What is minimalism?
Written By: Joshua Becker
“Simplicity, clarity, singleness: These are the attributes that give our lives power and vividness and joy as they are also the marks of great art.” —Richard Holloway
I am often asked the question, “So what is minimalism anyway?” It is a question I receive from people I have just met and from people I have known for many years.
I typically answer them with a short, simple explanation:
MINIMALISM IS OWNING FEWER POSSESSIONS.
Like I mentioned before, minimalism is intentionally living with only the things I really need—those items that support my purpose. I am removing the distraction of excess possessions so I can focus more on those things that matter most.
That is my short, elevator-pitch answer.
But oftentimes I desire to answer more in-depth. When people ask follow-up questions that allow me to explain simple living further, I like to add:
IT IS INTENTIONALITY.
It is marked by clarity, purpose, and intentionality. At its core, being a minimalist means intentionally promoting the things we most value and removing everything that distracts us from it.
It is a life that forces intentionality upon us. As a result, it forces improvements in almost all aspects of your life.
Intentionality looks different for everybody, as no two individuals are the same, but it requires each of us to dive deeper and become more introspective about our values and passions.
IT IS FREEDOM FROM THE PASSION TO POSSESS.
Modern culture has bought into the lie that the good life is found in accumulating things—in possessing as much as possible. They believe that more is better and have inadvertently subscribed to the idea that happiness can be purchased at a department store.
But they are wrong. Embracing minimalism brings freedom from the all-consuming passion to possess. It steps off the treadmill of consumerism and dares to seek happiness elsewhere. It values relationships, experiences, and soul-care while letting us see all that we already have and reminds us to be grateful.
In doing so, we find a more abundant life.
IT IS FREEDOM FROM MODERN MANIA.
Our world runs at a feverish pace. We are too hurried, too rushed, and too stressed. Working long, passionate hours to pay the bills, but fall deeper into debt every day and rush from one activity to another—even multitasking along the way—but never seem to get anything done. We remain in constant connection with others through our cell phones, but true life-changing relationships continue to elude us.
Becoming a minimalist slows down life and frees us from this modern hysteria to live faster. It offers freedom to disengage. Minimalism seeks to keep only the essentials. It aims to remove the frivolous and keep the significant and values the intentional endeavors that add value to life.
IT IS FREEDOM FROM DUPLICITY.
Although nobody intentionally chooses it, most people live in duplicity. They live one life around their family, one life around their co-workers, and another life around their neighbors. The lifestyle they have chosen requires them to portray a certain external image dependent upon their circumstances. They are tossed and turned by the most recent advertising campaign or the demands of their employer.
On the other hand, a simple life is united and consistent. It has learned a lifestyle that is completely transferable no matter the situation. It is the same life on Friday evening as it is on Sunday morning… as it is on Monday morning. It is reliable, dependable and unfluctuating and works in all circumstances while being honest and transparent.
IT IS COUNTER-CULTURAL.
We live in a world that idolizes celebrities. They are photographed for magazines, interviewed on the radio, and recorded for television. Their lives are held up as the golden standard and are envied by many. People who live simple lives are not championed by the media in the same way. They don‘t fit into the consumerist culture that is promoted by corporations and politicians. Yet, they live a life that is attractive and inviting.
While most people are chasing after success, glamour, and fame, minimalism calls out to us with a smaller, quieter, calmer voice. It invites us to slow down, consume less, but enjoy more. And when we meet someone living a simplified life, we often recognize that we have been chasing after the wrong things all along.
IT IS NOT EXTERNAL, BUT INTERNAL.
In my first book, Simplify, I outline 7 guiding principles to help anyone declutter their home and life. The principles outlined in the book have helped hundreds of thousands find freedom by removing much of the physical clutter in their homes. The book concentrates almost exclusively on the externals of life. And while it helps people find freedom from external clutter, it does not take the next step of helping people find freedom and unity in their heart and soul.
I have learned embracing this lifestyle is always a matter of the heart. After the external clutter has been removed, we create the space to address the deepest heart issues that impact our relationships and life.
IT IS COMPLETELY ACHIEVABLE.
