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How To Be A FI Minimalist (Without Being A Minimalist)

Brad and Jonathan discussed the “aspiring minimalist” versus the “reluctant frugalist” on episode 29 of the ChooseFI podcast. If minimalism struck your curiosity and you’d like to dive head first into minimalism, or simply dip your toes in the water–this article is for you.

Being a minimalist, traditionally, has been about paring down your collection of stuff to the absolute essentials–sometimes, to a fault. Everything in your possession is being utilized and serves a justified purpose. Almost nothing is anything kept that is not currently useful or being held on to for sentimental reasons.

Here at Choose FI, we think there is plenty one can do to absorb and implement the concepts of minimalism, without the rigidity that can sometimes be counter-intuitive, or necessitating throwing away your children’s baby shoes simply because they aren’t “useful” anymore. Truly, there are ways to utilize what works for you about minimalism, and throw out (pun intended) the rest!

Understanding The Price Of Clutter

While most of us recognize that America is bloated in its accumulation of stuff–as seen by the billion dollar storage unit industry and the prevalence of frighteningly stuffed garages you peek into as you drive down the street–most of us are dealing with our own burden of clutter on a smaller scale.

Clutter has a cost to it. Not only is an untidy home not the most efficient or useful, but there’s also an opportunity cost that comes along with the management and maintenance of the stuff that doesn’t really serve us, but we seemingly can’t get rid of.

In Marie Kondo’s best-selling book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, she details how one can clear their clutter, but also the transform their lives by doing so. While anecdotally told, she reports that many of her tidying clients lose weight, change other bad habits and also let go of ideas that no longer serve them.

Marie’s main criteria for keeping something is simply “does it spark joy?” That’s it. If you’re not really happy with it, let it go! We keep so much out of obligation, regret, aspirations of use or even guilt–but if it’s not being kept for a happy reason, she implores you to part with it.

What are you keeping around and being distracted by that isn’t serving you? Is it disorganized cabinets from projects or hobbies you’d be better off giving up? A fashion habit that makes you depressed when you open your closet? Or maybe it’s a bunch of junk from a previous relationship that takes up space in your life and in your mind.

There’s a cost to holding on, and it’s not always just a financial one. Clutter has an emotional cost and an opportunity cost of distraction that keeps us from moving forward and spending time on what matters.

Related: How To Be A Minimalist With Minimal Work

Minimalism Fast-tracks FI

While true minimalism takes a lot of emotional preparation and a lot of work, anyone on the path to FI can benefit from taking a minimalist approach to everything that comes into their home.

Ask yourself before you buy it, or if you decide to keep it:

  • What is this item costing me in money and in time to acquire or maintain?
  • Could I do without this product or find it elsewhere free by borrowing?
  • What emotional need is this purchase serving? Is that emotion serving my FI goals?
  • Does this item make me happy? (This one is a yes or no. If it’s a no, put it back or part with it)

Committing to having less, means you have more of the other things you’d want in your life. Mainly more time and more energy to commit to the things that matter. Clutter keeps us distracted, both in its pursuit of stuff–and in the cleaning, maintenance and rearranging of it at home. That distraction keeps us from spending time on things that bring us joy, learning new skills or facing the very complex emotional needs that keep us in pursuit of “stuff” to fill our lives up.

More time and money means more energy to focus on what actually fulfills you. These are the very things that make FI worth pursuing: freedom, in every sense of the word.

Related Podcast: The Fear Of Letting Go

Minimalism Is Good Practice

While you may not be completely ready to forgo anything deemed “unnecessary” in your life and find you still derive joy from collecting board games, or holding on to your old teddy bear you no longer snuggle with anymore, there is a huge benefit as seeing minimalism as a skill or practice you can implement regularly to align with FI.

Questing for financial independence means that we need to get off the hamster wheel and we can do that by spending less (often significantly so) than we earn. Finding peace and even empowerment by learning to be content with what we have now, instead of hopping back on the hedonistic treadmill is a great skill to acquire.

The practice and pursuit of minimalism causes us to question our automatic behaviors, our emotional tendencies and also, think critically about all of the societal and marketing messages that tell us we need more of something to be happy.

Related: Freedom Is Not Found At The Store: A Shopping Ban Experiment

In the pursuit of FI, the only thing we really need more of is time, freedom, joy, good relationships, health and adventure. We get there by recognizing that none of those things can be purchased–despite what the thousands of marketing messages we see every day tells us.

So, while true minimalism isn’t necessary to achieve FI, there is plenty of overlap that aligns with the FI lifestyle–focusing on a lifestyle that’s not solely focused on materialism!

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