Inside: Learn ways you can embrace minimalism in a consumer economy to free yourself up to focus on what matters most.

A guest post by Rose Morrison

The cornerstone of the American dream feels unattainable to many in today’s economic landscape. Buying a home is still a goal for many, but fewer people feel able to achieve it.

The rising cost of goods and a chronic need for stuff have many funneling their money elsewhere. Meanwhile, homeownership has become directly tied to a shifting perspective on consumerism altogether.

Minimalism is more than decluttering your home to live with less. It’s a mindset. It means asking yourself, is all this stuff essential? Do I really need more?

Adopting a minimalist lifestyle could get you to where you want to be as a homeowner — perhaps in a smaller but less expensive residence than you previously imagined. Or it may shift your perspective on whether or not that’s even a priority anymore.

Here’s how people are working to embrace minimalism in a consumer economy in recent years and the shifting thoughts on home ownership and acquiring more stuff.

The New American Dream: Shifting Perspectives on Consuming & Homeownership

According to a March 2023 Bankrate survey, 74% of Americans still regard homeownership as the leading component of the American dream, more than a college education, career, or retirement. However, almost 75% say it is too expensive to buy a house. 

Since the pandemic, the volatile housing market and economy have prevented many first-time buyers from moving out of apartments or their family’s homes. 

Increasing mortgage rates, low income, and high market prices mean fewer people can afford a down payment and closing costs. Some risk their homes becoming collateral when they can’t repay their loans, leaving them in even more debt.

The Bankrate survey also suggests that 36% of homeowners and non-homeowners go to great lengths to afford a home, including penny-pinching, downsizing, or moving to less costly areas.

Some measures seem drastic, but living with less may actually work — especially if your homebuying expectations are realistic. However, owning a home is not the be all end all.

Some people find more freedom in renting and not being tied to all of the costs and responsibilities associated with home ownership. So is simple living about you’ll own nothing and be happy? No, it isn’t. But it can highlight what priorities truly matter most to you.

embrace minimalism in consumer economy

6 Ways to Embrace Minimalism in a Consumer Economy

Culturally, consumerism has transformed some since the pandemic.

E-commerce was at an all-time high as people stayed home for an extended period of time. Soon after, many began reevaluating their spending habits, needs, and priorities amid rising inflation. 

Minimalistic living has become a means of financial stability and survival. While some have been able to successfully buy a home by living with less and needing less space, others are waiting and saving their money for when the time is right.

Here are six ways people have come to view and embrace minimalism. 

1. Valuing Experiences Over Stuff

The average person spends three hours watching television daily and usually owns more than one. Do you need a TV in every room, though? 

When you commit to living with less, you begin placing value on intangible things. The latest flatscreen TV no longer holds a flame to creating memories with friends and family, trying something new and embarking on adventures.

Your new buying perspective has you acquiring experiences over more items. A minimalist mindset says there are better things to do with your money than spending it on more stuff.

embrace minimalism in consumer economy

2. Avoiding Buying Unnecessary Things

Nearly 51% of Gen Z and 43% of millennials say social media has influenced them to buy things they can’t afford. The amount of advertisements people are exposed to daily also encourages them to purchase unnecessary items.

With a minimalist mindset, you buy with intention — deciding what belongs in your space instead of simply fulfilling your need for newness. Purchases are carefully planned based on their quality and value to your life.

Intentional purchasing is a process that requires real effort. You can’t expect to break the habit overnight.

But over time and with practice you can greatly reduce clutter and save more money. Living simply in a consumer culture won’t always be easy, but you can find more fulfillment by focusing on things that truly matter.

embrace minimalism in consumer economy

3. Decluttering to Reduce Stress

It’s time to declutter if your closet and drawers overflow with clothing you no longer wear. Likewise, you may have items stacked on dressers and counters or packed in boxes.

An organized mess is not living with less, though. To live more simply, it’s important to get rid of the excess.

Start decluttering by methodically going through each room in your home. Create three separate piles — keep, toss, and donate — and only put back what you need and truly love. 

Decluttering frees up space and alleviates stress, whereas a cluttered life leads to overstimulation. Minimalists avoid replacing these items with new ones.

saving money

4. Seeking Financial Freedom

A primary reason to embrace minimalism is to attain financial freedom. Living minimally lets you save money for more important things — such as a home or retirement.

Do you need to stop for Starbucks every morning on the way to work? Do you need to have doubles of clothing?

These are the types of questions to ask yourself as you transition to a minimalist lifestyle. Question your motivations and be intentional with your decisions. 

Spending the bare minimum on the essentials — rent, utilities, grocery items, gas, and health care — is fine, but leave the rest in your accounts. You may be shocked at how much you can save by living simply.

embrace minimalism in consumer economy

5. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

For decades, society has tried to keep up with the Joneses. This attitude has yet to do anything for your savings or ability to afford your American dream.

Minimalists don’t let comparison steal their joy and do their best to avoid comparing what they have to their neighbors, friends, or family. Other people’s spending habits and what they own have nothing to do with you. 

