The basic tenet of minimalism is to focus on what’s most important by letting go of the unimportant. The more you have, the less you are able to prioritize the important things. Here are 3 ways that too much stuff is ruining your life, and minimalism can save it. I will also give you quick tips in each category to make small changes for the better.
Minimalism is not just about physical possessions. You can practice minimalist eating, exercise, and emotional choices as well. Healthy choices in all three areas are key to achieving and maintaining good health.
My minimalist eating practice is to eat as few processed foods as possible, which means my diet consists primarily of whole, nutritious foods. Eating only what I need for good health (90% of the time) means I am able to maintain my weight without “dieting” or counting calories. I also have a very low risk for things like heart disease, diabetes, etc. that often come from eating a poor diet.
I keep my exercise routine simple. I use the principles of a minimum effective dose. My routine does not require any equipment. I get the whole thing done in just a few minutes, and then also get up and move throughout the day.
For mental wellness, I practice a simple meditation technique you can learn about in my post on my morning routine.
Compared to the average American, I lead a very healthy lifestyle. The Office of Health and Human Services shows that only 1/3 of adults in the U.S. perform the recommended amount of physical activity each week. Typical Americans also eat too much fat, refined sugar, sodium, and processed grains. If we keep going this way, the data suggests that by the year 2030, half of all adults in the United States will be obese.
I know changes to diet can be hard. Rather than trying to take away, my quick fix tip for this area is to add healthier items.
If you drink every kind of liquid except water, add water to your fluid intake. Start with just one glass per day, and have it before you drink any other liquids to make sure you do it. Work your way up to 1 ounce per kilogram of body weight (1 kilo = 2.2 pounds), so a 150-pound person would drink about 75 ounces per day, as a general guideline.
Or if you drink plenty of water but want to eat healthier, start off with a serving of vegetables each day and work your way up to 5-9 servings per day. Try to get them fresh or frozen, not canned. You can eat them raw or cooked, just try to avoid fried or doused in butter or salad dressing. Between these two tips, you will soon have less room in your stomach for unhealthy things without feeling hungry. The increased nutrition your body receives will reduce cravings, making it easier to avoid bad foods.
For mental health, try some simple deep breathing exercises when you feel stressed. Inhale while counting to 4, hold your breath for the count of 3, then exhale over 4 seconds. Do this a few times until you feel better.
Carrying those figures over from the health section, HHS estimates that in 2018 obesity-related healthcare costs will be 21% of overall expenditure, or nearly $3.5 billion. Overweight people already spend 42% more on healthcare than those who are not overweight or an average of $1429 per year.
But healthcare is just one of the many places you can overspend. Statistics show 80% of people who join a gym quit within 5 months. A survey showed that residents of the UK have an estimated £10 billion (~$12.85 billion U.S.) in clothes they don’t wear sitting in their closets.
Most statistics say American citizens spend 33-37% of their income on housing. Millennials are spending even more—an insane 45% of their income goes to housing before they even hit age 30!
Not surprisingly people are spending way more than they make. In 2017 NASDAQ.com published an article showing consumer debt at $1.3 trillion, or an average of $139,500 per household. Americans are spending faster than their incomes are increasing.
These numbers are a serious problem. Spending money in this way can lead to bankruptcy or even homelessness. Globally, at least 1.6 billion people have inadequate housing, and an estimated 100 million people are homeless. Here’s a scary statistic for you: according to greendoors.org a “recent study shows that nowhere in the United States can someone who works 40 hours a week at minimum wage afford a one-bedroom apartment at fair market rent.”
Bottom line: every penny counts. The less you spend money on things you don’t need, the more likely you’ll be able to pay for the necessities.
My quick fix is to commit to spending $1 per day less for the next month. You can do it all at once (maybe by switching to a lower data plan or cutting back on your cable channels) or just by pulling a dollar out of your wallet each day and setting it aside. Take that money and put it into a savings account, or use it to make an extra payment toward debt. Next month, try $2 per day, and so on.
I’ve made an observation about two types of overly-busy people over the years. The first type is the workaholic. They are so busy with their work-life that they rarely spend time with the people they care about, and their personal life suffers. So many fights between couples happen because one is never around due to their job.
The other type of busy person is a social butterfly. They socialize a lot, often with many different people. It's harder for them to form deep relationships because they spread their attention so thinly. They may be having a lot of fun, but their lives lack those close, important bonds that are necessary for humans. It’s extremely difficult to be very close to a lot of people at the same time. The less you spend time with someone in a focused manner, the less you can bond with them.
Research has shown a direct correlation between longevity and just a single, close relationship. But that person must be someone you feel you can count on no matter what when it’s most needed.
Whether the workaholic or the social butterfly, both types of people are not getting what they need in their personal lives. A more minimalist approach is to make time to connect strongly with just a few people. Make the most important people your top priority.
My quick fix may be hard for many people. But if you feel isolated or lonely, then you need to decide whether you want to continue feeling that way or do something about it. So here’s what to do: at least once per week, commit to spending 5 minutes talking to the most important person in your life with no distractions. Meet someplace quiet or call them after asking the people around you not to disturb you for the next few minutes. Put all electronic devices out of reach and just catch up.
Being more minimalist doesn’t have to be hard
It’s something that everyone can do. You can start small and go from there. And the more minimalist you become, the more it helps you.
What areas of your life do you struggle with that you would like to simplify?