When I am talking about minimalism, I very often get reactions from people who belief that minimalism means living like a stoic monk, void of all pleasures in life, or who think you need to live in a house with one chair, one table and one plant, to be a minimalist. I think it’s high time for some clarification.
Minimalism is a way of thinking, is a way of living. Minimalism is being conscious about stuff. The more conscious you become, the more you’ll become very aware of what role things play in your life, and whether they are important or not, whether things fit into your life or not.
That’s why for someone a minimalistic house will mean an apartment, for someone else a cubic style house and for another person living on a farm. That’s why having a minimalistic wardrobe can mean having 45 items or having 20 items. What I am trying to say is, that it is not the architectural or interior style that determines whether you live minimalistic or not, it’s not the exact number of clothes you own, it’s not the mark of your car etc.
Then what is it?
Simplifying to a minimalistic lifestyle means: you take a step back and you evaluate your life. You ask yourself the following questions:
What am I actually using, wearing?
What makes me feel good?
What gives me energy?
What drains me?
What things do I own to impress other people?
What was once useful in my life but not anymore?
Why am I holding on to this stuff?
I really like the following quote by Dave Ramsey:
We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.
Unfortunately, that is the sad truth for many people.
Therefor it is so important to be honest with yourself and have a close look at what you own and why. Once you have a clear vision of what is in your life right now, versus what you really need and want to be in your life, you can start getting rid of things. Getting rid of stuff not just to get rid of it, no, getting rid of it because you want to feel better, you want to feel lighter, you want to get rid of the stuff that is weighing you down. This is what simplifying means. Creating a life in which you feel good, in which there is room to do the things you like, in which there is room to be just who you are. The more you get rid of what you don’t need, the more you’ll have that feeling of freedom, the more you’ll enjoy the things you’ve now consciously decided to keep. That is a very personal choice. That is why it looks different for everyone. That is why it’s not about cheap or expensive, about owning a big car or a small car. It means look at what you need right now, at what is useful to your current lifestyle, at what makes YOU happy.
It does not mean: buy cheap stuff, no, it means buying consciously. Buy what you need and buy sustainable things, buy quality stuff so that you do not fall into the trap: « Buy cheap, Buy twice* ». Because living in a minimalistic way, is also living an eco-friendly way. The less you buy, the less that needs to be manufactured, the less natural resources are being exploited, the less pollution because of transportation, the less waste afterwards.
So, you see it has nothing to do with suffering, with not enjoying life and stuff, no, it means being very conscious about what you buy and why you buy it so that it does not get tossed away a year later or is just gathering dust in a corner of your house.
All those things need a place to live in our house, need to be maintained, need our attention. Even when we hide our things in attics, garages, basements, we do not realize it but it is still eating away our energy.
‘Everything you own, owns you.’ Joshua Becker**
The more we have to take care of our stuff, the less time we have to enjoy life. So that is why choosing only a handful of things will bring you greater joy, because:
you can actually see all you have, you know where to find it and it is easily accessible,
there is less cleaning to do as there is less stuff,
you only own what you like,
you only own what fits you and your lifestyle,
you have easy access to it all, so no frustration when you need something.
You feel more joyful as your stuff is no longer a burden because
you don’t feel guilty anymore because you are not buying too much stuff anymore,
you have less decision fatigue because the less you own, the less there is to choose from,
you have enough because you thought it through before you made a purchase and you only have what is actually of use to you.
When you have rid your house of all the stuff you don’t wear, of all the stuff you never use, of all the stuff that is worn or broken, of all the stuff you only keep out of guilt (you either paid too much for it or it was a gift), of all the stuff that is not part of your current lifestyle anymore, … all there is left is what you enjoy, is what brings you energy, … and you’ll feel so much lighter, so much better, so much more alive!
Remember, we got to this point in our life over a long period of time, so take it slow and steady because you need to practice this awareness. The more you create space around you, the more space there will be in your head and the clearer you’ll see what you actually need to feel happy, to be you, and what is just excess.
That is what real minimalism means: you know who you are, you know what values you have and you only own what contributes to this. Again, this is very personal. It’s not up to others to determine what we need and what we don’t need. It does mean however:
no more living like ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’, no more buying to feel important, no more holding on out of fear of losing your past, no more holding on for ‘just in case’, … Minimalism means letting go of that fear of not having enough, of not being enough.
I highly recommend this lifestyle as it benefits you, the people around you, and also our planet. The happier you are, the nicer person you are to others. The more conscious you live, the healthier for you and the planet.
Minimalism isn’t just another fashion style, no, it is coming home to you, to who you really are. It is a process of becoming aware of how your life looks like today and how you want your life to look like. It’s about making space so that you have access to your core being. It’ll create space to do things that matter to you as you are no longer occupied by your stuff, it creates space to live from your heart.
It’s the perfect recipe for reducing stress, for creating more time, for enjoying life, for living a healthy, meaningful life which will make you feel so much lighter, so much more energetic, so much freer.
If you also read in Dutch, check out my book ‘Less is Yes!’ on www.lifecoachwomen.be
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*’Simplify your life’ by Mary Conroy.
**’The minimalist home’, ‘Simplify’ by Joshua Becker