The craze started sometime in June, 2019. I liked the idea of owning just the essentials so much that I went ahead to downsize my wardrobe. To prove how smitten I was, I even did the famous capsule wardrobe blog post.
However, even as I was going around tossing this and deciding I did not need that, I was not about to limit my wardrobe to just 37 pieces, and I was certainly not about the idea of banishing junk food from my diet.
I know right about now someone somewhere has already stripped me off the title “minimalist,” just for saying those last two statements. Relax, Susan! Allow me to explain;
What Minimalism Isn’t
One day, around the time I was still new to the concept to minimalism, I watched this YouTuber who happened to refer to herself as a minimalist. The video was about moving into her new home. Looking around, through her sneak peek of a house tour, I observed that the house was packed; one wall had a gazillion paintings. “Girl, you are no minimalist!” yelled the judge Judy inside my head.
Long story short, like most people, I was wrong. As I have come to learn, minimalism isn’t white walls, L-shaped couches or anywhere near hammocks. There is no one way to become a minimalist and there are no boxes to tick off in order to pass the “minimalist test.” It is also important to note that there is no competition in minimalism, and even if there was, the winner would not necessarily be the person who owns the least number of items.
Minimalism is not about the number, amount, material or physical quality of the things you should own. Needless to say, leading a minimalist lifestyle does not stop at your physical possessions and the things you spend money on.
The term minimalism theoretically means simplicity. “Less is more” is a common phrase that is often thrown around by those who have embraced minimalism. If you practice a version of minimalism that is right for you, you will soon discover that minimalism is not about losing as much as it is about gaining. The less in the phrase less is more does not always have to mean sacrifice. In fact, you should never give up things that are important to you, or ones that you love. The idea of minimalism is about getting rid of the excess (most of which you don’t need/use), to make room for the little that adds value to your life. Remember earlier on we said that minimalism is not about the number of the things you own, so in this case, the little can be 30 or 100— whatever sprinkles your donuts.
Minimalism is therefore about less clutter, less stress, less decision fatigue, less guilt, less wanting, less judgment and more space, more time, more freedom, more giving, more acceptance, clarity of mind, and most importantly, more joy. In most cases (mine included), it is also about more money.
This is a question that everyone must ask themselves and answer before embarking on the journey that is minimalism. For me, however, minimalism was more of a solution to a problem;
When I was in University, I owned belongings in two separate places: at home and school respectively. In each place I had enough stuff to last me a while. Heck! I had stuff for two separate full lives. So when I finished school and it was time to move everything back home, my small bedroom space didn’t even have room for me to fall down (not that I wanted to take a fall).
The decision to declutter my physical belongings ignited in me the desire to declutter more aspects of my life, in a way that made me a better person than I ever was; a process that I explain so much better in my e-book— The Skillful Minimalist.
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On top of that, adapting the above version of minimalism was convenient for me at that particular point in my life, because I knew that it was one of the main ingredients I needed in order to achieve my long-term goals. Minimalism was therefore a way of letting go and releasing old baggage (literally and figuratively), in order to allow new energy into my life and also put myself in a position to afford and own things that were really important to me. You can call it a visualization technique— the idea was to create an accommodating space for the things that were an integral part of my overall growth and peace.
Benefits: The More
Needless to say, this may be the most obvious benefit of them all. I could not only perform my poor dancing moves inside my room, but I also managed to set up a working space; with a desk and all. My wardrobe also became more aesthetically pleasing; because of owning only the clothes that I love, and also because I incorporated Marie Kondo’s KonMari method of folding. Generally, more space led to better organization.
Being mindful is a benefit as much as it is the yin to minimalism’s yang. There is no one without the other. On one hand, minimalism creates time and space for mindfulness, and on the other hand, being intentional is part and parcel of healthy mindful practices. Through certain acts of minimalism— like letting go and unplugging from time to time, I was able be present and focus on the here and now. This state of mindfulness and intentionality made me see my environment with fresh eyes, thus being aware of everything I keep and do at all times, as well as the people I allow in my space.
Being more productive came as a result of gaining more space. It is true that clutter in your physical space leads to clutter in your mind, which hinders creativity and productivity. Clutter and disorganization is a form of noise, without which I could hear my thoughts clearly (I swear I am not exaggerating). A big percentage of our stress (which hinders productivity) is brought about by the things we own, the people in our lives, and/or the want for more of these things. Therefore, when you are content with your life and only keep the things that bring you joy, you experience less stress.
Adapting a saving culture
From the title up top you can probably tell that I previously had poor money handling skills. In hindsight, I was rather unintentional with my spending. Through minimalism, however, frivolous purchases are a thing of the past. What’s fascinating about this is the fact that I am not struggling to save at all. The fact that I know what I need and what’s important is enough reason for me to know when to put that money away, and only spend with intention and mindfulness. I have my financial goals in mind at all times, and so every coin is skillfully accounted for. And you don’t need to have a crazy income to be able to save.
If I had a penny for every time keeping clutter has gotten me late… I would obviously have more clutter in form of coins. It was in the 10 outfit changes, the “what to wear” indecisiveness, the old “I have nothing to wear” adage, the “where the hell could that lip gloss be?” The list goes on and on.
The joy of decluttering is that you know where everything is because nothing gets lost in the clutter, and most importantly, you always have something to wear because you absolutely love all your thirty or ten thousand clothes.
An attitude of gratitude
Keeping only the things that were really important to me (tangible and intangible) made me appreciate the things I have, all the more. You take good care of your stuff when they mean something to you. When you have duplicates, where everything is easily replaceable, you tend to be irresponsible and maybe even feel a sense of entitlement. We spend our lives focusing on our want for more things, that we forget to be grateful for what we have now; things that we prayed for, once upon a time. Minimalism reminds you to stop and be grateful every now and then.
Minimalism in relationships, as I discuss in my e-book, is not always and/or entirely about “getting rid of”. By adapting minimalist principles in different relationships, I can say with confidence that I found peace. I did this by simply knowing who to put where, and what to expect from whom. The concept of minimalism in relationships is also about how much you are willing to invest (in terms of time and attention) on the people you care most about.
Value experiences over stuff
This alone is a statement that influences major decisions in the life of a minimalist. Even before I knew what minimalism was, in certain aspects I always preferred experiences over things. Don’t get me wrong, I do like and appreciate certain thoughtful gifts, but there is just something about fun shared experiences. For one, they provide memories that I’ll carry with me for a long time, and they are also a way to connect and learn from people and places.
I can’t wait to be one of those people who say, “I have been a minimalist for the last decade.” This is because it is one lifestyle I don’t see myself ever reverting from. I have found that when you know what you want, and what’s important to you, you tend to vibrate differently. My favorite part of it all has to be the conscious pursuit of those things, as you look forward to the reward that comes with achieving your goals, no matter how small.
Going forward, it is my hope and dream that more people will hop onto this bandwagon that is mainly about living a life of your own choosing, characterized with things and people that bring you joy. I would also love to have conversations with like-minded people on the same, which is why I leave you with a question (or two);
What does minimalism mean to you? And do you think it’s something that adds to one’s life?