WHY MINIMALISM IS NOT JUST ABOUT YOUR STUFF
Minimalism involves decluttering and getting rid of things you no longer need, want or add value to your life but the minimalist lifestyle is also so much more. Here are some reasons why minimalism is not just about your stuff.
MORE TO MINIMALISM THAN GETTING RID OF THINGS
I heard a quote recently, I think from H.L. Mencken, and it goes like this…
“You can’t do anything about the length of your life, but you can do something about its width and depth.”
The words resonated with me for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, I lost my mum last year and through that grief and loss I’m reminded that life is so far beyond our control and it’s important to do what we can, when we can and never take anything for granted. She always told me to have a go, have fun, live fully and don’t sweat the small stuff.
Whenever I remember my mum, I try to remember her words of wisdom from a life well lived. I don’t heed her advice all the time and there’s plenty of times I’d rather hide under a blanket than ‘have a go’ but I have those words etched on my brain (and, in fact, on a noticeboard above my desk so I see it often!).
Secondly, the quote inspires me to take action and if you’ve been around my blog for any time, you’ll know that I love to do stuff. Make change, stop doing things just because we feel we should or ought to or because of what other people will think. Instead I like to start doing things because they’ll make a positive difference.
The quote can be read a few ways.
- YOU can do something…
- You CAN do something…
- You can DO something…
- You can do SOMETHING…
It just depends where you put the emphasis but I love it because it reminds me that we have the power to change our course and to build a life that we want.
Of course, that’s not to say we won’t have problems along the way, but the general trajectory is where we want to go, instead of just where we end up.
And so, what does this have to do with minimalism and, more specifically, minimalism not being just about your stuff?
WHAT IS MINIMALISM
Firstly, you may have heard the term ‘minimalism’ before.
Minimalism is a lifestyle choice that encourages intentionality.
Do the things that you have in your life add value and could you DO and HAVE more things (not just physical stuff) by purposefully keeping out more of the everyday clutter that invades your busy life?
- Do less to have more time
- Have less stuff to have more money
- Keep less clutter to have a home that’s easier to manage
- Have a clearer vision of the future by knowing what you want from life
If minimalism is new to you and you’re curious to learn more, here are some articles which you might enjoy:
- There are many misconceptions and myths around minimalism.
- There are some easy ways to get started with minimalism.
- There are some lessons I learnt in my own minimalist journey.
- And, there are ways to find your own version of minimalism that works for you.
HOW I BECAME MINIMALIST
I became a minimalist partly by accident and partly by design.
When my kids were little I was a stressed-out, burnt-out working parent. I was trying to do it all and life was a little out of balance. Having been signed off work and encouraged to get myself together, I did a little internet digging on ways to make life easier and I came across sites talking about decluttering and minimalism.
Although my husband thought I was nuts, I decided to try it.
As an experiment, I gave away much our stuff and in return my home became easier to run, I had more time and more energy to spend with my kids and spend in my life.
I’d become a minimalist by accident. All I’d intended to do was get rid of the stuff we didn’t need so I didn’t have to look at or tend to it. I still had work pressures, financial worries and the usual ups and downs to deal with, but I had more bandwidth to manage these.
The more I deliberately let go of or got rid of, the better I felt and the better quality of life we all had and so I carried on making these intentional decisions.
This is how I became a minimalist by design.
It all started with decluttering and this was a vital first step in my quest for balance. However, as you can see, this wasn’t the end of the story but it’s the beginning of why minimalism is not just about your stuff.
THE MINIMALIST LIFESTYLE AS A LABEL
Before we carry on and look at some more of the reasons why minimalism is not just about your stuff, it may be helpful to chat about the minimalist lifestyle as a label.
I know that many people are uncomfortable with the term ‘minimalist’ and are critical of the minimalist lifestyle and what they think it stands for. I get that and there’s no judgement here. My site is for you, only if you’d like it to be.
That’s why I also refer to decluttering and simplifying in the same breath, so it’s not off-putting for those who are just feeling overwhelmed by life and want to find a way out.
Yet, sometimes it’s easier to give something a name – so you can find out information about it on the internet or you can seek out a community of like-minded people. That’s why I also like to write about minimalism.
