Minimalism is a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives. By clearing the clutter from life’s path, we can all make room for the most important aspects of life: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution.
– The Minimalists
I first heard about the Minimalists a couple of years ago, but never took their words and advice into action until this year. Their words resonated well within me, but I struggled with actually taking action.
What is minimalism?
It depends on who you talk to. There are many shades of minimalism and it is going to be different for each person. When you ask Google, minimalism was a trend in painting and sculpting that utilized very simple forms. Minimalism today (for me) is not about painting or sculpting, but about one word in particular: simple.
Simple. Simplify. Simplistic.
A simple life. Simplified processes. A simplistic space.
Minimalism is cleaning your life from the clutter and garbage that does not serve you. The practice of minimalism is both physical and emotional. What is weighing you down?
Minimalism is not about living a hard, restricted lifestyle. Yes, it might be more restrictive than having a lot of tools and ‘stuff.’ It’s about cleaning away what no longer serves a purpose or provides joy and happiness. What you have left increases in value and your appreciation grows.
Everything I own or put on display now has a utility, a purpose or brings great feelings or motivation.
Minimalism has enabled me to get rid of all the stuff that don’t matter to give me a place to put the things that do.
Ever since following more minimalist approaches, I have given more thought to what is useful to me or brings me happiness. I have gotten rid of more belongings in the past year than I have in any other year of my life.
Won’t I miss it? Honestly, I can’t even remember what all I’ve given away. Which is exactly the point: our lives are often filled with so much stuff (physical or mental) that it clouds our view and draws our attention away from things, people and experiences that really matter.
Over half of my belongings are in boxes right this very instant and kept out of sight. With the exception of a box or two, if these boxes disappeared I wouldn’t mind. I might not even notice or remember what was in those boxes.
Minimalism is going to be different for everyone. What you consider as valuable is going to appear silly to others. Some may understand, but most probably won’t. That’s okay. Minimalism is for you, not them.
Here are the main questions, characteristics and experiences that have stood out for me as a new minimalist.
Do You Want a Life Without Clutter and Stress?
This is the first question you have to ask yourself. Minimalism isn’t about giving away everything you own, it’s about getting rid of what doesn’t matter. Just imagine what your home and life would be like if you only focused on what is meaningful to you.
Check Out the Minimalists
Seriously. They will do a much better job at explaining minimalism than I will. If the idea of a clutter-free life interests you, stop reading and go check them out.
Enjoy the 21 Days of Minimalism
If you haven’t noticed, I can’t talk about minimalism without talking about the Minimalists. The 21 Days of Minimalism is all about decluttering your life to uncover what truly has value in your life.
At Least Day 3 – The Packing Party
This is the ONE practice and principle that hooked me on the idea of minimalism. On the third day… You put everything you own into storage. Every DVD, every article of clothing, every picture … everything goes into storage.
You put them into boxes and store them away in a different room that you don’t frequent or a corner of your room. The key is to get it out of sight. If it doesn’t fit in a box, like a television or couch? Drape a sheet over it.
The following days and weeks, you simply take out what you actually use. On the first day, this might be your clothes, toothbrush, cooking and dining utensils and other parts of daily life. You put these items away into your shelves, drawers and wherever else they normally would belong.
Refuse to unpack anything else until you actually use it. That’s the key. After a couple of weeks, you will probably still have a ton of boxes left. You have just identified what no longer has a purpose. From here you can decide if it brings you joy, like pictures and paintings.
If you’re devoted to decluttering your life, the next step is just as important.
Get Rid of What Is No Longer Valuable
Still have some boxes left? Great. Toss them.
The Minimalists use three avenues for getting rid of belongings: donate it, sell it, trash it.
It has to leave your home for it to be out of your life. What you no longer use could be useful to a friend or family member. You might be able to make some money on it. Or it might be easier to just trash it and be done with it.
Easier said than done, I know. I didn’t even go this route, but I have found a middle ground that has been working for me.
A Slow Approach
The Packing Party is a great way to dive into minimalism head first. For me, it wasn’t as easy as that. Instead, I took a more progressive route. I made it easy to get rid of belongings as I went through my days and weeks.
I kept a box open somewhere in my room and anytime I felt like something wasn’t really worth keeping around, it went into the box. Eventually I moved this box out of my room and into the hallway. Out of sight and out of mind until I could get them out of my life for good.
Minimalism Is a Journey, Not a Destination
Minimalism is not something you just “complete.” You can have big and small wins in the world of minimalism as you strive to simplify your life. Over the years your desires, interests and the items that bring value to your life will change and evolve. Therefor, minimalism is not ever finished.
What is valuable today may not be worth keeping around tomorrow. Always keep in mind the philosophy of removing what does not have value in your life to bring your focus onto what does.
Enjoy and Live
None of this minimalism stuff is worth it if you’re not striving to enjoy a life without clutter and stress. Just as minimalism is not something you “win at,” you can still enjoy the benefits of minimalism as if you have won.
Everything in my room or possession makes my life easier, more enjoyable, has a story to tell, or inspires motivation in my life. If it brings negativity into my life, refuses to bring me inspiration or does not help me make my life easier – it has to go.
“What no longer serves me?”
If you’re tickled by the idea, why not give it a try? Start small or go all in, it doesn’t matter.
If you are committed to cleaning up the clutter from your life, you can take a step in the right direction simply getting rid of one thing today.
And then another tomorrow.
And then another.