Everything meaningful and nothing else.
On basically every website, blog, or book devoted to the concept of minimalism you’ll find a discussion on the common misconceptions that follow those leading a lifestyle guided by a minimalist mindset. Does being a minimalist mean that you shed every piece of furniture in your house save for a single chair, because technically that’s all you “need”? Does being a minimalist mean you de-clutter everything in your closet but a t-shirt, underwear and a pair of pants? Is leading a monk-like lifestyle necessary to classify one as a minimalist?
The answer simply is: Maybe.
If you choose to lead a minimalist lifestyle to that extreme, then that definition of minimalism could potentially be your truth. It isn’t, however, a requirement to lead such a bare life to consider yourself a minimalist. Many minimalists own as much material posessions as the next person, but still place themselves under the minimalist heading. As Leo Babauta describes it, minimalism is a mindset, focused on clearing away
“all but the most essential things – to make room for that which gives us the most joy.”
The idea is to filter out the proverbial noise in our lives so that we may focus on what is important to us – when described this way, minimalism can be applied to more than just material possessions and cleaning out your clothes closet. It could be very well that we’re hoarding material possessions, but is it not possible that, without even being aware, we’re hoarding responsibilities, hoarding debt, or hoarding mental noise that’s preventing us from achieving inner peace or spiritual clarity?
Many of us have been there in one way or another. Perhaps you’re the yay-sayer, who agrees to take on every task that’s thrown on our table at work or within our social circles. Perhaps we crowd our schedule with a to-do list without leaving room to be quiet. Maybe we’re too busy satisfying the needs of those around us without giving enough consideration to our own necessities.
Maybe you’re the empath who takes on the emotional baggage of those individuals in your life who are struggling to cope leaving little to no room in your mind to express your own emotions surrounding difficult circumstances that inevitably find their way to your doorstep.
Perhaps you’re the workaholic who clocks in more than 70 hours per week in lieu of having free time to devote to social endeavors.
At their core, none of these people described are doing anything wrong. However, when these individuals find that the excess they take on (be it work, emotional baggage or responsibilities) interferes with leading a happy, fulfilled life, that’s where minimalism identifies these habits as problematic.
So how does one pursue minimalism?
Minimalism starts with being reflective. You can analyze your work habits, your social circles, or your spiritual clutter even, and begin to identify what is and isn’t necessary for you to be happy. What pushes you forward in these areas? What holds you back?
Second: Start slow
It can be challenging, and even impractical to do a drastic purge of things that don’t serve you in your every day life. We develop a certain comfort level with the amount of figurative and literal clutter we house in our space, so it can be challenging to take those first few steps. To optimize the chances of being successful in cleansing, start slow. Be methodical. Consider those things that don’t serve you, whether material, or mental that can be released with the most ease, and go from there.
Third: Be prepared to say “no”
As cliché as it may sound, sometimes the hardest part is letting go. In a lot of cases, the hardest word to say is “no”. It might simply mean saying “no” to that dinner party you’ve been dreading and instead treating yourself to an evening with your favourite book, or saying “no” to a piece of clothing that you know you already have in your closet, but in just a slightly different cut. It may seem hard at first, but those who are experienced minimalists say it gets easier with practice.
Whether you decide that minimalism as a mindset is worth trying, it’s guiding principle is something that we can all integrate into our lives in some capacity. To cleanse ourselves of those things that don’t elevate us, and to make time for serving ourselves as opposed to always putting our needs second is something that many of us can stand to do more of. Consider this practice as something to kickstart your spring cleaning.
For more information on the practice of minimalism, free essays on the topic, and links to other minimalist websites check out: