What I Learned from Living With a Lot Less

Some call it Minimalism, but let’s not put a label on it.

Photo by Roland Hechanova on Unsplash

Minimalism has received a bad rep and I don’t believe it’s fair (or accurate). I shouldn’t care about this, but I do. Why can’t I have a lot less without categorizing myself or people categorizing me? I don’t try living with less to fit in with a crowd, which is what people are put-off by. That’s where the disconnect between the perception of minimalists and minimalism’s actual roots exists.

Living well, spending less (a lot less)

When I travel, I hardly fill a backpack. I could be gone for a year and a half or only two weeks — you’d hardly tell a difference in my packing style.

Why’s that?

Because I don’t have a bunch of stuff like I once had. I have a lot less nowadays and I owe it to changing my ways and living with less.

I find I’m more satisfied with myself when I’m not consuming. I consume enough as it is. I’m happy with what I have and what I have is enough. I make my best effort at cutting expenses in all aspects of life and I’m conscious of waste.

There’s always going to be a bigger apartment to rent, a nicer car to drive, a more expensive camera to take photos with or faster laptop to work on.

If I’m living a life where I’m always chasing the next purchase, I’ll never be satisfied with what I have. But I’ve only recently discovered that through several life and personality changes.

In the fall of 2016, I sold my car before I moved to Europe. To this day, it was one of the better decisions of my life. It forced me to walk places. I rode my bike to work. I caught rides when going far distances.

After a while, I realized that with my line of work, a car isn’t completely necessary. I freed myself from the burden of car repairs and the task of buying a new car (mine was eighteen years old then).

This got me curious about other aspects of my life. Could I cut ties from other areas of my life?

Without a car, it meant I wasn’t filling up on gas once every few weeks. It meant I wasn’t making car insurance payments anymore.

Suddenly, my budget lasted longer. I felt more comfortable spending time on things I enjoyed rather than working for more money.

Not only that, but I got in shape (sort of) by walking and biking everywhere. I noticed things about my city while I was on walks that I’d never noticed before even though I’d lived there most of my life.

It slowed things down, it calmed me down. I became more focused on my aspirations which led to more productive use of my time.

To sum up, I was able to see and think clearer when I started simplifying my lifestyle. That is what I set out for when I started decluttering my life. A simplistic life can be a rewarding one.

Learning how to live minimally was crucial for me

I was banned from Europe at the beginning of the summer of 2018. This came as a huge blow to me. Tossed back into the United States with nothing but a few pairs of underwear — a lot less than what I left with.

When I got back home, everything was the same. What I noticed for the first time is the consumerism Americans are engulfed in.

Conversations with friends, family, and colleagues were almost always focused on what new gadget they bought. Or what life upgrade they were saving for.

I’m at an age where people begin to buy homes, get engaged, buy new cars; it’s the beginning of adulthood.

It felt like the Golden Age of the 1950s when everyone’s buying, buying, buying — and why? Because they can! They’ve made the money and they’re going to spend it how they want. All the power to them.

This mentality didn’t sit well with me. I had spent so long living well, spending less, and living with less that I’d forgotten this part of American culture. I struggled with it and with people about it.

I used to be this way, as well, though. I’d wait until I became bored and then buy more. I did this subconsciously. Most people don’t even realize they’re doing it. It takes some time away from the culture to realize the way it all happens.

I was at my happiest living minimally. Living a simple life with little money was freeing. It was edgy. There was always a risk, but yet, always less pressure.

I never felt the need to keep up with anyone. I never had to answer to society’s pressure on moving forward. I was living with less happily.

It was one of the happiest periods of my life. That’s when I realized a lot less is actually a lot more. That’s how I realized how important this concept is to me.

How it can change your own life

Many people, like me, don’t see the impact of consumerism on their everyday life. A dollar for this, an extra few dollars to upgrade that — these are everyday decisions that can add up.

Nevermind the financial burden of consumerism. What draws me to thrifty living is the opportunity for a simple, happier life.

I encourage everyone to think about their lifestyle. What can you make simpler? Could you get rid of some clothes in your closet you wear once or twice a year? What about that crock-pot you only use to cook one meal?

Try to get rid of a little at a time. You’ll be surprised what you find you can live without. It’s the beginning of your stress-free life.

Why it’s not necessary to put a label on it

I’m not another person who claims to be a minimalist. Perhaps, I am, but I hate that label. There shouldn’t be a label on it.

Living minimalistically doesn’t have to be a drastic lifestyle change. That’s the problem with the label. With that label, you’re either all of it or none of it. You can’t be a conscious consumer without the label of minimalist.

You can cut back on consumerism. You can be more resourceful. You can reduce your waste. You can do ALL this without committing to minimalism by its given standard.

Minimalist living should only mean thrifty living however one can.

Others get a negative opinion about minimalism because of the connotation the label carries. It shouldn’t bother me, but it does.

You don’t have to be known as the cheapskate to be minimal. Minimalism is only about awareness of one’s self and one’s consumption. Be aware of your lifestyle choices, practice better habits, and you will be living minimally.

Adjusting to living with a lot less

I’m still not where I want to be. I still make purchases I feel guilty about later. I can get better — we all can. Part of the lifestyle is figuring out what you can live without, and for me, it’s becoming a lot less every year. I love this way of life.

Surprising statistics about how much we actually own

Statistics via multiple sources through Becoming Minimalist.

  • There are 300,000 items in the average American home (LA Times).
  • 3.1% of the world’s children live in America, but they own 40% of the toys consumed globally (UCLA).
  • The average American woman owns 30 outfits — one for every day of the month. In 1930, that figure was nine (Forbes).
  • Currently, the 12 percent of the world’s population that lives in North America and Western Europe accounts for 60 percent of private consumption spending, while the one-third living in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa accounts for only 3.2 percent (Worldwatch Institute).
  • Over the course of our lifetime, we will spend a total of 3,680 hours or 153 days searching for misplaced items. The research found we lose up to nine items every day — or 198,743 in a lifetime. Phones, keys, sunglasses, and paperwork top the list (The Daily Mail).

These are a few of the eye-popping statistics. Overspending, overconsumption, and a sad reality.

How to start solving this problem

I do believe there’s a problem. Consumerism drives the world, but mostly drives the United States. It’s evident as soon as you step foot in our country. One man (or woman) will not change the ways of America. But there are ways we can better ourselves in this aspect. The reality is, all it takes is action.

Take a step back from your life and evaluate your needs. Realizing what is needed and what is important in our everyday life is the first step. Try it. I’m sure your wallet will appreciate it.

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** This article was originally published at www.adamcheshier.com **

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