Since beginning my minimalist journey, I have become happier with my physical possessions and spending habits. I have not spent nearly as much on things I do not need and my physical possessions are weighing less on me (metaphorically) as they take us less room (literally).
I decided to read Gretchen Rubin's book The Happiness Project when I realized that I had a problem some other new minimalists also have: I didn't know how to spend my newly reclaimed time.
I don't want to watch tv or do passive things. I read a fair amount, for school and for pleasure. I play guitar sometimes and that's always nice. But when it came to my day to day activities, I was feeling a little aimless. I was grasping in the dark! I could write for a little while. Maybe I'll do a little homework. I want to work out but I wasn't being consistent.
I always stick to things better when I have two things in place: 1 - a plan, 2 - accountability.
The Happiness Project is Rubin's account of her one year project to become happier by instilling new habits. I have read some really nasty reviews of the book before but I read the blurb about it again and it felt like it could help me in exactly what I was looking for (creating a plan and accountability).
I like that Rubin uses Ben Franklin's idea of a "resolutions chart" each day. She marks off with a check (yay, I did it!) or an X (try again tomorrow) whether or not she sticks to one of 3-5 specific resolutions for a whole month. She did different ones for 12 months and the idea is that once your really stick to a resolution for a month, it becomes habit or you realize that you need to change the resolution. I dig it.
The other thing that I really like from the book is reading about different ways to change your mindset when it comes to happiness in life. Don't love washing dishes? Try to create more "attitude of gratitude" while washing dishes. Think to yourself, "Wow, I am so lucky that I can afford hot water, beautiful dishes, and delicious food that I need to clean off of those dishes." She cites lots of studies about happiness that tell us that the way you think about the things you choose to do affects the way you feel about those things. I buy it and I'm going to try it more.
Minimalism CAN bring happiness into our lives but only in that it frees up our time and money to really pursue the things we want to pursue. I could sell and give away most of my stuff and barely ever buy things but never engage in the things I want to engage and minimalism because worthless. Then, I'm just stuff-less and wealthier than I would have been otherwise.
I have succeeded in step 1 of minimalism by closely scrutinizing my possessions and spending habits (both time and money). I'm looking forward to taking the leap to step 2 in which I figure out how I want to really spend my time and money and then actually DO those things!