Is Less Actually More, Are Minimalists Really Happier?

are minimalists really happier


If you’ve ever considered ditching all your stuff in a moment of distress, you’re in good company. But can adopting a life of minimalism really make you happier?

ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

Since becoming a minimalist, I’ve learned that buying things doesn’t make me happy — relationships and experiences do — and if I had to guess, the same is probably true for you.

ryan mitchell simple living expert

Are Minimalists Happier?

Are Minimalists Happier

To many overwhelmed people, the idea of minimalism seems wildly attractive. However, before fully committing, they want to know if the lifestyle will live up to its reputation. Will it actually reduce their stress, increase their freedom, and make them happier?

The answer to this question is somewhat complex. I’ve found great fulfillment through minimalism, but whether or not a person will be better off as a minimalist depends on their own definition of happiness.

What Does It Mean To Be Happy?

What Does It Mean To Be Happy

To me, happiness is a state of pleasure and contentment. It’s more of a temporary mood than a fixed, long-term trait. Because it’s short lived, a person’s happiness can be easily influenced by external forces, like a change in environment.

happiness is a state of pleasure and contentmentI tend to differentiate happiness from contentment, which is a deeper, more internal mindset. Contentment has an enduring quality which is often a better thing to aim for than happiness.

I believe that a person’s happiness fluctuates based on their circumstances. Someone living in a constant state of chaos or unorganized clutter might feel constantly overwhelmed, getting in the way of their ability to experience peace and overall happiness on a daily basis.

In this case, the introduction of a minimalist lifestyle could have a seriously positive impact on overall well-being and satisfaction. That’s because it’s addressing the root cause.

a simple guide to what makes you happy

How Much Stuff Do I Need To Be Happy?

How Much Stuff Do I Need To Be Happy

When it comes to downsizing, I’ve found that most people seem to be searching for a magical number of items to own. In reality, I think the number of possessions a person keeps should look different for everyone.

how much stuff is enoughThe “starting point” of every minimalist’s journey is unique. We’ve all led irreplicable lives and have accumulated our own unique collection of possessions.

Although the process of downsizing might be universal, the outcome and potential for happiness really varies from one person to the next. Right now, I’m happy owning around 1,000 items, but I know minimalists who are content with much less (or much more).

Because the number of items people own is subject to frequently change, it’s probably wise to focus more on the process than the product. Participating in the 30-day declutter challenge is a quick, easy way to pare down to a number of items that pleases you.

Keep in mind that this also isn’t a static number, you can experiment, you can bring new things into your life and just as easily cut out those things that no longer serve you. You’ll build a habit and your decluttering muscle that helps you stay on top of it all.

What Does Science Say About Minimalism And Happiness?

What Does Science Say About Minimalism And Happiness

Believe it or not, science has a lot to say about the relationship between minimalism and happiness. Because happiness is subjective, it’s tricky to measure, but it can be done.

Overall, it appears that minimalism has a positive effect on a person’s happiness.

Minimalism Reduces Stress

Minimalism Reduces Stress

One of the ways minimalism increases happiness is by reducing its evil counterpart: stress.

intentionally slow down and relaxA 2016 study of remote employees reveals that the presence of clutter in a home greatly increases stress levels.

The more miscellaneous items people have lying around, the less connected they feel with their homes. Mitigating clutter helps people maintain their cortisol levels and prevent unwanted stress from creeping in.

I can personally attest to the fact that minimalism reduces stress. After the initial discomfort of downsizing, I realized I had more money and more time than ever before. In general, there was just less to worry about.

Experiential Joy Is Greater Than Material Joy

Experiential Joy Is Greater Than Material Joy

When it comes to spending money on experiences and objects, it’s easy to assume that the “emotional high” is the same. However, a recent Cornell study indicates that is not necessarily the case.

experiences rather than things make you happierResearchers analyzed several newspaper accounts of people waiting in lines. They came to the conclusion that those who were waiting to splurge on experiences were in much better moods and better behaved than those who were waiting to purchase physical objects.

