Why Minimalism is My New Year’s Resolution

My new year’s resolution comes in the wake of a year of extreme excess. I’ll admit that I did my fair share of spontaneous buying, attempting to purchase or otherwise get my hands on virtually any gadget, gizmo, or whatzit that caught my eye. This meant less money in savings, and paved a longer road toward our ultimate goal of owning a house.

My wife and I are hardly minimalists. We spend a great deal of our lives surrounded by the noises of television, radio, YouTube, Angry Birds, and everything else that we have become accustomed to surrounding ourselves with. Our daily routine is one giant series of noises and distractions from the moment we wake until we finally hit the pillow at night.

To put it simply, we live in a controlled chaos. We’re not alone as more and more Americans are falling into that same technological trap. Our smartphones, tablets, and desktop and laptop computers are all portals to a greater and seemingly endless stream of distractions within.

How many apps do you need on your phone? How much software do you really need to enjoy your desktop computing experience? How much stuff is sitting in your closet right now gathering dust only weeks after being bought because you simply couldn’t see yourself living without them? I know I have more than a few printers, scanners, and otherwise that I only used once or twice before vanishing them to the office closet.

What Are the Benefits of Minimalism?

Simply put, minimalist living means cutting down on the things you can do without and concentrating on what you really need. A life of excess and abundance may sound appealing on the surface, but it can ultimately decrease your ability to enjoy the things you do have.

I decided to ask two of my friends — who had taken on a minimalist lifestyle at one point or another — how they felt about the overall concept. One of them, Eric, had actually practiced minimalism actively for a year. He described his experience. “You find a new appreciation for the things you have,” he said, “minimalism has a great reward in making your life seem richer. You live in the moment, not distracted by the nonsense you fill your life with. Having something new for lunch became a treat, I remember enjoying the fruits of my workouts more, and I felt great. The sun was brighter, the air sweeter. It was fantastic!”

Daniel, another member of our weekly gaming group, described his experience with minimalism. “You remove yourself from all the little distractions in life. You start to focus on what really matters to you. Instead of focusing on 100 different things, you focus on 10. You become really picky as to what those 10 things are. You enjoy everything more.”

Downsizing what you have has a number of excellent benefits. You can sell almost anything and make back some of the money you initially invested. You gain extra space in your home. Another advantage often overlooked is that these products are taken out of your mind. They no longer pose a distraction or a waste of time. You’re no longer tempted to take your mind off something more important to spend time on excess.

Getting Started

Why Minimalism is My New Year's ResolutionGetting started is probably the hardest part. In my case, I’m married, so the amount of steps I can take are naturally limited by the needs of my spouse. This creates a virtual wall that separates what’s yours to remove, and what shared resources to which you both stake a claim.

Ideally, you’ll want to evaluate your time. How much time do you spend watching television? How much time do you spend sitting in front of your computer? If you could eliminate steps or excesses from that schedule, what could you get rid of?

In my case, I’ve decided that the amount of television I watch should be limited to only two or three shows. That’s two to three hours per week spent watching those shows, giving me a 90% reduction in the amount of time I actually spend watching television or video podcasts. This extra time can be better allocated to other things, or concentrating more on the few things I decide are worth making a larger part of my life.

Computer time is required in my line of work. It’s important that I spend some amount of time checking tech blogs, reading the news, and getting caught up with the various Web-based services that I’m tasked with writing about during my day-to-day work. For that reason, limiting or otherwise reducing my on-screen time becomes a challenge. This article wouldn’t be written if it weren’t for some time being spent on screen.

I did, however, discover multiple subscriptions and other tasks that served as little more than distractions. Netflix is great, but at the end of the day, how many episodes of Star Trek do I really need to have playing throughout the day?

Another area to consider is your hardware. How many gadgets do you surround yourself with at home? Do you have a smartphone, desktop, laptop, tablet, iPod, camcorder, and more filling up your desk space? How many hours per week do you actually spend on each of these? Can you get your work done and entertain yourself without some of them? In my case, the iPod nano is great, but I can just as easily use the iPhone for listening to music during walks. Selling the iPod would do very little to decrease my actual content consumption, though it would serve the purpose of downsizing my overall footprint while adding some funds to my pocketbook.

This transition is about separating needs and wants. Nobody really needs an iPhone. A solution as simple as a pre-paid phone that does little more than makes and receives calls will do the job. Do I really need to receive email at the grocery store?

