Minimalism is the freedom from all things, whether physical, mental or emotional which do not contribute to your life by adding purpose, peace, joy and intentionality.
Many people think of minimalism as the removal of all their physical possessions. Living with minimal belongings, no vehicle, backpacking through life with one set of clothing, no TV or books, owning a very small house, if one at all, and living in a way that doesn’t require them to work a full-time job like a ‘normal’ person. While this may be the extreme form of minimalism, it definitely isn’t the going standard for most people who practice minimalism. The truth is, minimalists come in all different types, levels of commitment, number of possessions and personal views.
I first discovered minimalism back in 2012 while I was decluttering my home before a big move back to the states. I was excited about getting rid of my belongings, but had never even considered the idea of intentionally NOT accumulating more of them once we were settled in our new home back in the states. When I started reading about minimalism through Joshua Becker, I was completely convinced of the benefits of the lifestyle, it just made sense to me that owning only those items that bring value, purpose and joy to my life would give me a much more satisfied, content feeling.
Living minimally and mindfully has been so beneficial for our family. Just a few of the positive changes we’ve noticed from living minimally include-
- Improved Personal Relationships- We have more time to focus on each other when we spend less time consuming, shopping, then caring for the items we’ve purchased.
- More Financially Sound- Less shopping = more money. We have ended up with more in our savings and more money to share with others in need.
- Fewer Belongings- Minimalism has left us with only those possessions that we need, use and love. We ended up owning not nearly as much we originally had, which in turn has made it easier to keep our home clean and kept up without so many items to care for.
- Increased Time- I am absolutely amazed at how much time I previously spent on ‘stuff’. Thinking about things I wanted, shopping for them at the store and online, thinking about how to pay for them, working to earn money to pay for it, then taking care of the item once it was home, or not using it, then spending time feeling guilty every time I saw it because I wasn’t using it. Minimalism has increased the amount of time I have both physically and mentally.
Minimalism can be applied to many facets in life, not just physical possessions. Our consumer-focused lifestyle has caused many of us to think of life as a time to work, earn and accumulate possessions, activities, people and economic status. Since living more mindfully, I have applied the principles of minimalism to other areas of my life and have found that it works wonders when you are living mindfully in everything that you do.
Minimalist Cooking- I have never particularly enjoyed cooking, but once I embraced minimalism, I realized that I could transfer those ideals to the kitchen as well. I now cook simple, three item meals, that I love and are healthy to create, with minimal ingredients and time required. Many of my ‘minimal meals’ are created with a protein, carbohydrate and vegetable combination. It is amazing how using just simple, non-processed, whole foods is actually an easier, healthier way to cook, and requires minimal time in the kitchen. Just what I need!
Minimal Wardrobe- A minimalist wardrobe, capsule wardrobe or Project 333 are all different variations of the same thing, only owning clothing that you love and wear. The 80/20 rule applies here. Most of us only wear 20% of our clothing 80% of the time the other just sits in our dresser drawers or stays hung up in our closets. When I first started minimizing my clothing, I used the advice to hang my clothes with the hangers going in the same direction, then, as I wore something and washed it, turn the hanger around when I hung it back up so I could see what I was actually using. This helped me eventually minimize my closet down to 23 items of clothing that I wore on a regular basis. My goal wasn’t necessarily to get to a certain number of articles of clothing, but to only own those pieces that I enjoy and wear often.
Mindful Activities- Living mindfully naturally extended to getting rid of those obligations and activities that were not contributing in an overall positive way to my life and the lives of my family. Though some of them were ‘good’ activities, volunteering, educational and enriching, they were taking too much time away from the more important activities which included spending quality time together, focusing on things that truly interested us, getting enough rest and having time in the day to fix healthy food. We were too rushed through our day; mindfully choosing minimal activities helped us put our focus where it would benefit us the most.
Minimalism and Parenting- It may seem like applying minimalism to parenting would be a bad thing, but remembering that it is simply freedom from all the ‘clutter’ and holding onto those things that bring joy, purpose and contentment will make it extremely applicable and beneficial. As I have tried to parent more mindfully and minimally, I have removed a lot of the stigmas of what makes a ‘good’ parent, and replaced them with the qualities I have mindfully thought of that would benefit each of my children. There is no superior method of parenting, as each child is different, so as a parent, I strive to pinpoint the minimal, but essential teachings, time, values and activities I feel my children need on an individual basis.
Minimalism and Collecting Experiences- One of the topics I have seen come up again and again among minimalists, is the value of experiences over possessions. As I have consciously minimized my physical belongings, I have gained the desire to accumulate experiences and memories with those I love. For some reason, many of us have been conditioned to associate items with happiness and joy, but when we think about it, some of our happiest times have more to do with an experience we had that brings back joyful and positive emotions. Now, when I think about purchasing something ‘for the fun of it’, I stop and think about whether there is an experience instead that I could use that money on, that would give lasting memories in place of temporary ownership.
There have been several people who have been instrumental in my search for information about minimalism, and how to incorporate it into my life. Living mindfully and authentically, they have kindly provided their insight and wisdom, and continue to do so for anyone who is interested in living more minimally. Below are the most influential people who have helped me along my path to minimalism.
Joshua Becker of BecomingMinimalist, is a father and husband who was introduced to the idea of minimalism several years ago by his neighbor, and has been a wonderful role model of a more ‘rational’ approach to implementing it in our everyday lives as a family. He writes regular posts on his blog to help motivate those who are interested in living a more mindful life, with fewer possessions. He also sends out a weekly email containing articles he has culled from all over the Internet that pertain to minimalism.
Leo Babauta of ZenHabits, is originally from Guam, and a father to six children. He is also a minimalist with a focus on living a life more mindfully. He and his wife ‘unschool’ several of their children, providing more opportunities and experiences for the to experience life at their own pace. Babauta writes regularly on his blog and has been an inspiration to me and countless others who are interested in living life intentionally, simply and with purpose.
Courtney Carver of BeMoreWithLess, is a life coach and wonderful writer with a focus on simplifying, decluttering and living life to it’s fullest potential. Courtney’s blog is filled with practical information for minimizing our clutter, tools to help you simplify and live with more intention. She provides micro-courses as well for those who would like a more personal approach and motivation in their efforts.
Minimalism is an ideal lifestyle, one that is definitely a different path than the common, consumer driven life most of us lead. Living mindfully and intentionally brings with it extreme satisfaction in knowing that you are living life, it’s not just ‘happening to you’. Owning fewer possessions is not necessarily the goal, but is usually the outcome as we realize that there really aren’t that many items that truly contribute to our happiness and peace, that in fact, many of our possessions take it away from us.