In my own life, I’ve found this phenomenon to be spot-on. I’m much more eager to spend money on a concert or a woodworking class than I am to shell out cash for a new television or trinket.

Minimalism Improves Overall Wellbeing

Minimalism Improves Overall Wellbeing

No matter what a person’s reason is for choosing minimalism, science supports the idea that it’s a worthwhile move.

A review of 23 studies shows that there is a consistent positive relationship between voluntary minimalism and overall well-being. So regardless of why a person might feel happier as a minimalist, they are almost guaranteed to.

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Steps To Finding Happiness Through Minimalism

Steps To Finding Happiness Through Minimalism

Fortunately, when it comes to finding happiness through minimalism, you don’t have to passively hope for the best. There are plenty of steps you can take to ensure that your journey to simplicity has an obvious impact on your joy.

Identify What Matters To You

Identify What Matters To You

One of the benefits of downsizing is having more time and space to dedicate to what really matters to you. But if you aren’t exactly sure what you truly value, you may end up with an awkward void.

To get a better gauge on what you genuinely care about, it may be helpful to conduct a personal happiness audit.

gardening always improves my moodI did some serious self-reflecting before making a few major changes in my life, and it was extraordinarily helpful. Through my own happiness audit, I was able to identify what I wanted more of and what I wanted less of moving forward.

For example, I noticed that reading, hiking, and gardening always improve my mood. I also realized just how much I enjoy cold weather and cooking meals from scratch. These insights helped me pinpoint my core values and make better decisions for a happier life.

Define New Symbols of Success

Define New Symbols of Success

After World War II, Americans believed that mass consumption would reignite the economy. And it did. As a result, citizens began to equate success with great acquisition. In other words, the more a person owned, the more successful they were.

finding happiness through minimalismThis philosophy has persisted and evolved throughout the decades. It’s understood that a person is not “successful” until they are able to spend lavishly.

Part of finding happiness through minimalism is rejecting the social norm. To find joy owning less in a culture that practically begs people to consume more, you have to define new symbols of success for yourself.

Perhaps “success” looks like making consistent time for your loved ones or mastering a skill. Maybe it looks like taking care of yourself or living in alignment with your values. Only you can decide!

Find A Community Of Like-Minded Individuals

Find A Community Of Like-Minded Individuals

Although minimalism is slowly gaining popularity, it is still somewhat countercultural, so pursuing it can feel lonely — but it doesn’t have to.

community of like-minded individualsFinding a community of like-minded individuals can help replace any negative emotions with excitement and joy. Something about knowing you’re not alone provides a lot of peace.

If you can’t find people to meet with in-person, don’t dismiss what’s available through the media! Countless books, articles, forums, and podcasts have been created about minimalism. I’ve explored many of these throughout my own journey and have found them to be really helpful.

What’s The Best Approach For Finding Happiness Through Minimalism?

The Best Approach For Finding Happiness Through Minimalism

Happiness through minimalism is best achieved when the lifestyle is adopted thoughtfully and gradually. The implementation of minimalism can be disastrous if it’s too quick or extreme. You will only feel happy as a minimalist if the way you’re downsizing actually aligns with your goals.

I learned this through experience. I’ve never been a huge fan of variety, so getting rid of most of my clothes and adopting a minimalist “uniform” was painless. In fact, it was liberating.

However, if you love fashion, it might not be the best idea for you to wear the same outfit every day. You could try a more forgiving approach, such as selecting one color scheme or creating a capsule wardrobe.

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How To Begin Pursuing Happiness Through Minimalism

How To Begin Pursuing Happiness Through Minimalism

If you’re ready to find out if minimalism will be the key to happiness in your life, there are countless resources available to help you get started. Check out these seven simple steps or this comprehensive guide to becoming a minimalist.

There’s never a perfect time to start living minimally, but the sooner you begin, the more happiness you’ll gain.

Your Turn!

  • What about minimalism might make you happier?
  • What aspect of your life could be changed for the better by minimalism?

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