Contrary to what you may believe, you don’t have to be living in poverty to harbor a “poverty mindset.” This distinction is critical–otherwise, it’s all too easy to shrug off something that could be majorly holding you back. A poverty mindset is all about how you approach your major life decisions, particularly those that revolve around money. And it may surprise you that if you simplify your life, you may stand a better chance of thinking prosperously.
In a recent article on Insider, one woman shares her journey of “decluttering” her home, and how it led her to address the poverty mentality lurking under the surface. Laura writes that she defines this mindset as “living in unnecessary scarcity and fear. It leads me to make poor decisions about the possessions I bring into my home.”
Scarcity and Baggage Go Hand in Hand
As Laura downsized her home, she realized she had developed an unhealthy attachment to her things out of scarcity. This very mindset compelled her to keep things that no longer served her–including things that didn’t match her decor, no longer fit, or were broken.
The reason underlying her decision to hold on to everything was fear. She was afraid that she wouldn’t be able to afford certain things again if she let them go, or that one day a real need for the item may arise. It was, in theory, better to hang on than pay for something again. This same fear could compel Laura to buy things cheaply made to save on cost, only to get trapped in a buying cycle when that item inevitably wore out. Despite good intentions, this would cost more than buying one well-made item.
Over time, this behavior can even evolve into hoarding. The compulsion to hoard is often driven by a need to fill a void. In fact, the need to fill your life with material things may also stem from a scarcity mindset. When you feel “lack” or scarcity in your life, you may hold on too tightly to buying new things that make you feel good, if only temporarily. Or you may just collect unnecessary objects simply because they’re on sale, and you “may need them someday.”
This is a reality for many people. It can be scary to de-clutter your life when things have sentimental value or potential use in the future. However, holding on too tightly can also have an adverse effect on your mental and emotional well-being; perhaps even your spiritual. In the long-term, this can lead to poor spending habits and the feeling of being financially “stuck.”
5 Ways to Simplify Your Life for Prosperity
It’s not fun to feel like you’re at the mercy of your spending habits or your desire for things–yet it can feel like a massive undertaking to solve. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by things, and you suspect your attachments are holding you back, try the following tips.
1. Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Sometimes the biggest hurdle to letting go is the idea that we might need something later. This could be clothes that no longer fit, novelty gadgets, and products you might have stashed away. If you want to declutter, yet are nervous to give something away only to want it later, try simply putting it away first.
Grab some boxes, and pack away anything that no longer works for you, or serves an obvious purpose in your every day life. Clothes, electronics, tools, and even decor can all apply. Then, get them out of your living space without getting rid of anything. Put the boxes in the basement, the attic, or wherever your storage is. Then, give yourself a time frame, such as a year, to see if you use anything. If you do, it’s probably something worth keeping. If you don’t use it, time to let it go.
This exercise helps you prove to yourself that letting go is okay while keeping everything relatively “low stakes.” It also helps you do the work of decluttering your living space with almost immediate payoff, so you can enjoy your space again. It may not even take you a year to realize that your clutter-free space is a relief.
(To keep your space clutter-free, consider implementing a No-Buy Year, so you don’t continue to accumulate things.)
2. Buy “Investment” Pieces
A side effect of a scarcity mindset is the urge to buy things as inexpensively as possible. A side effect of that habit is that inexpensive goods are often cheaply made, and cheap wares need replacing more often. Instead of strictly buying things for the “best price,” it’s important to factor in quality. A $100 couch on Facebook Marketplace might be a good find until you realize it’s already been worn down. This can perpetuate a cycle of buying new couches at frequent intervals, for example.
On the other hand, one brand new couch can last for years, and end up saving you money long term. It’s just the scarcity mindset that gets you stuck in a cycle of buying.
Whether it be clothes, furniture, or other necessities–be mindful of the quality as well as the cost. Finding a comfortable intersection, even if the up-front cost is greater than what you’re typically comfortable with, can help you make empowered purchases.
3. Keep What You Absolutely Love
Another revelation Laura noticed as she decluttered is how her living space opened up. She writes that her “poverty mentality kept me living as though I were barely employed and living paycheck to paycheck. It kept me from thoroughly enjoying and inhabiting my living space and dragged me down with the weight of all the possessions I had to manage and organize.”
A space that is too full can keep your area from being functional, and you may not even realize it. Think about your home as it is now—are the things you can’t let go of truly bringing you joy? Or are they invading your space in a way that keeps you from using what you have? Ask yourself this–How many of your possessions truly bring you joy? If you have things that are causing you stress or keeping you from fully enjoying your space, it’s time to reevaluate. Getting rid of things that don’t “spark joy,” as Marie Kondo would say, can take a weight off your shoulders.
4. Shop Wisely
Decluttering your space is only one part of the battle. If you’ve found yourself accumulating things over time, it’s also important to keep it from happening again. There are many ways to “curb” your shopping habits, and that comes with self-knowledge.
For some people, specific stores can be too tempting. For other people, impulse-control is a more pressing issue. Others may feel obligated to keep up appearances or stay on top of trends. When you’re shopping, it’s important to be rational.
If you see something you like, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I have something that already serves this function?
- Have I recently gotten rid of something similar?
- Can I put this item to good use right now?
- Will this go straight on a shelf?
- Is this item well-made?
- Do I just want it because it’s on sale or inexpensive?
- If it cost more, would I still want to buy it?
If you’ve asked yourself these questions, and still think you want the item, then you’re making a well-thought-out choice. If you’re still on the fence, leave it. If you’re still thinking about it in a few days, it’s okay to go back for it.
Ultimately, you want to uphold the work you’ve done to downsize your space. Making sure that you address the habits that put you in that position can make it stick. Slowing down and analyzing why you want something can keep you from feeling FOMO about the things you didn’t buy, which is also a form of scarcity thinking.
5. Save First
Lastly, emphasize your savings. Saving money is one of the best money methods you can adopt. For starters, having cash stored in the bank can help you make those “investment” purchases. Saving money first, and automatically, before spending can also help you cultivate a more abundant mindset.
Start by setting a savings objective for yourself—say a dollar amount each month or a percentage of your paychecks. Then, automate it so that money goes into your savings account immediately, like a bill.
By doing this, you create a positive habit, and you cultivate peace of mind. When you save, you can just rest easier in your abundance.
Scarcity vs. Prosperity
A Prosperity mindset, ultimately, is rooted in the faith that you can create a life that works for you. “Prosperity thinkers” keep their eyes open to opportunities, and know that with time and effort, many things are possible. When you think and live prosperously, you can make financial decisions out of confidence, rather than fear.
Laura sums up her own revelation about scarcity and prosperity here:
“The opposite of my poverty mentality isn’t to act like I’m rich (I’m not) or spend every dime I make…But, especially when it comes to organizing my home, I am willing to spend a bit to own beautiful, functional items that bring me joy. I want to view the act of giving away things that no longer work for me as a form of self-care rather than an admission of failure. The money it takes to create a harmonious living space is well-spent. After all, what is money for but to help us live happily?”
If you’d like help automating your savings so that you can feel more in control of your Prosperity, we’d love to help you. You’re always welcome to reach out to us through our contact form, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.