On a hike today, I had a go-around in my little brain about what it means to become a minimalist. Hiking or walking always gives me that – the ability to solve some problem or allow me to come up with ideas (There is actually some research that supports the fact that arm swinging during these types of activities facilitates problem-solving, cognition, and creativity).
What does it actually mean to become more minimalist?
People have divergent ideas about what this might mean to them. For those who have not started, they may think it’s a radical idea. For me, yes, it is about getting rid of stuff. Purging the clutter and the hodgepodge of unused items in the house. Getting rid of computer files or stored emails. Getting rid of cable and bills that are requiring me to potentially trade more time to pay them, taking away from time that I can be doing things that I value. Avoiding buying anything not absolutely needed for a purpose or to give some level of joy. No longer accumulating items that I can access in other ways, particularly books or music. Not storing anything for the “what if” situation. Avoiding the excesses of food or consuming foods that are counterproductive to achieving and maintaining a healthy body. And yes, choosing not to continue with specific relationships.
Our stuff and even the evidence of our accomplishments (diplomas on the wall, initials behind our name) give us a degree of comfort, sense of achievement, and status. Our stuff tends to define us. But note the words we tend to use to describe the activities we need to do to make progress. The “getting rid of” and “being without” concepts are inherently negative, and we will resist these. We fear the changes that this lifestyle of “less” might mean. Will I still be worthy? What will my friends and peers think? What if I need that object that I have chosen to toss?
What if we reframed the whole idea of less as an opportunity to fill our lives with more?
More things that fill us up. More things that clearly give us satisfaction. More people (or at least quality people) that inarguably add value to our lives, who build us up, and who don’t suck us dry. More situations that give us courage and the confidence that allow us to help others because we’re not weighed down by the confusion and disorder in our own lives. More time to create what we want to create. More time to actually DO the things we know we can do vs spending more and more time in school or courses to reach some level of mastery when we’ve really already achieved where we need to be to make a difference. More food that is healthy and that fuels us to be the best we can be without disease or ailments. More chances to say yes to opportunities that open doors and help to contribute to causes that mean something. More money in our pockets to spend how we want.
I think minimalism isn’t about denying yourself anything. It’s about opening up doors that you cannot see opening when you’re surrounded with the clutter and chaos. It’s an acceptance (not resignation) to embrace what you have and value and that you are not defined by what you own.