Hello everybody, welcome to episode 216 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. Today's question comes from someone who's wondering: is minimalism right for her and her husband?
I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino reminding you before we begin that if you have a question you would like help with on the show, we welcome you to email it to us at advice@ AT oldpodcast.com
As they say on Optimal Living Daily and Optimal Finance Daily, “It’s a Minimalist Monday!” here on Optimal Living Advice! Yes, friends, for the first time we have received a question about minimalism, and wouldn’t ya know it, it happens to fall on a Monday. Unplanned, I swear. It’s extremely rare that we tinker with the order in which questions come in. And here we are. We’ve got a question that’s all about minimalism. A longtime listener is on the fence about becoming a minimalist along with her husband, and today we have a chance to look at what minimalism really is and what may be holding them back. Hopefully we can help her and her husband get some clarity. Let’s hear what’s on her mind first. Here’s the question…
QUESTION: “My husband and I have been listening to OLD for a while now, actually. We started because we loved some of the productivity hacks and it was a good way to spend a quick car ride. Over the years, we’ve gotten more and more interested in a lot of the topics and enjoyed trying them out. One that we want to try but can’t really commit to yet is minimalism or downsizing. We’re stuck on this one and wanted to know your perspective. It sounds great, other people seem to like it when they do it, but we’re really torn and it seems so difficult to give up a lot of our belongings even if we don’t use them much. I think we’ve even started to feel guilty about hanging on to so much stuff, but it’s still so hard to part from much of it. Could this be a good thing for us or should we follow our guts?“
Minimalism: To Be or Not To Be?
Well hey, thanks so much for supporting the network! Sounds like you’ve been around here longer than I have. Really great that we have a chance to help you out with something directly now – excellent stuff. Minimalism is definitely something that’s covered a lot throughout all of our shows and always held in such high regard so it’s interesting that it’s not felt like your cup of tea compared to some of the other ideas we cover a lot. So let’s talk about why that might be.
Whether it’s minimalism or anything else, we never commit unless we’re certain of good results on the other side, or at least feel as though we can brave potential bad results. So if you’re torn on minimalism, it’s safe to say you’re not sure of how good the benefits will be, or if you can see yourself withstanding unexpected negative aftereffects. Surely not everyone is all in on minimalism, but you’re right in that many people are.
So what’s the difference between you and the people that love it?
What is Minimalism at its Core?
Well, let’s think about what minimalism is at its core. Others may have different ideas, but to me, it boils down to a great opportunity to look at the true purpose of, well, everything. It starts small.
Do I need to keep these extra items around that I never use? How are they serving me? Should I buy this shirt, this mug, this pen, even though I already have 30 shirts, 30 mugs and 30 pens at home? I’d say that you could even approach food with a minimalist approach; is this food good for me, or is it packed with a lot of saturated fat that’s tasty right now but bad for my high cholesterol?
And minimalism can be transferred onto big things, too. Do I need to keep this person in my life even though they’re regularly putting me down for things I pride myself on? Do I need this massive house, half of which I’ll probably set foot in once a month?
Inspecting the Value of Everything
Minimalism requires us to inspect the value of everything. And though that’s a noble pursuit, we tend to be quite bad at even determining good value. Yeah that Lamborghini might make you feel great when it’s turning heads in the middle of town, but then why do you need to rely on a car or the envy of others to provide you with a feeling of greatness? Is that greatness pure, or shallow?
These types of questions really shine the light on what we’re willing to invest for a better future. Do I trust that turning this item or person or whatever aside will bring me something more valuable long term, regardless of how they might satisfy me in this moment? And to make things harder, with minimalism, the future value goes unseen. It’s sense of peace, a lack of mental clutter. What it isn’t is something that’s easily recognized by others, and in many cases, by ourselves.
This may have been a long way to get there, but the kicker is this: studies suggest that the more emotional turmoil we’re facing, the more impulsive we become and will turn to short term satisfaction more so than taking the time to calculate what’s best for us in the long run. Much of this impulsivity translates into buying, which disrupts the framework of minimalism.
So my question for you, and what might separate you from those who love minimalism, is what emotional turmoil might be keeping you attached to your items, and thus on the fence about minimalism?
Evaluating Your Purchases and Consumption
Take a look at your past purchases, how you showcase your items, and how quickly you replace things. Upon reflection, do you two fall victim to trying to keep up with the Joneses? If so, what’s the real value in that? Is it value you want to be living by? Is it coming from a place of love or a place of fear?
Or maybe you’ve lost everything before and since rebuilding your lives, you now have a hard time separating from items that you’ve gained since rebounding because you feel it’s important to be prepared in case everything falls apart again. There are a lot of potential answers here, but they’ll all reflect an over-attachment to at least some of your items for reasons that need to be figured out separately.
A Minimalism Game: How to Find Out if Minimalism is Right
I’ll leave you with an exercise that I tried for my first go around with minimalism a few years ago. I believe it’s called the 30 Day Minimalism Game and it was initiated by The Minimalists themselves, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, who are good friends of the show.
What you do is, for 30 days, remove as many items as it is days that have passed. On day 1, you toss or donate 1 item. 2 items on day 2, 3 on day 3, all the way up to 30 on day 30. Look, this is a 30 day challenge, perfect for getting your feet wet, and entirely reversible if you’re somehow not yet ready to make this a lifestyle. It’s a lot to jump into a major life overhaul right away anyway, and not something I’d recommend.
Not to mention the fact that minimalism has many different degrees. You don’t have to be so intense if you don’t want to, but downsizing is usually a good idea to some degree.
By trying an experiment like this with numbers and dates attached to it, you can hold yourself accountable to giving this a good try and reevaluating afterwards.
Thanks so much to the listener for sending this question in and again, for being a longtime supporter of all our shows. I hope you’re all feeling a little clearer about not only what minimalism is, but also the foundation it’s built upon and, perhaps most importantly, the fact that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing if you don’t want it to be.
Taking small steps each day to question the purpose and meaning behind things in your life that you’re unsure about is a great start and a great way of honoring the system even if it doesn’t lead up to you throwing everything away and living out of a backpack forever. With something like minimalism, even small progress is great progress and sets really good standards for the future.
And that’s going to do it for this edition of OLA, everyone. Thanks a lot for being here, hope you all had a wonderful weekend, wishing you luck this week, and hoping you’ll be back here for more fun and frolic in the Wednesday show. Until then, everyone.