WHAT IS MINIMALISM?
Minimalism and the minimalist lifestyle is about clearing the clutter from your home and life to make space for what truly matters. This article is an introduction to Minimalism. We’ll explore the benefits of a clutter-free life and some practical tips to help you get started when you’re ready.
WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF MINIMALISM?
The short answer to this very common question is that it depends on who you ask! Minimalism and the Minimalist lifestyle mean different things to different people.
Some Minimalists opt for the extreme, measuring how minimalist they are by how many items they can count in their possession.
Other Minimalists are more free with the definition and interpret it in their own way, just following along with the basic principles to guide their choices and decisions in life. I fall into the latter category.
I don’t believe that there should be strict rules to follow or criteria to meet in order to describe yourself as Minimalist.
What I do believe is that there are differing degrees of Minimalism and a fair bit of latitude within that which can vary with your season in life and current choices.
Using myself as an example, if I lived on my own without a hoarder husband and kids with toys, I’d be much more Minimalist than I am now!
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all type of Minimalism that you have to abide by to be a Minimalist and so, it’s very difficult to define the Minimalist lifestyle in one sentence that suits us all!
However, there is one definition that has resonated with me right from the beginning of my own Minimalist journey. It is both suitably precise and vague at the same time because it’s open to interpretation. It means what the reader wants it to mean!
Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist defines Minimalism as this…
‘Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts from it’.
Minimalism is, of course, about living with less clutter and owning less stuff but there is so much more to it than that.
Minimalism is a paradigm for how you live your life. Making conscious, deliberate decisions to focus intentionally on what’s important and keep out the noise and distraction of the things that aren’t so important.
WHAT IS A MINIMALIST LIFESTYLE?
Now we’ve looked at the definition of Minimalism, let’s explore exactly what a Minimalist lifestyle is all about and why it’s so popular.
After all, if so many people are searching for ideas about how to declutter their homes and simplify their lives, Minimalism must have some pretty good benefits!
We’ll look at the benefits later, but first let’s look at Minimalist living in everyday life.
Keep in mind the definition of Minimalism that we mentioned before, that Minimalism is about being intentional with what you let into your life and what you keep out.
If this is still too broad or too vague, let me give you some practical examples in the next section to help explain a minimalist lifestyle and how it can be applied to so many areas of your life.
PRACTICAL EXAMPLES OF MINIMALIST LIVING
Many people begin their Minimalist journey by decluttering their homes. Clearing your clutter gives you more physical space, less to tidy and clean and your home is clearer, calmer and more peaceful.
After experiencing the benefits from this, many people go on to declutter other aspects of their life.
For example you could…
- Look at your diary – Clear any appointments and commitments that you don’t have to do. Create free time or more time for what you want to do instead.
- Assess your finances – Decide whether you’re spending money on things that are important to you, or if you’re wasting it for a short term fix for other problems.
- Review your priorities – Is it to buy a bigger house, better car or a designer wardrobe? Or is it to have fun with your kids, challenge yourself with a new job or train to rock-climb and travel the world with your exciting new hobby?
Consider Minimalism as a mindset, a mindset that encourages you to focus on what’s important to you in life without getting distracted by the things that just clutter and distract.
Minimalism can be applied to all areas of your life – your selfcare, finances, goals, career, calendar, time management, work, relationships and so on.
MYTHS ABOUT MINIMALISM
Before we look at the benefits of Minimalism and just why so many people are deciding to own less, I’d like to just quickly cover some of the biggest myths and misconceptions about Minimalism. Unfortunately, these are the things that commonly put people off from trying it out.
1. Minimalism means going without
On the surface, Minimalism means getting rid of your stuff, but Minimalism actually only means getting rid of the things which you don’t need, don’t love or aren’t important to you in order to create space for things that are most important. If you’re getting rid of the right things and are making a conscious effort to change your thoughts and relationship with your stuff, you’ll never feel like you’re going without.
2. Minimalism is only for certain people
As I mentioned before, Minimalism (like people) comes in many shapes and sizes! You just need to find a form of Minimalism that works for you and incorporate it into your existing lifestyle. If you have a young family, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to streamline your belongings into one solitary back-pack. Remember that Minimalism is about focusing on what’s important to YOU. So, for example, if you have a family, it’s likely that toys are important. Minimalism is for everyone, you just need to find a style of Minimalism that works for you.
3. Minimalism means I’m going to have to follow rules
Who said there has to be rules? And if there are any, then you can make up your own rules for your family and on your terms! One person’s Minimalist lifestyle is different to the next. Just remember the definition of Minimalism that asks you to intentionally focus on what’s important and let go of the rest. This is the only rule (if you can call it a rule) that you need to remember.
4. Minimalism means I have to throw away all my stuff
Decluttering their homes is often the first place people begin when they start exploring Minimalism but that’s because it’s the most obvious place to begin and it also has the biggest and quickest impact on most people’s lives. But it doesn’t mean that you have to throw away everything, just the things that aren’t important to you!
