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What are the benefits of living simply?
For an idea that might seem like just another millennial fad, the idea of making life more simple is one that really appeals to me.
The philosophy behind ‘minimalist living’ is about getting rid of excess stuff, and living life focusing on experiences rather than possessions.
The idea spans a lot wider than that, too. For me it’s about decluttering my mind, making me appreciate things more, and as a bonus, helping my finances. Naturally, with less mindless purchases comes less outgoings and less financial stress.
I’m a firm believer, these days, that you can live a richer life with less stuff getting in the way. Once you’ve decluttered your wardrobe, cancelled your unnecessary subscriptions and trained yourself to think twice before mindlessly buying anything, you gain a freedom to focus on things that really matter.
How living minimally can help your bank balance
Minimalist living isn’t just about throwing away belongings that you don’t need/use. It’s about changing your lifestyle habits in general.
Think financially, for example. How many bills are you paying per month? Life got so much more complicated for our generation when the internet got involved. Think Amazon Prime, Hulu, Sky TV, Disney+, Spotify, Netflix, ASOS Premier etc etc. When I was signed up to all of these, my bank account was constantly paying out and I’d often lose track of my finances. That’s without even getting started on household bills, cars, insurances, clothes…
Just think how much money you could save by reducing your cost of living, in general. Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you need to renew your iPhone just because you’ve paid off the lease?
- Do you need a car if you live in a city?
- Do you need to buy more food when you can make a meal out of what you have in the cupboards?
- Do you need that new coat when you’ve got a million more clogging up your wardrobe?
In reducing your cost of living and sticking to a minimalist budget, you’ll increase your bank account and most likely your mental/physical health at the same time.
Before you call me a killjoy, I’m certainly not saying you can’t ever treat yourself to something nice. The point is, that when you do treat yourself to a new coat that you need, you’ll enjoy it, appreciate it, and take care of it all the more.
How living minimally helped my outlook on life
Minimalist living is essentially about the search for contentment, and this search begins with gratitude for what you already have. By focusing on the quality, convenience and ease that your specially selected belongings bring to your life, you’ll feel grateful for more and you’ll want for less. At least, that’s my experience.
Once I discovered the beauty of enjoying what you have instead of wishing you had more, my headspace radically changed. I stopped comparing myself to others, learned to stay in my lane and be happy with it, and generally feel more positive to be able to tackle challenging situations.
Let’s take last year, for example: coronavirus. After 4 years unintentionally ‘living minimally’ between the UK and Cuba, I was accidentally well-trained and perfectly positioned to cope through the pandemic.
I slept on my parent’s sofa for 9 months, storing all of my essential belongings in a small basket. I was separated from my husband. I worked 7 days a week 11 hours a day. I didn’t see friends or even anyone my age. I had no privacy and no independence. And I barely felt the need to complain.
Don’t get me wrong: it was a very hard year and I didn’t sail through untouched. But with my mindset of living minimally and simply, I was able to focus more on the gratitude for what I did have, and thus channel an inner acceptance and contentment that helped carry me through the year.
What does all this have to do with Cuba?
I don’t live minimally because it’s a new millennial trend. I live minimally because I happened upon an island which makes it impossible to live otherwise.
Due to political reasons which are not the purpose of this blog post, Cuba is an island that faces much hardship. Part of this hardship is the absolute lack of ‘stuff’. Lack of food, clothes, toiletries, homeware, luxury items, you name it. There’s nothing. And anything that there is, has been painstakingly bought in from abroad by foreigners or Cubans with the rights to travel.
I’ve been living in this challenge island for the best part of four years, totally submerged in the culture and the harsh realities. I’ve spent months without entering a high street shop. Months without online browsing for menial items. Months without being brainwashed by ‘sponsored posts’ making me think I need a fancy new coffee machine for my home. Months without street advertisements and sales calls. And I feel like my brain has been cleansed of the incessant consumerism and capitalism that our society dictates.
I’m not stupid to the fact that in Cuba, they are ‘living minimally’ by force, not by choice. And I’m certainly not glorifying the US embargo or the hardship and suffering that the Cuban people are going through. The point of this article is to speak for myself: a privileged British white woman who spent her life so consumed in a circle of consumerism, but who has been through mental transitions due to her experiences of living in a radically different environment, and who has therefore learned to live a richer life by surrounding herself with less. Phew.
To put it simply: having become so accustomed to living in Cuba where there are so little luxury possessions, I’ve realised the big lesson in life that you shouldn’t need ‘things’ in order to be happy. Living with minimal possessions and clutter makes me feel liberated, grateful and content.
Should you turn to minimalist living? Am I writing this article to urge you to live like me? Absolutely not. It’s just food for thought in case you’re looking to make some lifestyle changes. And you never know: try making just a couple of simple changes for a month and you might find yourself with more money in the bank and less clutter in the wardrobe and the mind.
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