When you hear the word minimalism, a number of negative connotations come with it. So what is minimalism really all about?
Let’s look back to this old quote by Henry David Thoreau, “Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind. With respect to luxuries and comforts, the wisest have ever lived a more simple and meager life than the poor.” Thoreau is an American philosopher, poet, essayist, and leading transcendentalist best known for his book Walden (a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings).
Made to believe?
According to Joshua Becker (American author, writer, and philanthropist – who advocates minimalist lifestyle in his website becomingminimalist), on average we see 5,000 ads every day and a million by the time we reach 21. These ads tell us the same message: if you buy this product (which MY company produced) you will be happy – whether it’s insurance, soda, cars, furniture, shoes, clothes, cosmetics, or appliances.
We begin to believe this message without realizing that we do, and as a result, we start working long hours. We start aiming for a bigger paycheck, or worse we live for the paycheck. An average American lives paycheck to paycheck to paycheck so that they can upgrade and get the latest stuff: bigger house, faster tech/gadget, nicer car, better/bigger toys for kids (and men, too). We’re constantly told from every direction that we’re better, happier, richer, and more successful by owning more.
More stuff, more stress
Well, you don’t have to own everything. Like they say, “the more stuff you own, the more the stuff own you.” When we truly reflect on it, the things we own don’t bring us happiness. They distract us from the things (people) that bring us joy and fulfillment: family, friends, meaningful relationships, pursuing our passion, being generous and kind to others, self-improvement, etc.
Maybe you’ve experienced this yourself where increased possessions leads to increased worry. Things break so we need to get them fixed, maintained, or upgraded. If you’ve noticed, the most common 3 words that children hear in many homes is NOT “I love you” but “it’s on sale” or “let’s buy these” or “I want that!”
Isn’t it a brighter, lighter thought to only own things we need, and get rid of everything else? We’ve come to a point where we own TOO much stuff that when we hear the message about owning less, it resonates with us.
What it isn’t
People define minimalism in different ways. It’s called different things as well: intentional living, simple living, small living, tiny living. But surely, it isn’t a new standard that you need to meet nor a lifestyle goal nor completely wiping things out from your life. There aren’t any absolute criteria or hard rules in determining what a minimalist should be or shouldn’t be.
What it is
Minimalism is a way of thinking (mindset) that makes your life better. It brings about intentional decision-making on what’s most important to you. It helps you identify the clutter in your life that hinders you from living the life you really want. It’s a process of looking at your life and making choices or a lens that you use to look at your life and make choices that reflect your values – choices that allow you to do more of what matters most. It’s a tool you use to remove clutter that distract, a process of identifying things (both material stuff and the intangibles: relationships, career, living environment, opportunities, offers/invitations) that add value to your life and making room for them.
Once you’ve developed the brain muscle to identify the clutter from the meaningful, then the second phase comes: it becomes a way of life – a simple way of living where you make the right priorities come alive.
With that, the habits follow: how you show up in the world and the little things you regularly do which align with your priorities.
Once “do more of what matters” becomes a habit, you then naturally go into a life of creativity. It’s where you live from a place of love, joy, service, gratitude, contentment and NOT fear –fear of not knowing who you are and what you want.
How’s it different?
Can you take a moment to consider: if you owned less stuff, how would your life improve?
Here are a few that may resonate with you:
1) Less stuff = less time cleaning. This also means less time organizing, managing, maintaining, and looking for storage solutions.
2) Less stuff = less time fixing, repairing, and replacing/upgrading.
3) Less stuff = less time working just to make the money that we can use to shop for stuff to bring home to clean, organize, manage, maintain, fix, or replace.
4) Less stuff = more time for MORE important things/activities.
5) Less stuff = more money. When we own less, it costs us less. When in debt, we can get out of it. This allows us to have more money to do the things we want with our life: traveling, investing in a new skill, project or business, etc. 78% of Americans don’t like their jobs but they keep working there to maintain the lifestyle they currently have. We’re in this cycle of earning more, spending more, and buying more. We accumulate possessions that eventually weigh us down.
6) Less stuff = we can find a job we really want that gives us meaning and fulfillment.
7) Less stuff = better for the environment. The less things we buy, the less things we throw away, the less carbon footprint, and less waste goes to the landfill.
A rich life
By developing the ability to discern between practicality, necessity, and luxury, we help ourselves from being imprisoned by our possessions. By needing less and being content, our existence becomes less complicated, therefore less stressful.
By having a minimalist mindset and habit, we’d find more opportunity to pursue our deepest passions. We have more time, more freedom, more energy, more money to pursue things that will help us fashion the life we want.
A mindful, intentional, simple life grants us the space to truly enjoy the time that’s gifted to us by the Universe to focus and invest on what we deem important. A simple life helps us to be in the moment, to savor every experience with all our senses and full attention. Isn’t that a richer way to live?
Living simply isn’t a new message. It is an old wisdom. The ancient philosopher and wise teacher, Lao Tzu, said, “Those who know they have enough are truly wealthy”.
“simplify, simplify | A philosophy of needing less” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPBlDD_8WNE
“Minimalism, Spirituality, and Why it Matters” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2qIRr51zBo
“what minimalism is really all about” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nimHKcT8qts
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