What is minimalism?
Even though I had always heard the word floating around I assumed ‘minimalism’ had something to do with lots of white chairs, rich people and home appliances that were smarter than my high school graphing calculator. So like, crazy smart.
I have been reading a lot about what minimalism is and isn’t and it got me thinking, there are a lot of different opinions out there. I think there are a lot of misconceptions too – if you haven’t really started living out minimalism, I don’t want the variety of rules and strategies to lead you astray on what it comes down to – mindsets.
In a nutshell, minimalism is only having things in your home and life that are
3. Of very sentimental value.
Herein lies the range of the type of minimalist you will come across, those three points are all so subjective.
However, just a step further you will find the heart, the mindset of all minimalists, which is: “I am not my things”.
Because we can all look up from our screen right now and find a dozen things around us that we don’t find attractive, practical or sentimental. We find we still keep the things that don’t meet one of these three points. Like, we still have every kitchen gadget that was ever on clearance at Bed Bath and Beyond. Or a TV in every room. Or enough craft supplies for three kindergarten classes. Or a closet full of cute clothes.
Why do we still have all these things?
- It is because we identify with all of these things as making us who we are/want to be/once were (‘Guilty’, says the girl who still hasn’t cancelled her IPSY subscription!).
- We rely on all of these things to keep us entertained (as I sit here at my computer flanked with an open iPad and iPhone).
- Or, sometimes it’s the burden of guilt that we bought into consumerism and paid money on these things, hauled them back to our place, and shoved our old stuff into a drawer to make more room where there isn’t any.
It is tough to get rid of things.
It is also freeing.
As I have spent years getting rid of my possessions, I am learning more and more that decluttering is a tool and that minimalism can be applied to your whole lifestyle and not just your home. What changes isn’t just your space, but your mindsets.
Minimalism isn’t always approached with ‘is it useful, beautiful or sentimental?’ but it is often approached with these mindsets:
1. You don’t need to have a big perfect home in the best location
As many of us have experienced, we get a small apartment in our early 20s and seem to just move to larger and larger homes along the way.
What if we didn’t continue to seek the bigger and pricier home?
The more you have, the more you have to care for, clean, and maintain. When culture is pursuing bigger houses, huge closets with lots of clothes, double garages full of gadgets. A minimalist hears; lots of cleaning, laundry, unused furniture, more space to heat, distractions.
A minimalist will think about the lifestyle they want (location, disposable income, etc.) and will buy a house that meets those needs rather than trying to have it all.
So a minimalist might opt for a smaller apartment in a great city location knowing they have to keep their possessions minimal. Or they might move to a smaller town with a good sized home because they can spend more free time together as a family enjoying the simple things in life.
2. You don’t need to own everything you enjoy
A minimalist will ‘enjoy without owning’ and forgo at home recreation. For instance, they won’t own all the workout equipment, they will exercise with less equipment or opt for running outdoors or join a gym.
Instead of owning more gadgets and equipment for recreation, they will seek it in the community at places like libraries, coffee shops, parks, pools, gyms, and theatres. (Though I am partial to my home espresso machine, I drink too much coffee to justify going to the coffee shop).
3. Buy experiences, not things
Minimalists will spend less money on acquiring more stuff and redirect their money to having experiences.
When shopping is no longer a ‘hobby’ then a minimalist lifestyle has the side effect of having less debt.
I do struggle with this one a bit because I really love things, especially a really well-thought gift. But over the years we have tried to gift an experience (or room remodel) to our friends and family. I’ve found that even if we do ‘buy things’ when we can make them things that create an experience, they are more meaningful and more enjoyable.
I think a big change in terms of this motto ‘buy experiences, not things’ is that I don’t shop for entertainment as much. I could justify buying something in virtually any store I go to. Now I make lists of things I plan on buying and I generally stick to the list. It is a challenge but one I know has a great outcome (less debt!).
4. Keep work surfaces clear
Counters, tables, dressers, etc. are best kept clear. Empty spaces are usable spaces.
I’m sure we can all think of something we would like to do more if there wasn’t ‘stuff’ in the way (as my neglected sewing machine was screaming a muffled cry in my cluttered basement).
Clutter can be a thief of our time and energy AND SPACE. And the bad part is, our clutter is all our own stuff that we put there in the first place.
This is one change I’ve made in my home that FEELS like the biggest change. I love to see a mostly clear counter and table in my kitchen. Even if there are toys on the floor and couch, just seeing this clear counter space makes me feel more in control and proud of my space.
I notice the power of this the most when we keep our bedroom dresser tidy. It can be a landing spot for all the random junk in our home and when I see that each night it makes me feel gross and lazy. But when that space is clean, I feel more at peace in my bedroom.
Likewise, keeping the kitchen table clear, instead of a giant storage space, can really act as a launch pad for all sorts of projects and games in our home.
5. Always ask why
Minimalism is about examining your relationship with the things in your home.
Rather than letting your home get full of ‘stuff’ without much thought behind what you buy, why you buy, how you will use it, how you will store it – minimalism means stopping yourself and asking yourself lots of questions about what is coming in, and what is staying.
This makes you become very intentional about what is in your home and seeps into setting intention into how you live your daily life.
6. Decluttering is a routine
I’ve spent years going through my home and I still have to go through it over and over again. The creep of toys, books, clothes, and gadgets happens slowly and next thing you know your drawers are overflowing again.
The process of decluttering is constant. At least for this family of five. I thought it would be a one and done kind of thing, but I have to continually re-declutter drawers and closets. This is the long game of minimalism that requires dedication.
Stuff isn’t the enemy, but it is worth paying attention to how your ‘stuff’ makes you feel
People who are minimalists want to unburden themselves from their things. From the restrictions that ‘things’ put on their use of their own living spaces, their identities, their wallets, and their time.
This was what really sat with me when I read about minimalism. I just felt such a heaviness, such a burden, by all that I have. Yes, for all of the reasons listed above, but also because of how mindlessly frivolous it has felt. I mean, how can I have multiples of things I don’t even need when there are people who go without so many things I brush off as necessities (that’s a whole other post though, probably written from my bathtub while I ugly cry like a pregnant lady watching Call the Midwives).
All this being said, I know minimalism isn’t for everyone. I also do think it can be extreme. ‘Stuff’ isn’t the enemy. But the whole process of this is for us to go through our home and weed out what ‘stuff’ is just ‘stuff’. To make that line between beauty and usefulness versus clutter and burden.
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