Minimalism 101: What Are Your Priorities? What Are You Willing To Sacrifice?

Minimalism 101: What Are Your Priorities? What Are You Willing To Sacrifice?

It’s the third installment of my Minimalism 101 series and we haven’t even started talking about decluttering your physical or digital spaces. For me, minimalism is firstly about mindset. Adjust your beliefs to want less, consume less, and say “no” more often and decluttering your spaces will follow (at least it did for me!). In part three, we will discuss prioritizing your goals and getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.

What do you want most right now?

You may already know what you want most at this point in your life. But if you're like me, your head is probably jumbled by multiple desires: figuring out what you’re passionate about, landing a job that doesn’t suck, getting fit, drinking less alcohol, saving more money, spending more time with family, moving away from home, getting involved in a more creative community, learning a new skill, etc.

If this is the case for you, nail down one or two of these desires that will act as a silver bullet to improve other areas of your life. For example, commit to finding your passion and start applying for jobs within a new field. Working on these two changes will likely change other areas of your life. Landing a new job could make your schedule more flexible, allowing you to spend more time with family. Or the new job might pay more, meaning you can increase your savings rate.

Since age 18, my number one priority was to graduate from university and become completely financially independent from my parents. This meant getting a full-time job after graduation so that health insurance and benefits would be covered by my employer.

After working a restaurant job for many months and applying tirelessly for pretty much any job that sparked my interest, I ended up landing a non-profit job that paid a decent entry-level salary.

By focusing on one main priority - financial independence from parents - I quickly and efficiently put all my energy toward that one activity and accomplished my goal.

Some people say they want to become financially independent from their parents or keep up with a rigorous exercise routine. Few people actually do it. This makes me question how much they actually wanted it in the first place.

Focusing on one priority means less time, energy, and money for other activities. This is called sacrifice, and it is uncomfortable.

You say you want to eliminate drinking on weekends to save money and stay healthy. What are you willing to give up in order to make this happen? Late nights out with friends? Are you willing to be the designated driver? Are you mentally prepared for the FOMO? Are you willing to replace drinking with a healthier, sober activity?

When I got my full-time job I gave up the flexibility of a server schedule. I gave up some of my freedom to take mid-week trips whenever the schedule allowed. The new job involved frequent out-of-state travel which took away from time I could be spending on creative projects. It wasn’t the “perfect” job. But I wasn’t looking for perfect, I was looking for financial independence from my parents. Working this imperfect job was the next step in getting me closer to where I wanted to be.

There are also great improvements that happened with me taking this job. To list a few:

  1. I started this blog
  2. I traveled to Spain for two weeks
  3. I became completely debt-free
  4. I invested in financial coaching
  5. I drastically improved my graphic design skills through online courses
  6. I worked through personal trauma and started healing

You can’t have it all. And you shouldn’t want it either.

I have a friend whose number one priority was to move out of her parent’s house. Her income wasn’t stable at the time, but she wanted to make the move anyway. After some rigorous internet sleuthing, she came across a 200 square foot apartment that was $350/month - well within her budget. The sacrifice: it had no kitchen, only a fridge and microwave. She made the move and has been living there ever since. Not having a kitchen is sometimes a bummer, but she is much happier living in her own space.

Her priorities were clear, and she was willing to make sacrifices to get what she wanted most.

If you want to move to a more expensive city, you might need to sacrifice the comfort of a 1,000 square foot apartment and settle for a 200 square foot dorm room. Or live with roommates. If you want it enough, you’ll make that sacrifice.

Sacrifice money to get the results you want.

One way to make progress on your priorities is to sacrifice cash to make them happen. To name a few:

  • To get fit and learn how to exercise properly, invest in a personal trainer.
  • To learn how to invest money and plan for your future, hire a financial coach.
  • If you want to get better at writing, save up for a writing seminar taught by one of your favorite writing gurus.

Money is a tool to get us closer to the life we have always dreamed. Use it appropriately.

What does this have to do with minimalism?

Minimalism involves sacrifice. If you want more time to focus on creative projects, you need to free up mental and physical space that was once filled by mindless activities such as frequent trips to the mall or online shopping. It means saying “no” to the third birthday party potluck this week. Clearing the clutter to focus on creative projects that matter involves prioritizing your needs and wants and adjusting your spending and consuming accordingly.

Remember: If you’re not willing to put the time, energy, and money toward your priority activities, then you must not actually want it as much as you think you do.

Other posts in this series:

Minimalism 101: Habit-Building Strategies To Minimize Desire And Consumption

Minimalism 101: Setting Boundaries And Getting Good At Saying NO

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Minimalism 101: What Are Your Priorities? What Are You Willing To Sacrifice?