Minimalist Living: Can Living with Less Make You Happier?

In recent years, the West has jumped on the living-with-less bandwagon with gusto. There are bound to be people within your own circle who have committed themselves to declutter, favour a minimalist blog, or are obsessed with tiny homes. But does minimalist living – living with less –  truly make a person happier?

We’ve done the research to find out whether a minimalist lifestyle can, in fact, serve to enhance your satisfaction with what you do have. Have a read, and you might well become a convert to minimalist living yourself.

1 Minimalism means less debt

It’s no secret that millennials have a tougher time penetrating the housing market than their parents did. Even for those on high wages, purchasing a first home can seem like an insurmountable challenge (and a depressing one, at that).

Thanks to the rise of tiny house living, however, it’s no longer impossible to claim a space that’s yours. Whether a converted shipping container, a customized caravan, or a true tiny house, people around the world are now opting to build and live in their own homes. In doing so, they’re saying goodbye to high mortgages. And with it, the stress which can attend property-buying, making them and their bank accounts much happier in the long run.

2 Minimalism responds to materialism and emphasizes experience

Minimalism has been coming for a long time. Think about it: a culture can’t continue to sustain its appetite for materialism and consumerism without a counterculture brewing. While material goods have been highly sought after by prior generations, millennials are no longer satisfied with things, things, things.

So what do they seek instead? Experiences, that’s what. Since this preference for experiential purchases (think travel) over material goods (i.e. branded handbags) has the potential to seriously improve subjective wellbeing and overall mood (Van Boven, 2005), millennials are spearheading a much healthier and happier culture.[1]


Minimalist Living Can Living with Less Make you Happier by Harper Reid photo by priscilla du preez

3 Minimalism is low-fuss

A capsule wardrobe is a collection of several staple clothing pieces that each fit well regarding hue and style, have classic fits/cuts that will remain in style for years to come, and which all correspond with your abiding fashion tastes. Each of these must be reliable, comfortable items that you love to wear. One great perk of a capsule wardrobe means you’ll spend five minutes getting dressed in the morning rather than a whole indecisive hour.

The capsule wardrobe is just one example of how minimalism can simplify your life on an everyday basis. But how does something as seemingly insignificant as picking out your clothes in the morning increase happiness? Well, psychologists have demonstrated that when people care less about material items (including clothes, which have typically been seen as markers of social status), the less they’ll compare themselves with others in a vapid, possession-oriented manner (Carter & Gilovich, 2010).[2]

4 Minimalism leaves more room for charity

Subscribing to an over-cluttered, materialistic lifestyle means putting the spotlight on yourself. But this kind of solipsistic spending is no good. When we spend all our money on making ourselves look good – trying, perhaps, to fill some kind of void left by the absence of deeper fulfilment in our lives – we only succeed in making ourselves more unhappy. There’s a strong correlation between low self-esteem and materialism, and research supports this claim (Chaplin & John, 2007).[3]

Espousing the principles of minimalism in your everyday life should leave you with a happy surplus of money left over each month. Rather than hoarding it for a rainy day, consider gifting it to someone in need. Studies have proven that those who spend money on others are happier than those who spend it on themselves (Dunn et al., 2008).[4]

Altogether, minimalism saves you time, money, and can even help you appreciate the simpler things in life. With a few timeless, quality pieces of furniture and clothing, you will spend less time cleaning and more time enjoying more spacious rooms and spaciousness inside. You’ll be able to save more money for experiences, like travelling, spend more time with loved ones, and focus on your talents, personal growth, and meaningful work, rather than rushing to stay astride with the latest trends.

The point of minimalism is focusing on quality over quantity, on the things you love and be satisfied with those. Remember though that while minimalism is about efficiency in form and function, it is also about having fun and expression. There’s no need to limit yourself to black and white, if you prefer colours!

Harper Reid What Therapy Guest Writer

Harper Reid is a self-professed neat freak who finds joy in keeping her things beautifully stacked, labeled and organized. She has recently started her journey towards a clutter-free and minimalist lifestyle after watching Marie Kondo’s hit show on Netflix. Harper also enjoys traveling and often writes for travel sites such as Active Asia. You can find more of her work on her blog.

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