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Extreme Minimalism: Can It Make You Happy? (Pros and Cons)

Madel
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Published on , last updated on February 25, 2021

extreme minimalism empty room

If you’re currently in your home, take a moment to look around your immediate vicinity and all the stuff that’s in there. Does everything you see serve a purpose and if not, why are you still keeping all this stuff?

It’s inevitable to accumulate a lot of material things throughout your life – whether you need to or not. However, keeping excessive stuff doesn’t only rob us of space but it can also be detrimental to our wellbeing. Instead of hoarding, collecting, and ignoring the amount of unnecessary stuff we have, a minimalist approach to our lifestyle can allow us to focus on what’s really important to us.

Now, the question is: can extreme minimalism be a good strategy to spark joy? What are the pros and cons to living a minimalistic life? Let’s dive in.

This article is part of a much bigger guide on learning how to become happy that I’m sure is the biggest freely available guide on the internet right now. This article contains some great tips, but you’ll find a lot more actionable tips in the section Happiness Tips!

What is minimalism?

In basic terms, minimalism is all about having less. The Marie Kondo Method, for example, set fire to the minimalist movement in recent years across popular media. Kondo’s philosophy lies in the practice of only keeping the things that “spark joy” in us and getting rid of the stuff that doesn’t. With this in mind, we are promised a home with more space and a life that’s less stressful.

Furthermore, minimalism allows us to focus on the things that matter to us and reimagine a life where we need less to live more. We are pushed to stick to what we need, work with what we already own, and get used to what’s available to us.

The effects of minimalism

Though it may sound like a pinch, minimalism has real benefits to our well-being. According to this study, people who identify as minimalists reported positive changes to different aspects of their lives such as autonomy, competence, mental space, awareness, and positive emotions.

In the field of neuroscience, researchers have also found that clutter affects the visual cortex which causes the other regions of the brain to struggle in focusing and processing information. Subjects who were tested in a clutter-free environment were found to be less irritable and more productive, which gives us an insight as to how having less stuff around us can aid in our well-being.

minimalistic work desk

Minimalism beyond material things

Minimalism doesn’t only pertain to material things – it’s also about stripping away excessive relationships, activities, and other things that may deprive us of our energy, time, and overall wellness.

From filtering your friend list on social media to deleting apps from your phone, there are many ways to apply a minimalist approach to our lives. Especially if these things drain us or no longer make us happy.

These non-material things may feel heavier to let go of. In my experience, I had to consciously make an effort to take a smaller workload at the office.

I used to be the person who felt that I could do multiple things at once without delegating them to my teammates, just because I thought I was being more productive that way. But, later on, I learned that in order to be at my best, I had to focus on one thing at a time and let others contribute to the work as well.

The pros of minimalism

In case you’re seriously considering taking a minimalist approach to your living, here are some pros to living a life of extreme minimalism:

1. You have more space

The obvious advantage of being a minimalist is having more space once you’ve decluttered. It makes your surroundings more livable, comfortable, and easier to navigate.

Aside from decluttering methods, there’s also a lot of organizing techniques that have been trending lately. Whether you’re making space in your wardrobe or minimizing your kitchen needs, it’s all about having a tidy environment where you actually know where things are and why you have them. This will allow you to save precious space and make room for things that matter.

2. You feel less stressed

As I have cited from a couple of scientific studies, minimalism can foster your well-being by reducing your stress, increasing your productivity, and improving your mood.

Before the pandemic, my desk used to serve as my catch-all space. But, when I had to start working from home, I decided to clear it out and get rid (quite mercilessly) of the things that were no longer of value to me. Because of this, my desk and my entire bedroom became a much better place to work in.

clean work desk

3. You focus on what makes you happy

Taking the Marie Kondo approach, once we get rid of the excess stuff, we’ll only be left with the things that spark joy in us. Imagine looking around and only seeing things that are valuable, mood-lifting, and intentionally kept. Wouldn’t that put a smile on your face?

4. Your life becomes more meaningful

Minimalism is about having less and living more. The less we focus on the excess stuff, the more we see the things that truly matter to us. Learning how to be happy with less makes our lives more meaningful.

With the consistent rise of consumerism and the allure of every trending thing we see on social media, we sometimes forget that life is about meaningful connections and experiences that we can cherish for a lifetime.

I used to be obsessed with dressing up whenever I was traveling just because I enjoyed posting different outfits on social media. While there’s nothing wrong with that, I’ve realized that I’ve focused most of my attention on buying outfits that I would probably only wear once or twice.

Nowadays, traveling has become a rare experience. So when I got the chance to go to the beach last year, I noticed that I cared less about what I would wear and more about how I could make the most out of my experience. I didn’t need to feel pressured because traveling itself was already a gift. As a result, I took fewer photos during that weekend than I normally would, but it was still one of the highlights of 2020.

The cons of minimalism

While being a minimalist has amazing benefits, it’s surely not for everyone. If you’re planning to minify your life, here are some downsides that you can expect:

1. Letting go is a struggle

Changing lifestyles is always easier said than done. Becoming a minimalist can be tough. Especially if you have to let go of things that have been a part of you for a long time.

As a fun example, I want to share my mother’s strategy when it comes to minimalism. She has a collection of kitchenware that dates back to my grandparents’ wedding. No matter how hard I try – believe me, I tried my best – she’ll never let them go due to sentimental value.

Like I said, extreme minimalism simply isn’t everyone’s cup of tea!

2. Having less can make you feel outdated

If you’re the kind of person who likes to ride the “trend waves” and acquire the latest gadgets, then minimalism may not be for you.

As minimalism is all is about owning less, you may feel deprived of feeling up to date. Hey, maybe you just think you deserve a little treat every now and then, regardless of how much you really need it.

And if that’s what makes you happy, there’s no judgment! You may just have to think twice about minifying your life, and just embrace the fact that it’s not your jam.

social media

3. Decluttering can become unsustainable disposing

One of the criticisms that the KonMari Method has faced is how embracing extreme minimalism like this can lead to a lot of trash. This trash has to be handled responsibly, which hasn’t always been the case.

It’s important to be mindful and responsible for the stuff that we’ve thrown out once it leaves our homes. Instead of taking your stuff to the trash, have you considered donating it to a good cause?

Before you throw it in the trash, make sure that your stuff will be properly recycled. The impact we have on our environment is something that we have to keep in mind. Living a minimalistic life is similar to living a sustainable life, so it makes sense that you would take care to dispose your stuff in a eco-friendly manner.

This can be beneficial to your well-being as well, as living a sustainable life can increase your well-being!

Closing words

A lot can be said about minimalism and the various ways we can adopt this lifestyle. But, in essence, minimalism isn’t just about tidying up and dumping junk – rather, it’s about focusing on the things that only add value to our lives. If you still love the life you’re left with, minus the pile of clothes, the dozens of group chats on WhatsApp, and a lengthy to-do list, then minimalism might just be for you!

Have you embraced a life of extreme minimalism? Do you want to share your experiences with disposing your belongings? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

Madel

Madel Asuncion

Writer

Writer and counseling psychology student. Firm believer of validating one’s feelings, prioritizing the inner-self, and finding happiness in a plate of chicken curry.

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