It doesn’t take most of us a long to see the benefits of intentionally owning less. Owning less means having less clutter, which means spending less time cleaning and organizing so we can have more energy, money, and time for the things that really matter to us.
But there’s another benefit of intentionally owning less that may surprise you.
A few years ago The New Yorker published this article about how Facebook makes us unhappy. In the post a study was cited as saying that the more time a person spent consuming content on Facebook the more likely they were to be unhappy, feel lonely and dissatisfied with themselves and their life in general.
But in another study that was cited in the same article another group found that Facebook actually increased the happiness of others. The New Yorker describes it this way:
When people engaged in direct interaction with others—that is, posting on walls, messaging, or “liking” something—their feelings of bonding and general social capital increased, while their sense of loneliness decreased. But when participants simply consumed a lot of content passively, Facebook had the opposite effect, lowering their feelings of connection and increasing their sense of loneliness.
What is true for us on Facebook in the digital world is also true of our lives in the physical world:
Consumerism, and the clutter that accumulates from it, decreases our happiness. Connecting with and positively contributing to the lives of others increases our happiness.
Think about it: how many of the possessions in your life actually make you happy? We own lots of things but there’s really only a few of them that we need and even fewer that bring joy to our lives.
Now think about some of the best times of your life. Were you alone, eating potato chips and watching TV in the middle of a pile clutter or were you with people who you loved, doing something that you loved? What about the things that you’ve done or accomplished that you’re truly proud of, did they in some way contribute to the well-being of someone else? Chances are they probably did.
And this is where minimalism, the intentional decision to live with less, comes in. When we remove the excess from our lives we have more freedom to pursue the things that make life meaningful.
Things like connecting with our family and friends. Things like helping a colleague at work with a project or volunteering in your church, community or child’s school. And things like enjoying a good meal with good friends without anyone being glued to a screen or being distracted by being in line, waiting to buy something that your probably don’t need or really want.
Intentionally living with less will help you to be happy more.
The formula for achieving a meaningful life is less complicated than you think:
Connecting + Contributing – Clutter and Consumerism = Contentment
Owning less will help you to connect and contribute more, which is what life is all about.