“Happiness resides not in possessions, and not in gold.” —Democritus
13 years ago, I was introduced to minimalism and immediately drawn to it.
At the time, the decision was based purely on a felt need: I was tired of all the cleaning and organizing required to care for our stuff. The more we owned, the more we cleaned.
I was also a bit tired of living paycheck-to-paycheck. But many of the financial benefits were revealed to me later.
Minimalism provided benefit in both areas for my family. Almost immediately, it freed us to spend less time and money chasing and accumulating material possessions.
But the benefits in my life have gone well beyond those felt needs. The outward journey has offered opportunity for inward change as well. It has allowed my heart to change and discover some positive traits I always desired.
Here are 10 positive, personal traits made possible through minimalism:
1) Contentment: being mentally or emotionally satisfied with things as they are.
Not all, but most of the discontent in our lives revolves around physical possessions and comparing our things to others. An intentional decision to live with less allows that discontent to slowly fade.
2) Generosity: willingness and liberality in giving away one’s money, time, etc.
When the mentality of always needing to own more is removed from our thinking, we are free to use our resources for other purposes. We are allowed (and have more opportunity) to redirect our energy, time, and money elsewhere.
3) Gratitude: a feeling of thankfulness or appreciation.
One of the most significant steps we can take towards experiencing gratitude in life is to focus less on the things we don’t have and more on the things we do. Minimalism makes that possible.
4) Self-Control: the ability to exercise restraint or control over one’s feelings, emotions, reactions, etc.
One of the most important character traits anyone can develop is self-control. And minimalism provides opportunity for it in greater degrees than ever before.
Minimalism forces us to take back control. It forces us to take back control of the things we own, the things we purchase, and the things we choose to pursue. Rejecting society’s notions of consumerism and happiness is an almost daily exercise in self-control.
5) Honesty: honorable in principles, intentions, and actions; upright and fair.
Not all, but many of the lies and mistruths that are told in our society are based on a desire to get ahead and possess more. Finding contentment with your things (even wanting less of them) reduces the need to be dishonest for financial gain.
Not every minimalist becomes more honest, for sure. But minimalism does make it more possible for those who desire it.
6) Appreciation: the act of estimating the qualities of things and giving them their proper value.
As we focus less on comparing our possessions to others, we can begin appreciating their accomplishment, their success, and the beauty that they bring to the world. Life becomes less about competition and more about encouragement.
We can fully appreciate others without being jealous of them (or worse, hoping for their downfall).
7) Self-Awareness: conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires.
Many people go through life having no clear sense of their true values. Instead, desires are molded by culture and advertisements that bombard us each day.
Minimalism forces us to become more self-aware as it compels behavioral and psychological questions: Why is this hard for me to get rid of? Why did I buy all this stuff in the first place? Where did I get these ideas of happiness?
Learning about ourselves isn’t easy, but it’s always worth the effort.
8) Joy: the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.
Minimalism removes the pursuit of happiness and joy from never-ending consumerism. Possessions promise joy, but never deliver in the long-term—which is why we always accumulate more.
I would never say that people automatically find joy when the pursuit of physical possessions is removed. But it certainly frees us to find it in things that matter.
9) Optimism: hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something.
“You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily,” John Maxwell once said.
How about changing everything about your every day? How about changing how much of every day goes into cleaning and organizing? How about changing how much of your income goes toward buying things you don’t need?
That intentional change in behavior would offer opportunity to craft the life you desire going forward. And it provides optimism about what can be.
10) Self-Confidence: a feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities, and judgment.
Minimalism allows us to stop comparing ourselves to others. It allows us to celebrate our uniqueness, focus on the positives, and chart our own path forward.
Each of these actions, by themselves, would spark self-confidence. But taking all of them together almost guarantees it. Owning less requires us to stop living the life sold to us by culture every day. And forces us to gain confidence charting our own.
Now, please don’t misread me. I am not contending that all minimalists are automatically more honest, generous, or content.
I know many generous people who would not describe themselves as minimalist. And I’m sure there are some self-defined minimalists who chart obnoxiously high on the selfishness meter.
Also, I would never confess to have arrived fully in any of the categories listed above.
But I do believe that the intentional rejection of possessions does allow greater opportunity for each of these positive traits to emerge. What you do with that opportunity is up to you.