The SMART Minimalist Tip #1—Uncovering A Boundless Mixture of Benefits

“Living simply is not about living in poverty or self-inflicted deprivation. It’s about living an examined life where one has determined what is truly important and enough…and then just let go of all the rest.”   ~Duane Elgin

          SMART Living 365  While I don’t consider myself an expert or authority on minimalism or simple living, I do recognize the value of focusing on aspects of the practice.  That’s right, I consider minimalism or simple living to be practices that lead to a more happy, balanced, and meaningful life.  But because there are so many rewarding aspects to the practice, and so many juicy benefits to share—I’ve decided that a focus on each one as an individual “tip” would be helpful for myself—and perhaps you as well.  So to start with, I wanted to come up with best benefit of them all.  And I couldn’t do it!  The truth is that since I started practicing a more simple approach to life—the benefits keep showing up.  That’s when I decided that the primary SMART Minimalist tip is to let you know that simple living offers more benefits than you can imagine—and the only way to start experiencing them all is to just begin discovering them for yourself.

Of course, if you Google “Benefits to Minimalism” you’ll see dozens of reasons to start down the path—honest.  But it might be a little like going on a diet.  Even if you know all the benefits in advance, that doesn’t necessarily translate into the motivation to give up that chocolate cake.  That’s why the SMART approach takes into account all the other necessary aspects of awareness, meaning, responsibility and even gratitude.  Sustainability is in there too, but it often isn’t as compelling as the others.   I happen to believe that once you go in the search of a happy, more peaceful and more meaningful lifestyle (aka: SMART Living) then you’ll naturally be drawn into a more minimal approach to your life.

So in order to discuss the benefits, it might be best to acknowledge that most people don’t start going minimal because it sounds like fun.  If I was to guess, I think most people do it because they’ve tried the alternatives and discovered that the penalty for an everyday, over-consumptive, extremely busy, stressful life style is way too extreme.  Sure you might be able to buy a bunch of stuff that some people envy, and you might even be able to do some things that sound cool—but you’ll likely be so stressed and over-anxious figuring out how to pay for that stuff or experiences—that the benefits get old really fast.

So to use the diet analogy again, many people who really should diet, don’t diet, until the doctor tells them that their health depends on it.  Likewise, many people who would benefit the most from a more simple and sustainable lifestyle don’t do it, until the banker calls them with the worst news possible, or they lose that coveted job and can’t find another anywhere close.  It’s been said that most of us learn either after something painful happens—or when inspired. While inspired might be easier—many end up going minimal because of the pain of their former life.

Then of course, there are others of us who just sort of stubble onto a more simple lifestyle because we were at the right place at the right time.  I said in a previous post that I was first exposed to the idea of simple living from the work of a man named Duane Elgin—who is actually a sort of grandfather to the movement.   A futurist and a social scientist concerned with population growth and the American Future, Elgin wrote the classic, Voluntary Simplicity in the early 1980s, and has been actively involved in envisioning possible futures for our planet ever since.  But just because I read Voluntary Simplicity back in the 90’s doesn’t mean I “got it.”  In fact, it was nearly another 10 years before some of his ideas suddenly started showing up everywhere I looked and in what I was growing to believe important.

I have no idea what may have attracted you to a more minimal lifestyle—only that if you’ve read so far into this article without stopping there’s a good chance that something about it appeals to you.  That’s why I want to make it very obvious to you that you are on the right track.  In fact, the benefits you’ll find when you consciously (or even unconsciously!) decide to move toward greater simplicity in your life are so numerous I can’t even hope to share them all with you.   I’m actually going to be so bold to say that unless you are addicted to speed (and no I’m not just talking about a drug) then you’ll probably find that a more simple life is the one you’ve been searching for your entire life.

But just to give you a little taste of what you might expect, here is a short list of qualities inherent in a minimalistic lifestyle:

  • More freedom to be and do as you like (Thom’s favorite!)
  • Peace of mind
  • Better sleep
  • More time to do the things you love
  • More time to spend with those you love
  • Better health
  • More opportunities to find work you love
  • More money to use in ways that bring you joy
  • A greener and more healthy planet for you & others (including your kids)
  • Ease & agility when making life choices, decisions, exploring opportunities
  • Clarity about what is important and what makes you happy.

Again, even though this list might seem impressive to you, until you start living and experiencing it in your life, they may not have the strength to keep you from reverting to a habitual lifestyle of consumption and busy-ness.  But as you gradually slow down and start working them into your life, I’m convinced that each of us will begin recognizing just how powerful each of these benefits are—and then that will make it easier and easier to work in ways that are more simple and minimal.

