Why I Chose the Minimalist Lifestyle

Until three years ago, I only cared about becoming a “rags to riches” success story. You’ve heard the story before. A black kid from the hood overcomes many barriers to become successful.

I envisioned many guest show appearances from Oprah to MTV.  People all around would admire me along with a hint of envy.

To achieve this dream, I needed a Fortune 500 CEO gig or to play basketball for the Houston Rockets. After all, the adults in my life told me to dream big, so why settle for anything less.

Well…reality made it clear that my dream wasn’t going to be easy.

In 2010, I graduated from college during the pits of the global recession. I knew people who couldn’t secure employment for twelve months after graduation. Others took any job they could even in fields unrelated to their degrees.  

Luckily, I was a bit more fortunate. The Air Force hired me and offered better compensation than what was available in the market.

As time progressed, I became used to a consistent income and was spending money faster than I could earn it. I became the ideal consumer who’d buy things to impress others, which is the absolute worst position to be in as a buyer.

I bought cars, luxury furniture, and had two closets full of designer clothes I didn’t wear. None of that stuff made me happy.

Then three years ago I took a hard look at what I wanted in life. While looking for financial books at the library, I stumbled onto one that would change my life. I can’t remember the book’s name, but it introduced to me the concept of minimalism. It focuses on removing clutter and distractions from one’s life.

The idea resonated with me and helped me find a level of peace that I’d now fight tooth and nail to keep.

Here are a few ways that the minimalist lifestyle has helped me regain control of my life:

Simple Living

The first thing I did was to stop using my home as a storage facility. I got rid of all the physical objects that weren’t useful, giving me more living space and less cleaning.

Zero Debt

Generally, there are two kinds of debtors. Businesses and investors use debt to create income-producing assets, while consumers seek to fund a lifestyle.

As for me, I hate owing money to anyone! You may have heard the saying, “time is money.” So, why sell my future at a discount?

Purpose Driven Work

Learning how to control expenses made it possible to do things that interested me. My next job doesn’t have to be higher paying or equal to what I’m currently making.

This means accepting less money today to develop a skill that could lead to riches tomorrow.  I’m more strategic with my activities instead of letting bills determine my future course.

I find that business ownership provides work I like; plus,  I get to engage with capable people every day.

Spend on High Quality

I still buy things like everyone else, but I prefer quality over quantity. I’d buy three $80 pairs of jeans that I wear all the time instead of 12 mediocre pairs that hang in the closet.

The same idea applies to my sleeping setup. Health research suggests that people should get eight hours of sleep to fully recover. Since I’ll spend a third of my life in bed, having the most comfortable setup is an investment to me.   

Experiences Over Things

I’ve noticed that when I don’t have physical and mental clutter, it’s easier to live in the moment. I could be giving 110% on a work project, enjoying a meal with a beautiful woman, or watching a mountain sunset from my balcony. These small things begin to mean so much more.

Previously, I thought I had to climb the corporate ladder for more than forty years before achieving this level of peace. All I needed to do was change my mindset.

I’ve shared some insights into my minimalist lifestyle. Now, I’m interested in hearing from you.

Have you tried to include any minimalist elements in your life? If so, share in the comments below…

Freedom is a Choice,

Lee Miles

18 Comments

  1. el Oso April 15, 2019 at 5:49 pm

    I love your outlook and simplicity, especially time verses money. Everything comes down to time verses money. Of course money is replaceable, can be accumulated in many different ways…legal and otherwise. However, time is limited to 24 hours a day, with no known total capacity. Therefore, trading tomorrow’s money with diminishing purchasing power, and the evil infection of inflation doesn’t seem like a worthy transaction for stuff. Give me the sunsets, and meals with friends. Give me the memories that never go out of style, or wear out or become obsolete. The simplification makes me a better person, a better friend, a better partner. As a group or community it creates a better world.

    Reply
    1. leemiles April 16, 2019 at 2:43 am

      Fear and greed. Fear and greed. Fear and greed… I can see those toxic qualities from a mile away and nowadays they’re more popular than ever.

