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How Minimalism Can Help You Break Free From the Poverty Mindset

How Minimalism Can Help You Break Free From the Poverty Mindset

If you’re constantly worried about earning enough money and hoard items that no longer have value, you may be experiencing the symptoms of a poverty mindset. A poverty mindset, otherwise known as the scarcity mindset, is the engrained belief that your money shouldn’t be spent and that you must hold on to what you have lest it be taken from you.

Unsurprisingly, this approach to life may result in hoarding and cluttered living. After all, if you’ve taught yourself to believe that resources are scarce, you’re unlikely to get rid of the items you’ve accumulated — even if it’s been years since you last used them.

Whilst, in some cases, intervention with a mental health professional can be helpful for you to move on, adopting a minimalist approach may also help you break free from the poverty mindset. Minimalism helps you declutter your space and can aid self-acceptance. This mindset shift can be so freeing and supportive if you’re used to clinging onto items you no longer need and are struggling to move on from past trauma related to income.

OVERCOMING PERCEIVED SCARCITY

The scarcity mindset can put a meaningful strain on your mental health and lead to living in a cluttered, poorly organised space with too much “stuff”. Here are some indicators that you may be struggling with a poverty/scarcity mindset:

  • You have past experience living in a low-income household and/or have lost your home and belongings due to factors outside of your control;
  • You worry that you don’t have enough food or clothing, despite being in a relatively stable situation;
  • You have a constant fear that you’ll run out of money, no matter how wealthy you are;
  • You can’t throw things out, even when they’re of little value to you;
  • You struggle to say “no” due to fears that you won’t be given another opportunity.

This mindset can do more than cause clutter throughout your home. It can undermine your relationships and cause you to feel anxious, even when you’re doing well.

A poverty mindset can also undermine your decision-making skills, as you’re constantly feeling worried about losing opportunities and financial hardships. The fear of the unknown and unexpected can be emotionally exhausting.

DECLUTTERING MINDSET

If your past experience with poverty and financial hardship weighs heavily on you, you could speak to a therapist who can help you embrace a better mental state. Similarly, if you’re currently going through a challenging financial period, you might speak to a financial advisor and make proactive moves to secure your financial position.

However, you may also find that minimalism empowers your efforts to move beyond the poverty mindset. Embracing decluttering for your mental health can help you create a home that’s peaceful, clean, and calm. Decluttering regularly can help you take control over the physical stuff that currently runs your life too. This will improve your confidence and may help you feel more positive and motivated throughout the day.

If you do decide to declutter for your mental health, bear in mind that it’s a habitual practice and not a one-time activity. You’ll need to recycle and donate old items regularly otherwise your home can become filled with stuff again. This can bring about some difficult emotions but is worth the effort as it will empower you to break free from the poverty mindset.

Poverty mindset and minimalism

HOW TO DECLUTTER

The idea of living in a clutter-free home may be appealing if you’re used to being swamped with mess. However, if you’ve always lived in fear of losing your possessions, you may find that decluttering doesn’t come naturally. Rather than judging yourself for holding on to items, use a slow decluttering approach when transitioning to minimalism. You can get the ball rolling by:

  • Defining your goals and working through each room separately to transform it into your ideal space. If you’re struggling to identify your “why”, consider a few journal entries to help yourself see the benefits of decluttering.
  • Treating decluttering as a process, rather than an end goal. This reduces guilt and anxiety when getting rid of items that may have been sent from friends and family.
  • Working slowly when choosing what to donate or recycle, as you don’t necessarily need to throw out items that have genuine value to you.
  • Creating a positive environment with music, calming lighting, and scented candles that helps you get in the mood for cleaning up and decluttering.

Decluttering is even more rewarding if you choose to donate your old items to a good cause. It’s easier to let go of old kitchen utensils and books that you’ll never read when you know that someone will get great value from them in the future. If you’re interested in giving away your goods to charity, consider donating to worthy causes like:

  • Salvation Army;
  • My Bone Yard;
  • Goodwill;
  • Toys for Tots;
  • The Arc;
  • Once Upon a Child.

Some of these charities may pay for your old, gently used items, but it’s important to see that financial gain isn’t the goal of donating. Rather, you’re giving away items that are bogging you down in favour of a minimalist approach that is mentally freeing.

MINIMALISM AND FINANCIAL GOALS

Adopting a minimalist mindset can free you from fears about scarcity while helping you hit your financial goals. This can be deeply empowering if you find that a cluttered living space is causing you to feel fatigued and detracts from the energy that could be put towards more productive activities.


The financial mindset of minimalism can help you live a budget-friendly life that focuses on positivity and goal-setting, rather than fears about financial ruin, too. This is crucial if you want to save up for big-ticket items like cars or holidays, but still want to enjoy everyday pleasures. 

Spending on items that are genuinely meaningful to you and cutting back on frivolous spending helps you break free from the poverty mindset and ensures you’re still able to live a happy and intentional life.

Poverty mindset and minimalism

CONCLUSION

Minimalism is a great way to break free from the poverty mindset without overspending. You can balance the budget by cutting out on frivolous spending while empowering yourself with purchases that improve your peace of mind and happiness.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Please leave a comment below!

EDITOR’S NOTE

Thank you to Indiana for this article. I’d like to add that, for me, minimalism is a lifestyle that has value for all of us, no matter our financial situation. A poverty mindset can affect us all. Minimalism is a tool to help us explore and work with many tough emotions. This doesn’t just relate to our relationship with stuff, but also our relationship with money, people and many other aspects of our life.

I hope you enjoyed this article exploring the challenges of decluttering if you have a poverty mindset. I also hope that it’s helped raise awareness and give you some judgement-free tips to support your own minimalist journey – whatever that looks like to you!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Indiana Lee is a writer and avid reader from the Pacific Northwest. Committed to sustainability and environmental responsibility, she hopes to use her writing to advocate for positive change. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Laura

Sunday 7th of July 2024

Hi, Indiana and Antonia,

I strongly agree with this article. I have seen it most clearly with my Sephora purchases, where the free gifts and samples that I got with purchases seemed like a hedge against future lean times. But I have been realizing that I had opened items years ago and never finished them, and they were no longer good (they seemed okay, but bacteria had undoubtedly built up in them). Or the product line was no longer carried, or a specific product had been discontinued. I have been slowly working to chuck out items that I opened and didn't finish, for whatever reason, and have bought almost nothing this year. Slowly but surely, my stash is being whittled down.

I moved to a new home recently, and definitely paid the price for all my purchases against lean times! Way too much to sort and pack, and numerous canned goods that I got rid of as they were past their best before date. Obviously it would make more sense to save the money, instead of buying too many pantry or Sephora items, if I'm worried about experiencing lean times again. Savings (and freedom from debt) are the best solutions.

Thanks for these great tips!

Balance Through Simplicity

Sunday 7th of July 2024

Hi Laura, thank you for your comment and for sharing your thoughts. With the cost of living also rising, I think many of us can relate to the points in this article too. Thank you for reading :-)