Why I Wish I Found Minimalism Sooner

One thing that frustrates me when I search for other posts about minimalism is that I occasionally see posts like "how minimalism ruined my life" and "how minimalism isn't for low-income people". I was never happy as a mindless consumer or maximalist, and not too many years ago, I was making less than $10,000 per year and could only survive on the backs of credit cards. I wish I had found minimalism when I was low-income, and in this post I'm going to explain why.

Minimalism would have saved me money.

This is the biggest reason that I wish I had become a minimalist sooner. When I was making less than $10k/year, I was lucky if I was ever out of the red when it came to what I had in my bank account versus what I had to pay on credit cards to get by. If I had been a minimalist, I would have realized I needed less than I thought I did, and would have shopped less as a result. I did not have the luxury of shopping for new clothes, so I made do with thrift store finds.

When you're trying to scrape by on a low income, the thrift store is as necessary a place as it is a dangerous one. When you have to say, "I can't justify $20 on a new pair of leggings" it can easily be flipped into "I can justify $20 on four pairs of secondhand leggings and pants". I had this problem with dresses at secondhand stores--I could never justify $49 for a new dress but if I could get 10 dresses for that much at GoodWill, I'd definitely go for it. Strangely, as a result of not having money for much, I ended up with too much. It's hard in times of scarcity to let yourself walk away with just one item from a thrift store. If I had been a minimalist back then, I would have known to look for quality over quantity, and could have been happy with one $5 dress and one $5 pair of leggings secondhand, instead of walking out with 10x as much for 10x as much just because that's what it would have cost for two brand new pieces.

Minimalism would have saved me space.

If I hadn't cluttered my closet with tons of secondhand clothes, hadn't cluttered my kitchen with secondhand glassware, hadn't cluttered my living room with secondhand books, and hadn't cluttered my sewing room with two machines and a bunch of thrifted fabric, I would not have felt as though I needed as much living space. I could have moved into a smaller rental house or apartment and saved money, if only I had been immersed in minimalism.

I had a 900 square foot rental house packed seemingly to the brim with a lot of excess stuff that really brought little value to my life. And when I ended up moving for a much better-paying job, it was yet another expensive endeavor because I just had so much stuff to move. I threw out what I felt was a lot, but still had more and more to take with me. All of that stuff took up space; space that cost me over half of my income to rent. Being less materialistic would have saved me about $200 a month on rent alone if I had been a minimalist in college, and could have fit all of my stuff into a 400sqft apartment... and it wouldn't have taken 10 car loads back and forth (about 2,500 miles all told) to move everything when I got a better job.

Minimalism would have helped my anxiety and depression.

Coming home to a cluttered house after work and after class just made for more anxiety than I would have had if I had removed my attachment to so many things. I regularly felt like all of my time at home aside from studying and writing term papers was spent cleaning and moving clutter from one spot to the next as I needed space. Having fewer books would have meant fewer books to move out of the way to clean; having fewer dishes would have meant fewer dishes piling up at once for me to wash. Having fewer articles of clothing would have made it easier to get dressed for class and work. I would have had time and peace back for myself, instead of an ever-flowing undercurrent of dread at how much time I would lose to chores.

Stuff. Clutter. Things. Chores to take care of stuff, clutter, and things. If I had been a minimalist, I would not have had so much stuff, clutter, or so many things to take care of and I would have had less to be anxious and depressed about as a result. Not feeling compelled to buy so much would have allowed me to use my small income more wisely. I still would not have thrived by any means on a low income, but I would have at least been less stressed and closer to treading water on credit cards. There was a lot contributing to my anxiety and depression when I was low-income that I could have reduced if I had been a minimalist.

If I could go back in time to when I was trying to scrape by on a low income, but know what I know now, I could have developed some better skills to help me get by. I do wish I had learned about minimalism sooner. Minimalism has a lot to offer in our fast-paced, competitive, and often exploitative version of late-stage capitalism: how to find happiness with fewer things; how to be a mindful consumer; how to budget; how to declutter and organize every aspect of life. Those skills would have been so valuable (at least to me) on a low income.

At any rate, I'm now the better part of a decade removed from the difficulty of low-income survival, and feel like my minimalist journey since 2017 has only helped me thrive and find the confidence to seek out better circumstances for myself. I can't go back and alter my past, but I do hope to help others in the present and the future. Minimalism is for everybody, as long as they let it be for them.