Millennials and Minimalism: Why My Generation Is Clinging to Less

When millennials speak, they speak LOUD.

It's mostly to do with the fact that we outnumber our baby boomer parents and make up a quarter of the US workforce. (I'm a millennial myself and up until now, I've been severely underestimating my demographic's footprint.)

One of the movements that marketers, economists and psychologists can't deny is how millennials are clinging to minimalism. And when there's a group that big flocking to something, it's hard not to notice.

Joshua Becker, founder and blogger of Becoming Minimalist, describes minimalism as an intentional way of living where a person tries to only live with what they need. His article, here, goes on to explain minimalism in more depth. 

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So, why are so many millennials interested in living with only what they need?

According to a Forbes article from last year, 

"Millennials have a unique set of values around how they choose to spend their money. They grew up during the recession, entered a struggling job market and must now pay off record amounts of student debt." 

I know plenty of people who are in this same boat. Still trying to pay off debt and working their tails off to eventually buy a house and create the life they've always imagined.

Minimalism means financial freedom.

I'm not a finance professional but I do feel strongly about it. 

Millennial minimalists like myself are thinking twice about how we make money and where we spend it. We're after jobs that we enjoy and we're buying less and choosing the items we do buy well.

Quality. Over. Quantity.

According to MillennialMoney.com, there are three main financial challenges that me and my millennial friends around the world face.

  • Massive Student Loan Debt
  • Historically Low Wages
  • Future Financial Security is Not Guaranteed

Living in cities like Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area has shown me that the world is an expensive place. In order for me to enjoy it, I've come to embrace and love a life where shopping is curbed so that I can work on things like paying off debt, padding my savings account and investing in things that matter like my health, retirement and experiences.

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Queue the tiny house movement!

Tiny Houses are a somewhat recent way of living that has caught the attention of broadcast networks and turned tiny-house dwellers into people of interest. It's not only a cool way of living, it's actually quite smart for those who choose to do it.

What better way to save money and focus on the things that matter most than making sure you're not anchored down by a 30-year mortgage? 

There's the curb appeal.

Many of my fellow millennials saw our parents struggle during the recession. If it wasn't our parents who were hit by the housing and job crisis, many of us were praying we'd find jobs when we graduated college.

We had to be scrappy and resourceful.

And I think many of us were.

Millennial blogger Britt from Tiny Ambitions shared with me the reasons that she's saving for a tiny house and choosing to live small. 

"Around the time when I started researching tiny houses in 2012, I realized there was no way I could ever afford to buy a regular house. Just thinking about being tied to a mortgage of $300,000 or more (the going rate in my area at the time) for my entire life made me feel ill."

When it comes to what a tiny house can do for her financially, Britt explaines that she thinks it will allow more financial freedom.

"... it's definitely a part of why I wanted to go tiny in the first place. Once my living expenses are reduced significantly, a huge chunk of my income will be free to be spend on other things, like travel or retirement. Alternatively, I wouldn't need to make the same amount of money anymore, so I could be more choosy with the kinds of projects and work I take on. I could also volunteer more in causes that are important to me, like local food and agriculture."

Not all millennials are going to live tiny but Britt represents a movement of mindful Gen Y'ers who are choosing to live more minimally so they have less financial burdens and more opportunity to enjoy whatever it is that they want to enjoy.

Freedom to live how we want is a beautiful thing.

Freedom to enjoy what we want is a a beautiful thing.

In a nutshell, minimalism means millennials get to feel more like this little guy:

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Minimalism creates flexibility and opens our lives to more opportunity.

According to an Entrepreneur.com article, 

"Millennials want to know their work is making some impact and helping to make the world a better place."

With the recession behind us, I'm seeing more friends taking risks in new ways. Many of my personal BFFs are starting businesses that are changing the way things are done. I know a handful of millennials, who have started companies that are revolutionizing their respective markets.

Many of the Gen Y entrepreneurs I know don't have time or money to worry about stuff weighing them down. If they were maximalists, they would have battled increased distraction when it came to creating products that matter and launching companies that are making a difference. 

Ben and Leslie Parfitt of Pacifica, California are an example of minimal millennial entrepreneurs. As new parents, they spent time and money looking for well-designed, practical safety products for their home but were always disappointed. They spent nearly two years creating and testing products to meet performance and material standards and in 2017, they launched Bink - their line of aesthetically beautiful baby-proofing products. The Parfitts are smart, creative minimalists. 

Leslie explained that their desire for less over more comes from both her and her husband's preference for a simpler lifestyle. She adds that her minimalist approach to living was impacted by what she saw growing up in a suburban community in Southern California.

"I grew up in Orange County, where shopping was really just what you do on the weekends. And I can just remember that feeling of never-enough-ness all the time." 

Leslie goes on to explain how they've incorporated simple living into their everyday lives.

"As a family, my husband and I don't acquire many things. I've learned to really only buy the things that I love, and I end up keeping them forever. My husband, Ben, and I have two little girls, ages 1 and 3, and we make a point to keep our home-environment really simple. With kids, its so easy for things to accumulate and feel cluttered, without meaning for it to happen. I found that I just keep a small basket of toys and a weeks worth of clothes. It helps so much with my sanity. We make a point to buy our girls that much. We spend a lot of our free time outside doing things."

And that simplicity spilled over into their business venture, too.

"Having a simple lifestyle gave us the freedom and inspiration to start a business. We put a lot of thought into the things we have in our home. We appreciate good design, and understand that truly good design is often the simplest solution. When we had our first daughter, we quickly learned that safety products were important in our home, but that there weren't any well-designed, quality products out there. It became very obvious that there was an opportunity for simple, minimal, designed products that people would actually enjoy putting in their homes." 

Ben and Leslie understand that it's less about creating stuff for the sake of creating stuff and it's more about creating products that will make a difference for people. In their case, a difference for parents. Their dedication is already paying off as they've been nominated for the Babylist Fresh Find Award, which is an award designated to new products that make parents lives easier and more beautiful.

 Leslie and Ben Parfitt of Bink with their daughters, Penelope and Mae.

Leslie and Ben Parfitt of Bink with their daughters, Penelope and Mae.

Minimalism means possibilities. 

So why do millennials want less instead of more? 

We don't want houses so big that we owe a debt we can't ever pay back. We don't want heaps of clothes filling our closets. What we want is to do amazing things and change the world in amazing ways. We want to create things that matter that won't be tossed into landfills. We want to find and create solutions. We want to live minimally because it frees us up to accomplish things that go beyond ourselves.

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