Final Thoughts

While I’m certainly not going to the extreme of taking on minimalism as my core philosophy, I believe making a strong divide between needs and wants can do a lot of good at this point in my own life. I’ve learned over the years that if you want to get something large, satisfying smaller wants along the way only works to delay the gratification of achieving your goal. Every game you buy, gadget you pick up, and luxury you partake in can set you back from your long-term goal. If you saved $10,000 in a year by cutting back on excess expenditures, you’ll be halfway towards the down payment that could put you in a nicer house, better car, or another year of higher education.

These are my reasons for taking on minimalism as my new year’s resolution. What is your resolution for 2012?

Article Written by

Ryan Matthew Pierson has worked as a broadcaster, writer, and producer for media outlets ranging from local radio stations to internationally syndicated programs. His experience includes every aspect of media production. He has over a decade of experience in terrestrial radio, Internet multimedia, and commercial video production.

  • http://twitter.com/thisisspain Steve Hall

    I LOST absolutely EVERYTHING in a storage centre fire two years ago. It hurt at the time – a lot – but two years later I can still get everything I own into two suitcases! Minimal is good! 

    • http://twitter.com/MattRyan Matt Ryan

      I fell you there. A flood took everything I owned about five years ago. I lost my home, my furniture, and most of my personal possessions. When I started over, I was very happy even though I had literally three things carried over from my old place. A mattress, an end table, and a futon. I enjoyed my futon that much more because it’s what I had. I didn’t regret losing everything after a week of adjustment.

  • http://www.facebook.com/askingCPA Nicolas Liu

    You cannot be a pure minimalist if you live on Empire Avenue. For example, iPhone is good for Instagram. So, minimalist is a relative word. 

    • http://twitter.com/MattRyan Matt Ryan

      That’s true, and I don’t live on Empire Avenue. ;)

  • Cerberus60

    Really haven’t made any, I seem to always break them

  • http://drupal.txwikinger.me.uk/ Ralph Janke

    Extremes can always be dangerous. Gluttony is as bad as the opposite in particular when use to judging others. However, it is very good to reflect in the realm of extremes and then being able to find the right road in the middle of the extremes that is the right one for the particular person int he particular circumstances. This is how I understand your post.

    I think it is very good if everybody rethinks from time to time what is important to them, and what is just a ballast that distracts from the important things. It is very true that all the gizmos we are lured in to use are often a distraction. There is a distinct difference between what I want and what I need. And sometimes it is not so clear cut. Sometimes technology can help me reduce my time I need to spend on a task and hence give me more time to do other important things. The art is to use the technology efficiently and not to give up the made time with distractions provided by it again.

    I wish you great success, and always remember. Act, Reflect, Learn… or in other words observe what works and what does not and pivot. Optimization is often not reached by one big step, but by many, many small ones instead.

  • http://www.facebook.com/musicmanluke Joshua Cloutier

    This is a really interesting article, very well written.

  • http://www.tvisio.com/dynamic-ecommerce-education-systems.xml TVisio

    Yep!

  • Richard Townsend

    Exactly…

  • Richard Townsend

    Exactly…

  • Richard Townsend

    Exactly…

  • Anonymous

    thanks for the article, very helpful and insightful

  • http://twitter.com/farolito farolito

    makes sense :-) 

  • http://twitter.com/farolito farolito

    makes sense :-) 

  • Anonymous

    Luxury can you call when you’re not available while on the move (mobile). I still have an old motorola with a prepaid card from 3 years back. 15 Euro prepaid. Still 8 Euros left. Only needed when I am about to miss a fixed appointment. Happy New Year :-)

  • Anonymous

    Pretty much the way I roll! (Not by choice! LOL!) Thank you Matt!

  • http://twitter.com/Humorforiphone iPhone Humor

    Hmmmmm, I will think about this minimizing stuff! At least that is something right!?

  • http://www.danielwireless.com Daniel Wong, Ph.D. (Stanford)

    It is hard to resist the temptation, but thanks for the reminders!

  • http://twitter.com/CaptRobLee Robert Lee

    I strongly agree! Everyone should evaluate how they spend their time and remove the busy-crap. I devoted an entire chapter in my book titled, Letting Go, to removing clutter. Here is a quote from the chapter intro:

    “We all collect “stuff” for no good reason. Physical clutter leads to emotional
    clutter, mental clutter, and even spiritual clutter. We must let go of material
    clutter in our lives before we can rewrite our reality and begin living the
    pirate lifestyle.”

