What do you think when you hear the word “minimalism”? A way of life only for hipsters traveling the world with their laptops and backpacks? People living in tiny homes? It may surprise you to learn that, for one to be a minimalist, it doesn’t require you to be a cool-hat-wearing twenty-something, own less than 200 items or make YouTube videos about minimizing your closet.
Perhaps you can relate. If your twenties were all about trying new hobbies, identities, styles and outfits, there’s a good chance that you’ve accumulated *things* to go along with those. What happens in your 30s and 40s? If you’ve chosen a mate, had kids, have a steady job, and have settled into who and where you are right now, there is a good chance you’re surrounded by annoying or aspirational reminders of who you once were. Ten years ago you may have been dating a rock climber and, at the time, you needed the gear. Same goes for things you once loved but don’t anymore – rollerblading, embroidery patterns, cookbooks with laborious recipes, the guitar sitting in the corner – and make you feel guilty. That size 2 little black dress looked great on you during your dancing days, but now that you’ve gained 20 lbs, it hangs around waiting for you to be able to wear it again. One day.
Part of the problem which our possessions is that we have become inured to their presence. We don’t *see* the rollerblades we’ve passed in the garage over a thousand times. It’s like we have blinders on and so, in a way, minimalism is about bringing awareness back to what we own and why. It also encourages us not to delay and procrastinate in making decisions for some designated time ‘in the future.’
The average household is said to have over 300,000 items; does that seem accurate to you? Do you feel it is a bit excessive? Maybe it’s time to put your house on a diet.
While we’ve stopped short of counting everything we own, over the past 6 years or so, we’ve counted and cataloged our way through purges of household items (with questions such as: “do two people in a household really need 45 glasses/cups/mugs?”). For this year, one of our goals was to remove 2020 items from our household – roughly 168 items each month. Every single item was written down to help keep track and to see if we actually regretted removing it from the household.
Surprise! Most of it is not missed at all – not our third spatula, the ill-fitting shirt, knick-knacks, expired supplements or makeup. The beauty is that each room is easier to keep tidy and clean. The clothes in the closet have space to breathe and don’t fall on top of the person looking to get dressed.
Minimalism and essentialism are both related to intentional living. Where they differ is operating in the physical versus mental realms of life improvement.
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Minimalism is a peeling-away of possessions to reveal what remains – the things we value and use on a regular basis. We couldn’t see it before with all that extra ‘stuff’ on top and around it. Minimalism is primarily externally and physically focused. Our suggestion would be to start with this one first, especially if the clutter and areas of extra storage in the house are a psychic drain on your energy. Your home environment mirrors your body and your mind. Cleaning up the physical space will benefit those other areas. We combined this philosophy with the Konmari method during most of our home overhaul. Want to learn more? Check out The Minimalists book and Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up
Essentialism is more a conscious and deliberate espousing of the most important aspects of your life – people and goals. Imagine an empty room or blank canvas – instead of putting all the things you own or all the colors available on your palette, you CHOOSE carefully what is added. Think of it as curation versus mindless consumption.
Essentialism is primarily internally and mentally focused; instead of focusing on having less physical clutter in your life, it implores us to pursue less – hobbies, tasks, opportunities that pull you away from your most meaningful life activities. The core value, in short, is “do less, better”…. focus on the most important aspects of your life and let busying distractions go. Essentialism makes decision-making a heck of a lot easier too. If something doesn’t register as one of your top three non-essentials, you don’t do it.
For example, if your top three non-negotiables are:
1. improving your health
2. nurturing your relationships and
3. making a positive impact in others’ lives
…you can more easily say no to the things which detract from your priorities. Who knows? Maybe next time someone asks how you’re doing, you find yourself replying, “very well, thank you” instead of responding in a frantic manner “busy!” To learn more, check out Essentialism by Greg McKeown.
The results of incorporating minimalism and essentialism into your life are far-reaching. You may find that you have not only more space in your house but more free time in your calendar. Especially during a global pandemic, who couldn’t use more freedom?
Let us know – will you be employing more minimalism, essentialism, or both in the coming year? What are your areas of focus?