What is a minimalist?
The answer depends on who you ask.
According to some, you cannot be a minimalist unless you own 100 or fewer possessions. Real purists will insist you cannot call yourself a minimalist unless you can fit all your possessions into a single backpack.
I’m going to tell you something a little different.
Minimalism really has nothing to do with the actual number of physical objects you own - or do not own. The intent behind minimalism isn’t about counting how many things you own. That’s just inventory.
The heart of minimalism is simply about ridding yourself of the things you own that do not bring value to your life. If you own something that does not contribute real value to your life, regardless of the price, it is simply clutter.
When you rid yourself of unnecessary clutter, you reduce your stress levels and feelings of anxiety. A decluttered environment and stress management are partners in crime.
Let's talk about clutter
We spend money to acquire it. Sometimes we spend a lot of money and end up with a lot of clutter. It doesn’t necessarily make us happy but we’ve worked hard to acquire it, incorporated it into our lives - even built our identities around it. Our clutter becomes part of who we are.
To live a minimalist lifestyle is to also live a mindful life.
Minimalism does not mean chucking out everything you own and living a monkish life. Unless, of course, you happen to be a monk. In which case, carry on.
But, for practical purposes, minimalism is simply understanding that every possession we own must pay for itself. It must earn its place in our lives by contributing a tangible daily value. That way, instead of adding to a stressful environment, it helps relieve, or even prevent stress.
Minimalism can be scary because it forces us to look at who we really are and what we truly value.
Sometimes we hide behind material possessions. Instead of being outward expressions of our identity - they can become our inner identity. Without those props to tell the world who we are (or who we want to be), we have no choice but to engage as our most authentic selves.
But, minimalism is also incredibly empowering. It allows us to step off the treadmill of continually pursuing and caring for more “stuff”. Minimalist living allows us to shift our focus from the physical objects in our lives to the more important part - relationships and experiences.
Want to try the first step toward minimalism? It's very physically simple - and can be very emotionally challenging.
Take stock of each of your possessions, large and small, and ask: does this bring function or comfort to my life?
Is your closet filled with clothes that no longer fit? Is your countertop covered with expensive appliances you seldom, if ever, use?
Are there a half dozen books that you've never read? Are you cluttering your living environment with objects that have no function and provide no comfort in the present?
Have you surrounded yourself with past memories and future aspirations - leaving no room for living mindfully in the present? Be honest, be unsentimental and even be a little ruthless.
Let’s face it. We all have a limited time to create the life we want to live. We can spend the majority of that time stressing over the acquisition, preservation, and display of our clutter. Or, we can spend our time living in an environment where everything we own is something that brings us happiness.
Grab a couple of boxes, ask the important questions, and don't be afraid to start chucking. Your soon-to-be uncluttered (and less stressed) self will thank you.