      I agree with you brother. Take the sunshine, the memories, and meaningful labor because time is limited.

      I want to be like you…when I grow up haha

      Reply
  2. Bigz April 15, 2019 at 8:24 pm

    Wow, this is so motivating. I’m blessed to have actually known you prior to your minimalist transition, so this is truly inspirational. One of the biggest issues that I am dealing with is managing my ‘material wealth’, such as clothing, appliances, furniture and other items that begin to become clutter in my house. I watched an episode of Netflix’s “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” which provides a hand-on guide on how to organize and de-clutter one’s household. I managed to begin separating items that I knew would be essential to my day-to-day life from items that I rarely or never use at all. The latter items I intend on donating to charity or a thrift store.
    Another program that has been very influential to me is also on Netflix called “Minimalism: A documentary about the important things”. I was awed by the accounts given by people who have rejected the American Dream of the pursuit of stuff in favor of virtues of less being more. I’ll be honest, I’m not there yet, my lifestyle doesn’t afford me the luxury of living a fully minimalist lifestyle. But, I think some of the ideals of minimalism are sublime and helpful in one’s pursuit of happiness.

    Reply
    1. leemiles April 16, 2019 at 2:32 am

      Awesome, I didn’t know Netflix was putting out content like that.

      There’s no ideal minimalist solution because everyone’s needs and desires are different. Since you’re interested in changing some habits, embrace the journey and be willing to experiment.

      Reply
  3. Ben April 15, 2019 at 8:38 pm

    I absolutely agree with many elements of your article. The ideas of “removing clutter and distractions” particularly resonated with me. We often fall victims into believing a false of sense of happiness dictated by those who impose the consumer driven and narcissist dominated mainstream narratives. Although not often admitted, but widely practiced, is the idea of happiness can be attained through material possession. Rather than focusing our efforts on fundamental necessities, e.g. personal relationships, health and wellbeing, balanced finances, good quality of life etc., we’re often distracted by the latest and greatest objects or trending media posts. I agree entertainment can serve as mental relief to our busy and demanding lifestyle, however, when bombarded with too much of this information, it is more harmful than not. In addition to maintaining a minimalist life, it’s also just as crucial to have a sense of purpose and responsibility in our outlook. Having a sense of purpose allows us to experience meaning in the things we do and give us motivations to advance forward. Having a sense of responsibility emphasizes rational thoughts over emotions and allow us to take on challenges greater than ourselves.

    Reply
    1. leemiles April 16, 2019 at 2:11 am

      You covered a lot of ground and supplied me with a ton of ideas to write about! I’ve found mental clutter to be the hardest to manage.

      For the last month, I’ve been limiting my smartphone usage to 10 minutes per day, and then all of a sudden… my creative juices started flowing.

      Are there things you’d recommend for managing information overload?

      Reply
      1. Ben April 18, 2019 at 9:45 pm

        I don’t necessarily have a straight-line method of managing infomation overload, and by far not a guru at this, but I believe it’s important to understand what your values are. There will always be distractions, whether it’s in the form of the latest and greatest gadget or news headlines, but my values tend to guide me through.

        As we continue to receive information at an exponential pace through advances in technology, I have a suspicion that we as a society are not ready to fully process and understand its implications. As we attempt to make sense of all this in a constrained timeframe, we often defer to our individual biases and conjectures. In my opinion, this type of demand signal encourages, and to some degree rewards, impulses. At times, it forces people to form opinions on subjects they don’t fully grasp and the miscommunication perpetuates.

        I think it is absolutely fine to not have an opinion on everything or to address every distraction, but to focus on the things you hold dear, hopefully not recklessly as well. Enough of my rant, I might have gone off topic.

        Reply
        1. leemiles April 19, 2019 at 12:05 am

          Solid point. Having personal values makes it easier to identify distractions so they can be managed. Bro, don’t worry about rambling here it’s all good.