WHY MINIMALISM IS ABOUT STUFF
Minimalism often seems extreme or unrealistic compared to its more popular cousin, decluttering. Perhaps they’re just different terms for an activity or lifestyle that presents along a spectrum. Whilst it’s possible to declutter without being a minimalist, it’s not really possible to be a minimalist without decluttering first. This is the essential difference, I feel, between the two.
Minimalism is definitely about your stuff. If you have too much of it, whatever the type of clutter, then that’s squeezing out time, space and freedom for other things. So, for many of us, from extreme minimalist to those who just skirt around the edges, clearing clutter is an important component and first step towards a minimalist lifestyle.
Get rid of things you don’t use, pass them on to someone who could make better use of them, build confidence in making good decluttering decisions, create habits to stay clutter-free, stop the cycle of clutter coming into and out of your home and be aware of how clutter creeps in.
These are all fantastic ways to embrace the minimalist lifestyle every day and all of them are to do with stuff. So, of course, minimalism is to do with your stuff. But it’s also so much more and I think this is where many of us misunderstand what minimalism is all about.
In a world where more is better, often at the expense of happiness, authenticity, connection, mental health and physical well-being, minimalism is just a different way of looking at our place in that world.
Not necessarily better or worse to other approaches, just different and it works for some and not so well for others.
WHY MINIMALISM IS NOT JUST ABOUT YOUR STUFF
Minimalism is not just about your stuff. Minimalism is good for our bodies and brains, for the environment, our bank balances, our relationships and our kids. It helps us manage illness, the challenges of old age, anxiety and finding time to slow down by ourself or with our families and make the most of life.
Here are some other ways that minimalism is not just about your stuff.
1. Minimalism encourages greater awareness
Do you pay attention to how many emails in your inbox, to how many times you’ve overcommitted to things you wish you’d said no, to how many times you’ve moved that pile of paperwork on the kitchen counter so you can lay out the plates for dinner or that you’ve dropped into bed at the end of the day and still haven’t phoned Aunt Betty?
Before I simplified my life, I lurched from one email to another, one activity to another, shuffled those paper piles around whilst cursing at myself under my breath that I wasn’t more organised. As for poor Aunty Betty, she might get a phone call one day.
A minimalist lifestyle encourages me to be more mindful and interested in what I’m doing and where my time, energy, money and other resources are spent and invested.
Minimalism has made me more aware of how I live my life on a day to day basis.
2. Minimalism is about asking questions
Once I did become more mindful and aware, I also started to become more curious. Why did I let these emails lurk in my inbox? Why did I put off dealing with the paperwork? What would happen if I said no to that coffee invite next week? Instead of doing this on autopilot and just because I did them yesterday and so I’d do them again today, I started to ask questions. What? Why? How?
Minimalism encouraged me to rethink my existing habits, behaviours, patterns of thinking and start to explore different ways of doing things – from managing my inbox, to how I laid out my kitchen cupboards, to why exactly I procrastinated when something felt difficult, to the way I cultivated and maintained strong and close relationships.
I stopped doing this just because I’d always done them and started questioning if there was a better way. Oh, and I also phoned Aunt Betty!
3. Minimalism is about priorities
On my blog you’ll find I talk a lot about priorities. Priorities are important because if everything is important then nothing is.
How do you know what you want to get rid of if you don’t know whether it’s important? When life feels tough and you need to find a different way, how do you know which area to change or tackle first? You choose the thing that feels most stressful, or that will have the greatest impact.
Minimalism is about getting clear on what your priorities are in life so you can make an action plan to address these first.
4. Minimalism is not just about getting rid of things
When I say action plan, I don’t mean just putting all that unwanted stuff in a bag or box to be decluttered. It could be that you’re frustrated in your work and you want to change jobs or retrain for a different career so you try a month-long ban on eating out and clothes shopping and invest that saved money into buying a course which you complete with a qualification in your chosen field. You might need to find time to work on a new hobby so you ditch watching the TV during weekdays.
Minimalism isn’t just about getting rid of stuff. There are many things you can declutter that aren’t actual things.
