3 Extra-Surprising Ways Minimalism Changed My Life (+1 Way It Didn't)

"Minimalism is a nice concept but I could never have just two white shirts/one pair of shoes/ten books/[insert number of favorite items here]!"

And I get it: the thought of getting rid of stuff and keeping just enough feels restrictive. All that extra space in your home after decluttering can feel boring and empty, like you need to fill it with more stuff 'cause you now have so much room.

The thing is minimalism isn't one size fits all. It's not about keeping a certain number of items or letting go of something you love in your life just because someone else would find it excessive.

For many minimalists, it's not really about less. It's about letting go of less which helps you focus on more of what you care about.

Less stuff at home means more time enjoying your home. Because you don't have as much cleaning and upkeep to do to keep your items in shape.

Less shopping means more money you haven't shopped with.

Less clothes means less confusion about what to wear in the mornings and more time wearing your favorite outfits.

You may have heard all this before, especially as minimalism was such a trendy buzzword last year.

It's all true for me though; minimalism has been freeing.

The lighter feeling that came with it motivated me to change how I was living my day-to-day. And outside of the typical ways it's changed my life with stuff, it's continued to benefit me in extra-surprising ways.

Though I will also say: there's 1 way it hasn't changed my life.

3 things I never expected to change because of minimalism (+1 thing it didn't change)

It gave me permission to be introverted.

People who know me in real life are laughing now. To them, Daisy and introvert are words that just don't match. And they would be right.

I've always always been talkative. It started when I wouldn't stop babbling at perfect strangers as an infant, and the trend continued from there.

I was vocal throughout school, and I continue to be vocal at work.

People have always said I was extroverted and with all the talking and engaging with people I do, it felt true.

But minimalism has shown me differently.

Some of the time when I felt like having my say, I didn't actually feel like talking at all deep down. I'd subconsciously boxed myself in that "extrovert" space, feeling like I should be talking because people expected it of me.

There was also an underlying fear that if I didn't speak, I wouldn't get the things I wanted. I had to be out there all the time in case I missed an opportunity and regret it.

Now, that's no longer the case.

Minimalism has led to honesty with myself. I say no to work mixers when I'm exhausted and need my rest badly. I listen to what people around me are saying without putting my two cents in when I don't feel like talking.

Because of minimalism, my alone time has become a regular thing and that means I'm more present when I do decide to be a social butterfly. (Like when I had fun gate-crashing a party with hundreds of people when I hardly knew anyone last month. I got a free dinner, drinks, and new friends out of it!)

I'm still extroverted, but I allow myself to be quiet when I need to be.

Side note: I took the Myers-Brigg personality test recently and came out 54% extroverted and 46% introverted. It underscores how I'm not as extroverted as I thought I was, after all.

It led me to contribute to causes that matter to me.

Because I'd said no to hobbies I was only halfheartedly interested in, events I couldn't show up with my best self at, watching TV, the time I used up cleaning and maintaining things I'd decided to give away, and other activities, I ended up with some extra time.

Time that I've put towards causes I care about.

I've been able to volunteer more, for example, and on a regular basis. This was something I felt too busy to do before I adopted minimalism.

Since minimalism meant changing my unnecessary shopaholic habit, I also had some money I no longer shopped with. Some of it was saved (more on that in the next extra-surprising way I'm sharing) but I've been able to use a bit of it to donate on a monthly basis to causes like environmental conservation and Christian missionary work.

Never did I think minimalism would help me pull together the momentum to make this change. When I say I was concerned about certain issues when I used to hoard stuff, it was just lip service. My actions --- since I felt too busy to contribute time --- and spending --- I didn't have the money to contribute either --- didn't match what I said I was concerned about.

Now, minimalism has led me to put my time and money where my mouth is.

And speaking of money...

It freed me from debt.

I'm financially responsible now and it feels great. #adulting

I've been in the grownup world for ages so I guess that's a weird thing to say. But I've never felt financially responsible before, and that's almost all down to how I (mis)spent my income.

I made good money and spent even better money.
— Joshua Fields Milburn, The Minimalists

This quote captures exactly how I got into debt. I had a bad habit of buying stuff I really wanted right now instead of waiting to save up for them. I would borrow, telling myself that I'd pay it off, and I did always pay off my debts as quickly as I could.

Some things I allowed myself to get into debt for include enrolling into business courses, taking a week-long trip with friends, and buying a brand-name bag I wanted for years before that purchase.

None of them were inherently bad --- in fact, I did benefit from a few of those things --- but cycling between being in debt to debt-free for a while to a new debt again was not simple and was stressful for sure.

I often thought this thing / that experience was worth the debt so I'd get what I want and start enjoying it while slowly paying the cost off in the next few months. I convinced myself this was okay, especially as I usually got a zero interest rate.

And maybe it is okay for some people, but I now see it wasn't okay for me. My enjoyment of whatever I've spent on is often diminished by the anxiety of unpaid debt in the back of my mind. I could afford to pay for it eventually, sure, but I find saving for things first before buying them (and not racking up debt) is ultimately less stressful for me.

The wait to get those things / experiences is worth the peace I feel when I pay for the purchases in full right when I get them.

And if it's a purchase that might have a limited time offer? (Like a discount that's only available until this date or an event with tickets running out quickly.)

If I can't find a way to make it work without getting into debt, I pass it on.

I've found another promotion / similar thing will come along when I can afford it. If not? I've learned to accept it wasn't really for me anyway.

Minimalism also forced me to see most of what I thought I wanted and needed often I could do without.

Doing without these unnecessary purchases helped me save more money on top of not getting into more debt.

I reached debt-free territory two years after I went down the minimalist path, and this is the longest time I've been without debt. I'm committed to staying debt-free; I'm happier that way.

It didn't solve all my problems.

Minimalism has led to some amazing things for me, friends, as you can see up top.

The big difference happened when it helped me hone in to what really matters to me, so my actions began to match my beliefs and values.

But this doesn't mean it made all my problems disappear.

For example, simplifying my closet didn't mean it wouldn't get out of control again. Minimalism helped me get rid of what I didn't love and wear, but it didn't automatically mean I stopped letting new clothes into my closet after the purge. Because I hadn't dealt with the desire inside me for more clothes, I added more to my closet and had to declutter again later.

The same applies to how minimalism helped me get out of debt. I was out of debt (yay!) but the desire to spend more than I could afford was still there. I wouldn't stay out of debt unless I also dealt with my hangups with money. I could easily get into debt again if I met that "want" with another loan in the future.

No, minimalism definitely wasn't a cure-all for my life's problems.

Instead, it killed the distractions I was focusing on. Then I had more clarity to face my real problems.

The lighter feeling from letting go of stuff inspired me to reflect on the issues I had that didn't go away with the stuff. That self-reflection led to change.

Ask yourself today:

Do the things you do and fill your schedule with align with what you care about?

Is there a lot of clutter in your house, your mind, and your time that make you feel busy dealing with unimportant things?

Maybe minimalism and simple living won't be your thing. There are other ways to make positive changes in our lives, after all.

But maybe, it will be just the tool that helps you get over the hurdles that are keeping you from making changes. Maybe it will lead you to focus on what you really want in life, like how it helped me with mine.

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