When you hear the word "minimalism", your mind probably formed an image of some privileged man with a dingy backpack wearing wrinkled khakis and flimsy flip flops. And if he has a place to live, you may imagine one plaid chair, one chipped plate, and one fork. We can even hear his voice tell those of us who value money, things, and experiences that we're too superficial. I'm also willing to bet that we're not about that lifestyle.
But what if I told you that minimalism isn't all tiny homes or hand-me-downs? What if I said we can still have nice things? Or that minimalism is just living in a way that gets rid of the meaningless stuff and curates a lifestyle filled with peace, purpose, and freedom? And let me not forget the best part of it all: You can ultimately build your bank account, too.
Christine Pratt understands the accumulation of things and the impact it has on our well-being as well as our coins. This Afrominimalist — as she's known on the 'gram — once had a closet full of accessories, shoes, and handbags within handbags within handbags as well as shelves full of knick-knacks. Yet, she reached a point where her life felt messy and oftentimes overwhelming. It wasn't until she cleared her apartment of anything that didn't serve a specific purpose that she was able to breathe. Christine makes a deeper connection between material, mindset and money in her first TED Talk titled "You Can Be a Minimalist, Yes You!" that she delivered this past November.
Fellow minimalists Roshanda Cummings (Roe) and Erin Johnson (E) are the individuals behind the Instagram community Brown Kids. Just a few years ago, an overworked Roe was ready to quit her underpaid job but worried about the rack of credit card debt that she created for her racks of clothing. But by adopting a minimalist lifestyle, she managed to pay off $11K in 11 months on a $19K annual salary.
11 whole thousand.
In less than a year.
On less than $20K per year.
How'd they do that?
"You have money," Roe says, "It's just in your stuff."
What kind of stuff, you ask? It's all those jeans we packed away in a tote because we're going to pull them back out when we lose those last 10 pounds. It's also the three types of edge control that we tucked way under the bathroom sink because they don't lay our baby hairs at all but we're keeping them, dammit, because we spent a lot of money on these jars! And some may say it's all the books I had neatly stacked and shelved but to that I'd reply, Mind yo' business. I'm reading all of them!
I suppose I can agree that it's all clutter and there are numerous studies linking physical clutter to internal clutter, but that's a whole other article. And the stuff that's out in the open for all to see? At some point we need to clean it, move it elsewhere, or dust it. Or even worse? Pack it up should we ever move! Embracing minimalism means that we either trash it, get paid for it, or pay it forward if we're not using it or getting some joy out of it. Minimalism also promises that we'll feel good for doing it.
Intrigued? Or still unsure? Read on for 4 points we can glean from Roe and Christine when it comes to adopting a minimalist lifestyle, especially when it comes to our bucks:
It empowers you to find “hidden” money.
E and Roe helped their Brown Kids community find $120K in forgotten money during a weeklong Instagram challenge. Roe stresses that regardless of our salaries, we always have extra money somewhere. She cashed in a stagnant 401(k) worth $4K from an old job but she also found $7K in unwanted stuff that she could sell and applied all of the proceeds directly to her credit card balance. And while we are aware of those sites where we can sell our infrequently or unworn clothing and shoes like Poshmark and Mercari, do we know about unexpected or forgotten refunds and utility deposits that we are due but we somehow overlooked? Did you know you can check with your state's unclaimed property department to see if any of those types of funds are waiting for you? Claim your coins, sis!
It encourages you to look at your finances differently.
Something about a strict budget is a turnoff. It seems to put an emphasis on the things we can't have because they were considered too minor to include in our monthly spending, like a caramel frappuccino. Although minimalism forces us to distinguish between wants and needs, it isn't designed to be as limiting as a traditional budget. Instead it makes us look inward to decide what's important to us and why.
Christine explains that our current spending habits are a reflection of how we were raised. As an attorney and author, she became the first person in her family to be able to acquire any and everything, which led to her overconsumption of purses and heels. Once we get to the root of our destructive spending habits, we'll automatically make different financial choices going forward, which means we'll think twice before making a frivolous purchase.
It helps to decrease unnecessary food waste.
In 2010, food waste was estimated to be about a third of the food supply, or a whopping $162B! We contribute to this figure when we buy and cook more than we can eat and then it spoils, causing us to throw it all out. But that doesn't mean we need to resort to canned or dried foods!
E and Roe are the brainchildren behind the Jar Method, which is their way of storing and extending the life of produce from three days up to three whole weeks. E and Roe saved $500 the very first month they kept their veggies in glass jars instead of in plastic bags and containers. And not only did they lower their monthly grocery bill, but they also made their refrigerator shelves look pretty, too.
It shows us that sales don’t automatically add up to savings.
One of the biggest myths about minimalism is that you can't shop, especially for items at full price. Lies. E and Roe snatched up a pristine secondhand outdoor furniture set a few months ago but they also looked to decorate their interior with West Elm or CB2.
"A minimal mind is not about cheapness or class," says Roe during an earlier interview with Impossible Podcast. She explains that it's about clarity. Will this item reflect you or the person you want to be? Will this item bring you joy?
Roe isn't against splurging on an item of clothing, either, but if it's expensive, she's mindful of its quality, sustainability, and usability. What is it made of? Will it last? How was it sourced? Will she wear it more than once?
"Sometimes you'll spend a lot and sometimes you spend less and sometimes you won't spend at all," Roe adds.
Christine often refers to Project 333, a challenge where you mix and match 33 favorite pieces (including accessories and shoes) to create new outfits for 3 months. This way, you essentially end up with a complete seasonal wardrobe that takes up less closet space.
Buying new quality pieces to fulfill the 33-item capsule wardrobe isn't forbidden and buying as much as you can for as little as possible isn't a requirement or even a recommendation. In fact, snatching up everything you see on clearance is frowned upon and defeats the purpose of minimalism.
Bargain-shopping for Christine was once an escape until it wasn't. She was stunned by all of her purchases with price tags still hanging on them. Sure, she walked out of the store with shopping bags full of merchandise at a deep discount but she didn't exactly gain anything when she wasn't even wearing, using, or really liking anything she bought. "Remember, it's not a deal if you don't need it," Christine says.
Minimalism isn't as extreme as we may think. The sole intent shouldn't be to make unreasonable or unrealistic sacrifices or forego everything of luxury or leisure to stretch our hard-earned dollars. It's not even about junking our most sentimental treasures, either.
Instead, minimalism is about sparking more joy with less stuff and living much better in the process. Sure, it may still be hard to give up some things because, let's face it, who's really a pro at purging their own belongings? But imagine that bit of excitement we'll get when we move those dollars from credit card balances to savings account balances with items we don't use, don't care about, and won't miss.
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