Some call it minimalism, living off the grid or just ‘simple living’. However you term it, there are great benefits to owning fewer things, uncomplicating your life and paying more attention to the world around you. But how exactly does one get started on the path to living a simpler, less complex lifestyle?

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but it all starts with mindset.

The Basics

For the first time in history, a large portion of humanity has disposal income and an infinite number of ways to spend it.

Simple living, AKA minimalism, has been known by many names over the years, and is present in some form across many cultures, religions and spiritual movements around the world. The most recent manifestation appears to be a reaction to the increasingly consumerist lifestyle that has sprung to the forefront of many societies, especially those with expanding middle-class populations. For the first time in history, a large portion of humanity has disposal income and an infinite number of ways to spend it. Add in the rise of personal technology, social media and digital entertainment, and you have an attractive recipe for advertisers – one that is allowing them to craft an ever-growing platform from which to sell a myriad of promises, cures for boredom, or anything else that might enable lasting fulfilment. Only it doesn’t. All that buying and spending just leads to temporary enjoyment and more permanent debt.

By choosing to reject the cycle of capitalistic consumption and voluntarily follow a life that focuses more on experiences than objects, you are in essence adopting a minimalist lifestyle. How much or how little you commit to this way of being, well that depends on you. The central tenant is simplicity and the way in which you manifest it is open to interpretation, however, here are a few of the more commonly exercised practices for living a simpler life:

  • Connecting with nature: Spending more time outside in natural environments, and less time in urban centers.
  • Minimalism: Reducing your possessions (and consumption of items) to include only what is essential.
  • Digital Minimalism: Reducing or outright eliminating certain technologies (hardware or services), often replacing them with analog or real-world alternatives.
  • Self-sufficiency: Reducing your dependency on modern systems, such as supermarkets, and instead opting to grow your own food and home-craft what you need.

The Benefits

On the surface, it may seem to others that you are restricted or lacking. Yet living with less actually means living a more fulfilled life.

Bucking the trend and going against the social grain can be a huge challenge, so why would anyone choose to live a simple life? On the surface, it may seem to others that you are restricted or lacking. Yet living with less actually means living a more fulfilled life. One that is plentiful with experiences, richer social interactions and a better work-life balance. People who live a simple life have come to realise that consumerism and buying things won’t make them happy in the long term… or often the short term either.

Time spent investing in yourself is better than investing in the latest hot gadget, fashion or seasonal must-haves. Your bank account will also agree, as too will your mental health. It also means less pressure to work extra hours in order to pay off debt accrued thanks to frivolous spending, which could translate to more quality time spent with friends and family. Or you could use the extra hours to dedicate toward reading, upskilling or doing whatever makes you truly happy.

The Behaviours

Here are three ways you can get started right now:

1. Take inventory: What do you really need in your life? What is essential? Start by visiting your closet or your junk draw, and analysing its contents. How often have you used each item or piece of clothing? If the answer isn’t ‘at least once in a year’, then it might be time to donate it. You’ll have more space and less clutter, and be helping someone in need, and be able to find the items you truly value with ease.

2. Set a budget: This is a great way to ensure you don’t re-fill your spaces with unnecessary stuff, and also help you become financially stable. Set yourself some headroom and then tailor the budget down over time until you are at a place where you are spending the majority of your money on essentials, not indulgences. You’ll soon have less debt and more money to invest in the experiences and people that bring you joy.

3. Disconnect: Next time you set out for a walk, leave your phone and smartwatch at home, or at least disable all notifications and alerts before you leave. If this is your first time practicing this, you may feel the pressing and frequent need to check your devices. Each time your mind wanders, choose to focus on reconnecting with your surroundings, meditate on your future plans or take stock of how your day has been going instead. You’ll soon discover the benefits of a clear mind that is free from technological distractions, along with the tranquility of nature.

And here are some resources you may find useful in pursuing a minimalist lifestyle:

Despite the name, going ‘minimal’ can be an undertaking. Start small, intent is what matters. And ultimately, how you define a simple life is up to you, there is no right or wrong answer. As long as you move towards what sets you free, and away from buying ‘stuff’, you are headed in the right direction.