5. Minimalism is about trade-offs
As these couple of examples show, we can’t have our cake and eat it. You usually can’t say yes to one thing without saying no to another.
To use the emails in your inbox as an example, you can’t get rid of them without spending time reading, actioning and making a long-term plan to deal with them, or they’ll just build up. Dealing with your inbox takes time and patience.
Clearing your kitchen counters requires a robust system in place for your paperwork. To deal with this regularly you’ll need to create habits and stick to them such as sorting through your papers every day or week.
To give yourself more time to retrain for a career means you might have to put your social life on hold for a while and deal with any feelings of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).
Minimalism is about trade-offs as you can’t have one thing without letting go of another and vice versa. In this instance, I think having your cake and eating it leads to an unhealthy body and a cluttered life! It’s just a question of which side of the trade-off is worth sacrificing for the sake of the other.
6. Minimalism is about direction
I often say to my kids that life is like a corridor. Some doors are fully open for us to just walk through easily, other doors are slightly ajar so we can take a peek inside but to see more we have to give them a push. Some doors are tightly shut so we have to find a way to open them, but even then we won’t be sure they’re the right door for us until we’re inside.
Minimalism is about using the awareness, questions, priorities and trade-offs we come to live by to help us work out which direction we want to go in, or which door we want to open next. It’s not about blindly accepting that some doors are open and some are shut.
I love to set goals, make plans, have hopes and sometimes life let’s me follow these and sometimes life gets in the way and I have to re-route. Life will always be difficult at times and push and pull us in different directions, but minimalism helps me stay more on the track I want to be on, to choose what I want out of life and find the right door or doors to help me get there.
MINIMALISM IS ABOUT SO MUCH MORE THAN JUST YOUR STUFF
Most of all, minimalism is about intention. Leading an intentional life more full of what matters with less of what doesn’t. This could be emails in your inbox, piles of paperwork, misplaced priorities, unsupportive relationships, bad habits, worries that aren’t being addressed and much more besides.
Some of these things are your physical stuff, but a lot of the clutter in our lives is more than the stuff we trip over and move around. It’s anything that stands in the way of us leading a full, rewarding and meaningful life.
Going back to the quote I began with…
“You can’t do anything about the length of your life, but you can do something about its width and depth.” (H.L. Mencken)
For me, minimalism is the way I try to do something about the width and depth of my life and why I think minimalism is not just about your stuff.
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS
I’d love to hear your thoughts on what minimalism means to you. How did you begin your minimalism journey, or have you yet to try it? Would you encourage others to explore the minimalist lifestyle and what have you found to be the greatest obstacles or benefits? Leave a comment below as I’d love to hear your ideas.
MORE HELPFUL RESOURCES ON MINIMALISM
Here are some articles and resources on minimalism which you might enjoy:
- Types of Clutter and How to Deal With Them – Struggling with clutter? Let’s look at the different types of clutter in our homes and lives and how to deal with them.
- The Cost of Clutter: What Is Your Clutter Costing You? – Clutter can take up space in our home, heart and mind but what else is your clutter costing you? In this article we look at the cost of clutter so you can decide for yourself.
- Simplify Your Life – Take your first steps to declutter your life! A mini course to help you work out what and where to start simplifying your own life today!
- How Minimalism Can Help Highly Sensitive People – Are you a Highly Sensitive Person feeling overwhelmed by busy life and the outside world? In this article I’m sharing some gentle tips on how minimalism can help Highly Sensitive People find more peace, calm and space at home and in life.
- Minimalist Goals to Simplify Your Life This Year – Minimalism is a lifestyle encouraging us to find meaning and value without the stuff and clutter of modern life. In this article we look at some ways you can set minimalist goals to simplify your life over the coming year. There’s a free printable worksheet you can get to identify your priorities and define what’s important to you so you can set goals that really align with what matters to you.
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I’m Antonia and on this blog I share practical inspiration to simplify your home, time and life. Follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest! You can also subscribe to Balance Through Simplicity and receive regular simplicity tips straight to your inbox for free. Make sure you never miss an article plus you’ll get a copy of my free Declutter Starter Kit as a welcome gift!