) Fat Piggy Bank
Buy less shit; have more cash.
9) Lifelong Memories
Two years ago I decided to trade possessions for memories, but many people don’t know my real motivation. I don’t think I’ve talked about this publicly because it’s difficult for me, but I feel compelled to share.
I think almost EVERYONE knows I’m divorced by now. If this is news to you, surprise!
What I don’t typically share is that because of my divorce, I am now in a situation where I live in Dallas and my kids live in Los Angeles. Trading my possessions for memories wasn’t a life hack or experiment so I could write an article. It was done out of necessity and a desire to see my kids more often.
Less stuff and stress means more money and time to see them. I make the DFW to LA trip once per month. As I continue to build my ideal life under the current circumstances, going to LA twice per month will be at the center of that life.
This is a lifestyle choice. It’s not for everyone, but it works for me. It allows me focus on what truly matters…
Kids, family, create, experience.
A Story About Minimalism
A wise master and his student. The student lives far away and writes monthly updates on his progress towards enlightenment.
The first letter: “I see visions of heaven. I’m lifted by angels, I feel light like I can fly. I can see the whole world.”
The master grumbles and rips up the letter.
The next letter a month later. “I’ve seen all the universes. I’ve created worlds. I’ve seen the inside of myself.”
The master grumbles and rips the letter into even tinier shreds.
The next letter from the student: “I’ve sat in meditation for one month straight without eating. My mind is an empty sea. I can see everyone’s aura. I see the whole past and the whole future in this single instant.”
The master says to nobody in particular, “this is shit.” And puts the letter in his paper shredder.
The master gets lots of letters from students.
Six months go by and no letter from the student.
Finally the master, curious about an update, writes the student and asks what’s going on.
The student writes back a letter: “Who cares!?”
The master smiles and thinks to himself, “finally!”