But make no mistake—there are plenty of forces and influences that are working very diligently to make you believe otherwise.  Our culture and economy run on the idea that more is always better—so that means the messages you usually hear on the radio, from television, from your parents, from your kids and just about everywhere, will tell you that you’ll never be really happy until you have more.  It doesn’t really matter what the more is—more beauty, more money, more house, more stuff, more safety, etc.  And because of that just about everyone I know, myself sometimes included, feels guilty if we aren’t running around staying as busy as possible.   So, unless we’ve begun to glimpse the benefits of a simpler life style, we are usually unaware of that message of more constantly being played over and over in our head.

With that in mind I’m going remind myself on a regular basis, and for any of you who are following along, that the benefits to a minimal lifestyle are more numerous than we can know.  Let’s never forget that we can always change if we want to.  And in the end, I think we’ll learn that together we can help show each other that going minimal is a very SMART thing to do!


Question:  If you’ve been going minimal for a while—what’s been YOUR #1 benefit?  Or if you’re just getting started, what most appeals to you about minimalism?


Filed under Aware, Meaningful, Sustainable

8 Responses to The SMART Minimalist Tip #1—Uncovering A Boundless Mixture of Benefits

  1. I like you comparison of the switch to minimalism to a diet, and your quote, ” Even if you know all the benefits in advance, that doesn’t necessarily translate into the motivation to give up that chocolate cake.” I have found that to be so true, both in changing my eating habits as well has changing my consumptive lifestyle!
    Mary recently posted…Reviving This BlogMy Profile

    • Hi Mary….Welcome to SMART Living! I’m glad you liked this comparison 🙂 I’m glad I’m not the only one that struggles with things like chocolate cake. Still, if we are making progress that has to be a good thing. While I might not eat as good as I could…I am SO MUCH BETTER than I used to be–same with the consumptive lifestyle. Progress is good and “it’s the journey–not the destination!” Thanks again for stopping by SMART Living….I’m also going to go check out your blog. ~Kathy

  2. Jackie

    I am finding that now that I have begun to simplify my possessions, it is so much easier to keep my home tidier and less cleaning is required, and that has got to be a big bonus! Also, I find the less I have invested of myself into my belongings means I am less fearful of losing them……which results in a calmer emotional state. I started off slowly with simplifying but it is gathering momentum!

    • Hi Jackie….isn’t that the truth about how much easier (less to clean, take care of, worry about) it is when we eliminate all the clutter and only embrace those things that bring us joy or add function to our lives. I find it difficult to explain to other how rewarding it is…but it is so worth it on so many levels. Thanks for sharing one of your benefits! ~Kathy

  3. I agree with your list but if I may be so bold I would add one more…if you are not overbooked in busyness and overextended financially, an opportunity may come to you that you did not even consider. You may very well be able to see it and have the time and resources to explore it.

    • Hi Christine…you did EXACTLY what I’m hoping everyone does–add any benefits that you’ve personally experienced. I agree that we are much more open to possibility and opportunities when we aren’t stressed or freaking out about bills. The alternative is just “surviving” instead of thriving. Thanks (as always) for your thoughts! ~Kathy

  4. Kathy, all of your reasons and more are on my list as well. I found it funny that you read Voluntary Simplicity, and like myself, took a while to sink in. I believe I found my copy in the mid 90s. I did slow down and eliminate commitments, but it wasn’t until 3 years ago that I could see where I wanted to be and how those ideas pertained to my dreams.

    it began to rain, really pouring, in the middle of the night and is still coming down hard as I type. I slept in snuggling under the covers as it was chilly and damp. I am currently snuggled up with a blanket and about to finish a book I was too tired to finish last night. That’s the flexibility this lifestyle has given me, to savor a moment when it happens.
    Lois recently posted…Change the world WednesdayMy Profile

    • Hi Lois…THANK YOU for your great example of one of the benefits that happens so naturally when you live a simpler life. As you say “to savor a moment when it happens,” is so unbelievably rewarding that it is sometimes difficult to express. And sometimes I avoid doing that because it sounds like I’m bragging or something–but I am just so appreciative of the experience that I often can’t help myself! I tend to believe that if we can encourage more people to experience that freedom to “savor” their lives, that more people will join us. Thanks again for your example and all the work you do to share that message. ~Kathy

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