  • http://twitter.com/aames Andrea Ames

    Even if all we did was curb the initial spending on new things, we’d likely save substantial $$ and at least not clutter up any more space in our houses… :)

  • http://biometrio.blogspot.com Jorge Purgly

    Liked and shared.

  • Luke Porter

    Some good thoughts here!

  • Luis

    Agreed. Our bodies and minds are not optimized to the “always on” mode. Understanding what’s important, and what our bodies really need, is part of what’s needed to reclaim our civility and, in some ways, our basic humanity.

  • Christian

    Liked and tweeted

  • http://nessarox.com Vanessa Roberts

    +’ed and shared :)

  • Haking0305

    Yep

  • Evensong

    In South Africa, most of the gadgets you mention are unaffordable anyway. I am happy to get by just with what I need. I am able to ‘skip’ generations of sofware/hardware, only buying something new when what I have does not work anymore. Life is much simpler/more affordable that way. The most important thing to me is people, not things. 

  • http://www.kelly-clay.com Kelly Clay

    Nice article Matt. After moving 4 times in the last 2 years, I’ve ditched almost all my furniture – the only things I actually own are my clothes and my mattresses (in storage), along with my MacBook and a few personal items (hairdryer, makeup, etc.) 

    One of my primary goals this year is to create a minimalist wardrobe while I update it for spring-fall 2012 (replacing too small/too big/out of style pieces with essential yet basic and quality tops and bottoms that can be mixed and matched.) Rarely having to leave the house makes this easy, but the same theory can help anyone save money – and keep from spending more for a few years.

    • http://twitter.com/MattRyan Matt Ryan

      Kelly, you rock. You do know you were one of the inspirations for this article and my resolution, right? Thanks a lot for the advice.

  • http://twitter.com/johnnykelso John Kelso

    I lost everything when I lost my business several years ago…all my personal possessions included, which were stored in the building and was supposed to go to storage but “mysteriously” disappeared. It was hard at first, but they I realized how much easier it was to navigate life without the heavy load. I continue to possess very little…my last move, I could fit everything into a station wagon. I’ve come to love this…I don’t need to buy all the new gadgets, fancy clothes, cars, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I splurge occasionally on a nice shirt or a watch or a laptop, but that’s pretty much it. Enjoying life is not what you have, it’s what you do.

  • http://twitter.com/ChillerWhale ChillerWhale

    I can get behind this article!

    I’m a minimalist and have enjoyed this lifestyle for a while now. I can’t say I lived excessively before, but I was in the bad habit of filling cabinets and tables with things I might have some use for later. Realizing how rarely I actually did sent me simplifying my life.

    I don’t have a TV for instance, because for the longest time I had next to no interest in what local television networks offered and my console gaming interest had already waned. When I moved I gave the TV to someone who had actual use for it and instead of a new TV I put my money towards a new computer with a large enough screen for watching stuff. One that also did its part in minimizing desktop clutter, earned its place from an aesthetics viewpoint and helped consolidate my digital life. All aspects of minimalization; have little and want what you have.

    The TV wasn’t the only thing I left behind – in fact the only notable piece of furniture I brought with me was a couch, because that’s a considerable investment. Being minimalist doesn’t necessarily mean you’re cheap (I know I’m not) and I don’t like temporary arrangements. Andy Rooney once said you should never leave anything anywhere “temporarily”, as those things often become clutter. The couch was the one concession I made because in the grand scheme of things it allowed me to invest in items I wanted to upgrade more urgently.

    Such as a bed, as sleep affects every part of our waking life and is worth investing in. I selected a visually pleasing frame that doesn’t unnecessarily hamper cleaning and the best mattress I could find for my back. And that’s all I have in my bedroom, apart from the drapes and a ceiling lamp. Seriously. For me the bedroom’s purpose is to offer peaceful sleep. A TV, computer or stereo would go against that. I don’t even have a nightstand, because that might lead to a cellphone, tablet, book or an alarm clock. None of which I need when I’m in bed.

    In my mind minimalism isn’t a goal, a static number of things you can have. It’s a guideline. I might one day buy that TV too, but it needs to fill more checkboxes than just “you’re supposed to have it”. In the meanwhile I’ll save on electricity and have room for something that’s actually valuable to me. Thinking outside the box, a companion perhaps. How do you fit another person in your life if it’s already full of baggage?