There are numerous advantages to pursuing a mindfully minimalist lifestyle. Since beginning to whittle down my possessions, I have already reaped the benefits of more time to spend how I want to: writing, learning to crochet, time with friends and family, & sleeping to name but a few. In my experience,The financial impact of minimalism however is a bit more complex. Through selling some of my possessions I have saved nearly sufficient to pay for a Master’s degree. While I have yearned to study at post graduate level for years, I’ve never had the financial means to do so without sinking deeper into debt.
Selling unwanted possessions has a downside. Attaching financial value to possessions you are removing is risky. It reattaches meaning and value to them, despite already deciding they have no place in your life. It can be harder to let them go as they are then deemed to be “worth” something. This was a significant barrier that held me back until recently.
I’m not sure entirely what clicked – perhaps it was the ever growing mountains of unsorted children’s clothes in the attic which made trying to retrieve anything a monumental expedition. I realised while eBay is a useful servant, it is an unhelpful master. After concerted effort and a very nice lady at the post office who allowed me to come back (after she had processed the 36 parcels) I have now changed my mind set. Not only do I have time limit on the items I am selling, I have become more generous. Items I would historically tried to make a little money from now move on immediately to charity. I’ve recently received my gift aid updates from two local charities and the items I’ve donated have netted them £400 + 25%. A helpful positive reinforcer for continuing this way.
Minimalism automatically drives towards mindful consumption. If you’ve put the effort into reducing your physical possessions mindfully, you are (hopefully) less likely to mindlessly accumulate more. However being mindful of your purchasing habits takes just that: mindfulness.
I disposed of all of my debt (except the mortgage), prior to the birth of my daughter, and a long time before I discovered minimalism. Since then I’ve been able to live within my means and avoid any further accumulation of debt. This includes while on reduced income during maternity leave, and while paying childcare despite both my wife and I reducing our paid work to 0.8 WTE. However I’ve had this nagging feeling for a while that I’m not spending my money how I want to.
Personally I’m not one for extremes, however over the last three weeks I have been inspired to undertake a Purchase Pause. I got the idea from an article by Courtney Carver about the power of a purchase pause. She suggested 5 strategies:
- Fake it
- Buy it on paper
- Identify needs vs. wants
- Know what matters
- Make rules
I decided to opt for a variation of buying it on paper. I have been writing in my bullet journal what I have purchased, and what I have wanted to purchase, including the cost. Personally paper helps me to be more thoughtful about what I have been buying. I have also jotted down any thought processes I have been aware of. It turns out that the following have contributed to my spending:
- Desire – wool
- It’s easier just to get it – a near miss with Zero Waste Home
- Necessity – a lightbulb & groceries
- ‘It’s available’ – a near miss with a coffee grinder
- Lack of planning – food usually
- It’s for a good cause – donations at a Refugee week event
- ‘It’s not real money’ – a credit note used to buy shoes
- Entitlement – ‘It’s our holiday’ – Snacks after trampolining
It was certainly helpful to be aware of of my mental attitudes. Some of the items were purchased through need, but some were definitely wants. The most significant change however was by noting what I would have spent mindlessly (averaging £25 per week) I have been able to redirect this to where I would like it to go.
I have become more generous and seriously begun to think about what I am ‘voting’ for when I spend my money. Initially the money I ‘saved’, or more accurately didn’t spend, has been redirected to help others including pants for refugees, sponsoring a friend who completed Pretty Muddy for cancer charity, a fete in aid of Alder Hey Children’s Charity, supporting the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and a food bank donation. I’ve since discovered it is possible to make regular monetary donations to the food bank so that is on my list of things to do this week.
Perhaps mindful minimalism is a key to generosity.
This week I’ve been dipping into the ocean of Leo Babauta‘s Zen habits and particularly enjoyed A Simple Declutter Habit: Leave No Trace. The premise is fairly simple and focuses on tidying up after yourself, however he highlights the role of mindfulness within this. You have to notice as you move through life and from one task to another.When you finish a task pause and take stock before moving on to the next. His gentle guidance does not expect perfectionism, rather encouraging you to remember as often as you can.