Minimalism can be summed up in three words – “living with less”. You may find yourself asking, “less what?” and the answer is less stuff.
That’s right. S-t-u-f-f. Clutter. Possessions. Material goods.
It is the idea that by getting rid of your stuff, by clearing up the clutter, you then free up room for other things in your life – such as experiences, personal relationships, and financial stability.
The Beta Stage
How does one begin on this journey towards modern-day asceticism? Luckily for those interested, it is as easy to get started as it sounds.
Begin with clutter. What are things you wouldn’t mind parting with? In the digital age, it may be easiest to start with things like analog books, DVDs, even video games – items you can keep digitally. The next items can be a bit more personal – things like clothes, old toys, knickknacks. Once you’ve gotten rid of these initial items, you can now begin to take a harder look at your domestic environment overall.
Journey to Minimalism
Do you really need eight differently sized pots if you’re not Gordon Ramsey? Do you need a table setting for twelve if you have a family of three and hate hosting dinner parties?
For the brave of heart looking to take the plunge, below you’ll find two lists of the two levels of minimalism to guide you through your de-cluttering process.
- Entertainment Items (books, DVDs, games, etc)
- Knickknacks (toys, picture frames, tchotchkes)
- Hygiene/Grooming Products
- Seasonal/Traveling Items (luggage, holiday decorations, etc)
- Athletic/Exercise Equipment
- Soft Home Accessories (linens, towels, etc)
- Home Decor (art, picture frames, candles, etc)
- Anything that generates waste (why buy toilet paper if you can just have a TOTO?)
The physical act of minimalism is the easiest place to start because you can see it. It is the philosophy behind minimalism that is the tricky part. Without it, you’ll find yourself back to old habits faster than you can even spell, “m-i-n-i-m-a-l-i-s-m”.
The whole point of getting rid of these items is to prove to yourself that you do not need them in order to cultivate happiness. By letting go of the physical, you can dive more into the spiritual, or meta-physical.
Instead of stressing yourself out (as many of us do) by spending your two days off cleaning and doing laundry and organizing and, and, and…you can simply not. By getting rid of these items that require time, money, and maintenance, you no longer have to invest the time, money, or maintenance. Instead, you can spend your days of hiking, learning a new language – or whatever makes you happy.
The Link between Minimalism & Happiness
Minimalism begins with the idea that material goods do not bring happiness, because they quite literally, take up too much space. And by getting rid of them, you are essentially making room for your happiness. When you’ve eliminated those distractions, you are then forced to examine yourself and ask the following: what makes me happy?
And although facing yourself in the mirror can be frightening – introspection is not for the faint-hearted – the triumph at the end of the wrestling match with yourself is well worth it. Once you’ve reached that point of your minimalism journey, you will find yourself on a two-way street.
One path simply requires that you not acquire any new possessions unless you’re replacing something – that the amount of worldly possessions in your care has achieved homeostasis. The second path is far more challenging. It requires that you continue to let go of things. To make room for more happiness.
For many people, it is a natural progression. When you’ve gotten rid of so much stuff (maybe things you never thought you’d live without), it is only natural that you wonder – what else can I live without? The answer will surprise you.
But minimalism is not about creating dramatic change or discomfort. In fact, the opposite. It is about what feels good. It is about slowly and surely making your way through the clutter, to find happiness on the other side.
Everyone’s needs are different. There are going to be some people that give away every possession they own and find their happiness seemingly overnight. But that is not for everyone. And it doesn’t have to be.
The method of minimalism is about making room – literally. So as you find yourself on this path, either ambling upon it or running down it or anything in between, remember to make room for yourself. For whatever speed you want to explore your path at, however many things you want to start with letting go.
Yes, being a minimalist make you happy
When I began my journey with minimalism, I immediately got rid of the items on the LEVEL 1 list. And I immediately felt a sense of relief to be donating things and downsizing my life. As I went down the list of things and I arrived at my clothes, I was suddenly having a much harder time letting go.
Clothes are a big part of my identity as a person. As a former actor and customer, I believe in the power of clothes and what they represent about a person. And a lot of my pieces are vintage or hand-me-downs from my mother so they hold a lot of sentimental value. I wasn’t willing to let that go.
But I realized I didn’t have to get rid of my clothes if I didn’t want to. Minimalism is not a one-size-fits-all solution. It is not a rigid set of rules. “Get rid of what no longer serves you, and make room for things that will,” it says. So I went back to my closet and took a closer, harder look at things.
What had I not worn in the last six months? What no longer fit me or made me feel my best? I got rid of all my “skinny” clothes (yes, this is a real thing, ask any woman you know). Also, I got rid of things I had never worn. I downsized enough for me. And I felt better.
Do I still own an entire wardrobe of clothes? Yes. Do I own more than one pair of jeans? Yes. But for me, this is what downsizing looks like. And every month, I try and get rid of at least one more thing. And every time I have purchased an item of clothing, I have donated one in exchange. I’m trying to just roughly maintain a level of how much apparel I own and slowly bring that bar down. That feels good to me.
Ready for Release
Minimalism has brought me happiness. Overall, I have been able to let go of my possessions and it has really helped me consider what gives me or encourages my happiness. It has made me more intentional any time I lay down my credit card – do I need this?
If you’re interested in minimalism, I recommend you give it a try. Task yourself with getting rid of ten items in your home, and see how you feel afterward. Do you feel relief? Accomplishment? Happiness? And why do you feel the way that you feel? Do you wish you felt like this more often?
Continue to get rid of things and see how far you can go. See what feels good. Remember that minimalism is a journey, not a destination. Getting started is all it takes.