Make a conscious decision not to let their big purchases affect you in any way — this goes for purchasing a house, too.

Owning a home isn’t a negative, but why must you have a 2,100-square-foot residence if you’re trying to live with less? Seek comfort and satisfaction in a smaller space that will still adequately suit your needs. 


6. Focusing on More Important Matters

You can buy new devices, keep up with the latest trends, and try to one-up everyone else, but you will never own enough things to make you happy.

Those who’ve adopted the minimalist mindset understand money can’t buy everything, and there is more to life than stuff.

For example, quality time with friends and volunteering in your community are far more satisfying and cost nothing. Likewise, as long as you have a roof over your head, does it matter if it’s a house?

Shifting your perspective and prioritizing more important matters prevents consumerism from taking control of your life.

Minimalism is about finding contentment with what you already have instead of constantly striving to acquire more.

embrace minimalism in consumer economy

Your Stuff Isn’t a Measure of Success

Visit any other country and watch how people live happily with the bare minimum. They’ve freed themselves from the pressure of owning more with little improvement to their happiness.

Perhaps the American dream will continue to evolve as we prioritize contentment and the things that matter most over gaining more possessions.

When you shift your perspective to a “less is more” attitude, you realize the joy you feel from experiences and loved ones are life’s most fabulous riches.

Rose Morrison is a freelance writer who covers home décor and organization tips. She is also the managing editor of Renovated. You can check out her Twitter to see more of her work.

How do you embrace minimalism in a consumer economy? Let us know in the comments below.

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  1. As a senior citizen, I have seen lots of change in the country over the years, and decades. Owning a home has always been blown up to such a degree, that many feel it is a part of the American dream. My husband is in a job where he talks to many of the millinials who say
    they have no intention of buying a home, considering the exorbitant cost and a very high down payment, that most do not have. High taxes on top of a large mortgage payment is not their idea of a dream, but that of a nightmare. Therefore, many are renting, even though that is high cost too. A lot are even sharing rent with a brother and sister. Times are changing and young people are thinking outside the ‘traditional box.’ Either way, we all have to do what is in our best interest for ourselves, not compare to others, and not feel unsuccessful if we rent. Living beyond our individual means is not success, but a determent to mental peace and happiness.

  2. I appreciate the timely wisdom of these posts. I’m 77 years old and would have benefited from adhering to these concepts long ago but it’s never to late.
    Thank you!

  3. If one has children, a home is an asset and at some point is OWNED. One then pays insurance, taxes, services and maintenance. In a rental one also has to pay – services, insurance, and of course the rent to the owner does cover taxes and maintenance. I am 79 and have been mortgage-free since 2000. My home is secure, is a family gathering place and increases in value. It is an asset. It is collateral. It will allow my children to inherit something as opposed to nothing, if I had chosen to rent for all my adult life. My aunt and my mother-in-law – rented – and ended up with next to nothing after lifetimes of hard work in careers. I would not choose to pay for a home for someone else (the landlord).

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Kathryn. There are so many factors at play when it comes to home ownership. I think it’s great to own your own home, but it’s not always an option for everyone (especially given what the market has done the past few years). There are times where it can make more sense to rent (as in our case currently…we would have to spend a lot more per month right now to own vs rent in our area). I don’t think it is the be all end all for every person or situation. Do what works for you & your unique circumstances :).

    2. you make some valid points However, I found that you never really own anything. taxes are always increasing, and I have had several friends who had family farms handed down to them (6 generations) that were seized by imminent domain. sure they were paid for the land but not enough to purchase nice housing in this economy. leaving something for your children is an nice goal but have you considered inheritance taxes or if it will truly help you children or if it will be just something for your children to fight over.

  4. I can see everyone’s points here, but as a millennial, I definitely believe purchasing a home was the best decision I could have ever made. I believe that when people say it’s not for everyone, I would agree. If you plan on moving to Australia in five years or if you just don’t want to be tied down to a particular place because you are a traveler, but if you are in a place where you are trying to be rooted, I think it is the best investment ever. I have gained so much equity in my home…double. I also think it is a great investment for your kids, even if they have to pay for taxes many of us have to own a computer or phone and it comes with the cost of Internet it’s just life they go hand-in-hand owning property comes with taxes. I always hear of people moving even when they rent because the rent has gone up. That is an extra cost and annoyance. Plus what do you do in those environments when you have a tornado or just the liability of knowing an apartment complex can catch on fire. And true you don’t have to pay for maintenance in an apartment. However, I have had many friends who needed things repaired and they either still were not repaired properly or on the landlord’s time that is still an extra annoyance. There are pros and cons to both but I still feel homeownership which is really owning land is the best pro. Even in this economy if you can do it try. Because what if you wait until it’s perfect timing and it just continues to increase would a year ago have been the perfect timing then? I’m looking forward to paying off my home and being mortgage free you could never be rent free.

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