After watching my talk on early retirement, one of my friends tells me that while the audience asked a lot of questions, no one asked me "How do I practice the art of minimalism without compromising much on what your heart wishes for?". Well in this case, I am not really sure if minimalism is a personal trait or if it is something that can be acquired. You already know how I started, which was basically after reading about Stoicism.
Are you a minimalist at heart?
I think the best way to figure out if you are already inclined towards minimalism is to read about principles of Buddhism and Stoicism relating to materialism. If those things click with you, then you already know who you are. And you don't have desires or cravings towards material goods, or can easily control those desires. If not, then there are two ways I can think of, by which you can influence your mind. But first, check out these videos which instantly clicked with me and got me thinking about minimalism.
The talk is a little bit on the extreme side of minimalism, but there are lots of interesting tit-bits. Some of them make you rethink why you work so hard, to accumulate wealth that you cannot enjoy. Instead one could work less, accumulate less, and spend time with oneself to understand what they really want deeply in their heart. You buy the most expensive pants, and wear them to look good (to others I guess), but when you look in the mirror, you are exactly the same person, no more good looking than before. In similar vein, this is another video.
Again, the concept is really simple. People make their life busy for want of something. But what if the something that you want is as simple as "Sleep long hours, work a little, play with children, take a siesta with your spouse, and stroll in the village each evening, where you sip wine and play guitar with your friends"? But most people sleep less, work a lot, don't spending enough time with their children and instead choose to relax at the end of a busy day watching an expensive TV, in an expensive house while the kids watch shows on their expensive tablets, while friends video chat with you on their expensive mobiles instead of meeting you in person.
Read and understand
I think I bored you enough with the videos, but wait there is more! Well, remember what I said earlier about two ways you can change your behavior and embrace minimalism. One of them is just by reading and understanding minimalism. There are lots of books on this topic that you can find on amazon. Alternatively (and this is my preferred way), is to learn about it on youtube. Just search for minimalism and get started. Here is one of them.
You don't have to change overnight. Make some incremental changes everyday, and you will tune your mind into the ways of minimalism. Minimalists value the things they have. If something is not of value, they do not buy and do not keep it either. And what is value for you may be different from another person. If an expensive iPhone is something that you certainly need, then it is value for you. Instead, if value for you is a device that lets you read emails and watch content then any cheap phone will do. So you need to know why you value something.
The second way to change your behavior and this applies not just for minimalism, but any trait that you want to change, is to associate yourself with the people who already have the trait. You may have heard of the proverb "you are the company you keep". If you look up to someone and appreciate them for a trait, may be they are cool headed, may be they are tough, whatever it may be, and you are not already there, then make friends with them. Spend time with them. Learn from them. Many times, people with good traits are often very approachable and willing to help. Associate with them and eventually you will turn into them. It is as simple as that.
You normally see most people associate with others for the wrong reasons. If you are with people who like to buy latest tech and talk about it, you too will be influenced to buy things, if for nothing but to have something in common to talk about. Instead, if you associate with a farmer, you will learn incredible things that you don't know about and would prefer to learn to farm. One is a destructor of wealth while the other is a wealth creator.
Don't get me wrong, I was not a minimalist to begin with. I was the person who used to spend $2000+ on a gaming laptop and used to buy all the latest tech. But somehow my view changed soon after Stoicism. I am not sure if I already had the trait and it just woke up after my brush with Stoicism or may be I acquired it after watching several videos. Whatever the reasons, when I took a deep look inside me, all I really wanted was to spend time with family and friends. I love technology, but I did not crave it. It was just a thing to fill the void left over after a tiring day. But I did that because I needed to relax after working so hard all day. If I work less, I would not be tired, nor desire the laptop or TV or whatever. So that is my story of minimalism.
Minimalism is not always about things and money. Sometimes you need money to do the things that you like, may be not for yourself, but for others. But most of the time, people prefer a personal touch than monetary gifts. So you could take that route instead. Whatever be the reason, not everyone should be a minimalist, otherwise who would advance the technology to cater to our desires and laziness :)