Becoming a minimalist is completely achievable. My family stands as living proof. We were just your typical family of four living in the suburbs accumulating as much stuff as our income and credit cards would allow. Then, we found minimalism. We have embraced minimalist living and will never go back to the way life was before. We stand as living proof that simple living is completely achievable (and unique) to anyone who seeks it.
Here are 6 tips when starting your journey into minimalism.
Written By: Anthony Ongaro
1. Prioritize mindset over matter
When you’re starting out, it can be easy to focus on the physical matter. After all, it’s all about decluttering the stuff around our home, right?
In reality, it’s really about building the mindset over matter—the idea of minimizing distractions on an everyday basis. The idea of consistently identifying and actively removing distractions from your life, maintaining it just like you would with weeds in a garden.
Developing the mindset is what will keep you going, far longer than wanting to get rid of stuff. As you go along, it will get easier and easier to build the mindset and make those decluttering decisions.
2. Choose a system and stick to it
There are many methods and ways to declutter, but it’s best to choose a system to start out. Here are some popular decluttering methods to learn about and explore what ends up working best for you.
Sticking to a system helps to develop the mindset and keep up the momentum of decluttering. What ended up working best for Amy and me was the minsgame, but we didn’t realize it was until we finished the first round and then a second round. We needed to stick with it for awhile before we saw the benefits.
As you get further along, you can change it up and you’ll eventually figure out what methods work best. These days, we simply declutter little things here and there as we go along, with maybe one or two bigger decluttering session each year depending on what’s going on.
3. Remember slow and steady
Especially towards the beginning, it can feel like nothing is really happening. The clutter in the room may still be there, the drawers still crammed with too many items, the basement full of boxes of who knows what. On the flip side, it can also feel amazing to clear off surfaces and closets, and to sell, donate or get rid of things. But it’s really not about that.
What makes the biggest impact is the small and continuous decisions you make on minimizing distractions over time.
The impact really does add up. We’re several years in at this point of minimizing what no longer is working for us, and have seen drastic changes in our beliefs, living spaces and how we spend our time. Looking back, minimalism has been essential in our being able to do more of what matters to us and I only expect future changes as we continue to minimize, explore and learn more in the years to come.
4. Find your own “look”
While you can take inspiration from other people’s living spaces, don’t feel the pressure to have your home look a certain way. It’s a common minimalism mistake to think that minimalism needs to look like the white-walled, sparse, model home that’s often portrayed in magazines, videos and other websites. It’s a little ironic, but I’ve seen people buying these trendy looking items in their efforts to be more minimalist.
Remember that form follows functionality, and it doesn’t look the same for everyone. Focus on functionality and developing a space that makes you feel inspired, productive and creative on a regular basis. Use what you have and love, and get rid of the rest through donating, selling, recycling or throwing away. Don’t buy something just for appearances. If you do buy something, buy what adds value to your life and helps you do more of what matters.
5. Start with the easy stuff
This one is the most important out of all the minimalism tips for beginners. During our decluttering process, Amy and I inevitably came across things we didn’t feel like we could get rid of at the time. Many of them were sentimental items; some of them weren’t. Most likely, you’ll come across these items as well.
If you spend more than a couple minutes thinking about whether or not you want to get rid of something, simply move on to the easier items. You can start with paper clips, business cards, or magazines—whatever you need to get started. Hold off on the sentimental or sticky items for later on.
Instead of getting stuck on a certain thing, this strategy helped us continue our momentum and keep building our decluttering muscles. What we found was it got easier and easier to get rid of the harder stuff. With our muscles more built, we were able to let go of the harder stuff later on in the process.
6. Reconnect with your “why”
At some point, you’ll likely encounter challenging moments during the decluttering process.
During these moments, it’s helpful to go back to the reason why you’re doing all this. What are you creating the space for? It could be to pay off debt and create more living space instead of storage space. It could be to travel more, feel less stressed, or to make more time for loved ones. Whatever it is, reconnecting to your “why” can help you push through the tough times during the minimizing process.
In the end, what’s most important is that you keep on exploring what minimalism looks like for you and creating space for what matters. Even after we successfully decluttered many items, we still found more to get rid of in the following years with life changes and other events. Even now, we still find these six tips helpful to revisit. Really, these aren’t just minimalism tips for beginners; they can be reminders as we change, evolve and grow throughout our lives.
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