BENEFITS OF MINIMALISM
Now we’ve looked at what Minimalism is and also what Minimalism isn’t, let’s have a look at some of the benefits of living a life with less.
As a mother I firstly turned to Minimalism because I wanted to reduce the amount of stuff and clutter in my home. I didn’t want to constantly be playing catch up, overwhelmed by the mess and forever moving, tidying and cleaning it. I wanted to enjoy my kids rather than being frazzled by them!
However, my path to Minimalism turned out to have so many more benefits than what started out as a simple declutter:
- Less time spent doing housework or looking after my home because there was less stuff generally
- More time to spend on looking after myself, my family and those closest to me
- More money and a better financial situation because we spent less and were intentional about what we did buy
- More appreciation and gratitude for the things that money can’t buy but also what we had already
- More purpose and intention because we focused on what was important to us and cut out the rest
- I set a better example for my children because I was happier, less overwhelmed and, as I had taken action to make our life better, I felt I could be a more positive role model
- Less stress and feelings of overwhelm because I had more mental space and clarity
- More memories and experiences because we were able to do so much more together
- More freedom to play with my kids or go out for the day on a whim because I wasn’t tied to looking after the home or doing things I didn’t want to do
- More room to explore new opportunities in life and create a life on my terms
In a nutshell, Minimalism led to a life with less clutter and much more free time, fun and focus on the things that are most important to me.
Minimalism means a fuller life for me, just with less stuff. I have more of the things that I value and less of the things that I don’t.
Putting it simply – less stuff, more life.
HOW TO GET STARTED WITH MINIMALISM
The key to becoming Minimalist is to find a way of incorporating Minimalism INTO your life. To find a way of weaving it into your existing lifestyle rather than making massive, profound changes that neither you nor your family can adapt to and sustain.
Most people get into Minimalism by clearing up and getting rid of their unwanted stuff. To use the popular term at the moment, it’s called decluttering!
Then they start to think about the difference minimalising their stuff has made and go on to simplify other areas of their lives by applying the same principles. For example, to their calendar, their finances, what they choose to eat, what they choose to wear and so on.
They get rid of the things they no longer want, need or love (to do, spend money on, eat, wear etc) and instead re-focus on what matters more.
The important thing to remember is that decluttering is only PART of the process to becoming Minimalist. It’s just a tool to help you get rid of your stuff.
The real value in becoming Minimalist lies in what happens afterwards. What does decluttering your home and your life REALLY give you?
The benefits are personal. For me, it’s more time, space and freedom to do the things that I and my family WANT to do, by making it quicker and easier to do the things I NEED to do. Life is happier, freer and far less stressful.
HOW DO MINIMALISM AND DECLUTTERING GO TOGETHER?
Decluttering is a vital first step to becoming Minimalist and the easiest way of seeing the greatest impact in a short space of time. But as we’ve looked at, there’s so much more to Minimalism than decluttering your home. Decluttering is just one tool or action to help you live a Minimalist lifestyle.
Think of it this way – It’s possible to declutter without being a Minimalist but it’s not possible to be a Minimalist without decluttering.
THE MINIMALIST MINDSET
To understand and experience the benefits of Minimalism and make it sustainable over the longer term, you need to change the way you think about the stuff in your life. Not just physical stuff but diary appointments, difficult relationships, negative thought patterns, unhealthy habits and anything else that fills your physical, emotional and psychological space.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFICULTIES OF MINIMALIST LIVING?
I’d be lying if I said that Minimalist living was easy. It comes more naturally to some people than others. For example, I’m ultra-organised and prefer simple over plain any day so decluttering my home and my life of unnecessary clutter was relatively easy once I’d worked out my strategy. But many people find it difficult in the beginning.
Some of us place more attachment to possessions than others for a variety of reasons:
- Emotional attachment for sentimental reasons
- Underlying vulnerability where we feel our stuff keeps us ‘safe’ from the outside world, or
- Associating material possessions as a measure of success and status
Apart from the logistical side of decluttering your home, Minimalism as a lifestyle requires you to be intentional, deliberate and purposeful. We’re not always used to being like that as often we just wing it through life, hoping for the best and seeing what comes up!
In my experience, the key to making Minimalism work for you and overcoming any obstacles is to understand:
- Why you want to make changes
- What you hope to achieve by making those changes
- Giving a life with less stuff a chance to work and not expecting instant change
- Not expect everyone in your family to understand what you’re doing (in the beginning at least)!
RESOURCES ON MINIMALIST LIVING
Minimalism isn’t about making you live with as little as possible. Instead it’s about creating space for what’s important to you by removing anything that’s not so important.
If you’re ready, take your first step today by clearing your clutter. I’ve created a free workbook to help you get started.
Click here for more information about my Declutter Starter Kit or pop your details in the box below to get started right now!