          Reply
  4. Roger April 16, 2019 at 4:15 pm

    Great article Lee, I’ve had the opportunity to watch you go through this transition rather seemlessly over sometime. I think the biggest challenge for most is make the transition. What were some of the indicators that allowed you to feel comfortable with starting the transition?

    Reply
    1. leemiles April 17, 2019 at 10:31 am

      My “180 transition” began from a position of nagging discomfort and being unsatisfied with the way things were. It was time to roll up the sleeves to figure things out.

      Reply
  5. Alex J Cusack April 17, 2019 at 12:14 am

    Hi Lee, I love this type of thinking! It’s refreshing to see someone look at life through a different perspective and set up their life in a purposeful manner rather than accepting a predetermined path to conventional success. I’m a fan of Tim Ferris and Robert Kiyosaki-type writings and these have helped me propel my life toward a more thoughtful, enjoyable experience. I too was an Air Force officer and spent the first 30 or so years of my life following a conventional route to success. This gave me a good foundation (taught me to read, write, work, etc); however, at around 30 I came to the conclusion that I’d been sold a ‘bill of goods’ that I didn’t really want in a lifestyle (i.e. work, eat, sleep, repeat via ad nauseam, cut the grass on Saturday, blah blah blah).

    Now I happily live in a 2 bedroom, 1.5 bath townhome with my wife and don’t miss the larger home and all the crap that goes into maintaining it. She works 40 hours a week at a low status / medium pay/benefits-type job … which meets our needs and is fine. I enjoy my free time and have the freedom to pursue other financial opportunities … like renting out that old, 4 bedroom home we used to live in!

    About 5 years ago my wife wrecked her car and rather than go through the hassle of buying a new one, we just shared my vehicle. It was much easier than I thought and with a little planning, living a more minimalistic life reduced our stress considerably. Our lives are far from monastic and still provide so much stimulation and activity — I suppose the primary change is that we take a more active role in deciding how we want to live and were finally able to shuck off societal and family expectations of prosperity. And this has made all the difference in the world. Great article!

    Reply
    1. leemiles April 17, 2019 at 10:00 am

      Thanks Alex! You’re the first person I ever met who lived life on their own terms — legally — outside of traditional norms. It’s funny how we share similar mindsets but have very different living setups. Having a stimulating life and purposeful activity are truly underrated benefits from “flipping the script”.

      Reply
  6. Luci April 17, 2019 at 2:10 am

    Love the blog post. I started this journey a while back because I enjoy the feeling of living simple. Can’t wait to enjoy land that’s paid off and build a small home with no mortgage.

    Reply
    1. leemiles April 17, 2019 at 9:38 am

      It’s definitely a nice feeling. Good on you for sticking with it…

      Reply
  7. Ab_Fresh April 22, 2019 at 7:55 pm

    Lee,

    This was a nice read!

    I always like determining if the desired purchase is something needed or wanted.

    If the item is needed, then it’s an immediate purchase! Without it I cannot survive and/or progression to reaching my life’s goals will be stammered/halted.

    Now, if it’s something I want, as in it would be really nice to have, then the question is to what extreme do I want this item, since I don’t need it.

    It’s a lot easier said, than done, when living in a consumer driven society. However, over time with practice, repetition, and discipline, reaching a simple living lifestyle can be attained!

    When you get the chance, check out some of my posts on Instagram @ab_fresh 😉👍

    Reply
    1. Lee Miles April 22, 2019 at 9:18 pm

      Hey Ab_fresh,

      You hit the nail on the head.

      It takes discipline to switch from mindless consumption to spending on things that matter. The best part is… it becomes super easy over time.

      Reply
  8. Ryon June 1, 2019 at 12:57 pm

    Fresh content. Enjoyed hearing how you went through changes. I feel the transition from poor quality of life to a rich and vibrant sense of being is a rags to riches story.

    Reply
    1. Lee Miles June 1, 2019 at 1:00 pm

      Thanks Ryon! I never thought about the transition in that way.

      Reply

Leave a Reply to el Oso Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *