Have you heard of minimalism? It seems that word has become quite popular recently, and for good reason. Many are struggling under the weight of overwhelming schedules and accumulated possessions. The idea of living simply, of having only what we need, is appealing.
Recently, a group of three fellow organizers and I began exploring the minimalism movement. This group, who together have formed a consortium called FOCUS* to offer community education on organizing and productivity, identified minimalism as a topic that many people want to learn more about. Some recurring questions included:
- What is minimalism?
- Does it have to be “all or nothing?”
- Is minimalism only for the young/single set?
- Can you be a minimalist and a parent?
- What’s the best way to incorporate minimalism into daily living?
We quickly acknowledged that if we, as professional organizers, were asking these questions, then others probably were as well. In response, we decided to form a casual meet-up group to talk about it. We picked a date, time and place for our first meeting, and invited the community to join us for a drink, some guacamole and conversation. In spite of a powerful storm, a group gathered at the local taco bar for a wonderful discussion. Here are some of the headlines from our first meeting.
We asked participants to define what exactly is minimalism? How would you describe it to another person?
Having only what we really need
Most of us feel we probably have more than we need.
Having what we need for what we love
The group resonated with the idea of identifying priorities, and then adjusting our time and belongings to align with the areas we individually identify as important. We also acknowledged that what matters to one person will likely be different from what matters to another, so no single solution applies. It’s okay to collect “more” for our hobbies and passions.
Weeding out… learning not to keep too much
Most of this conversation swirled around de-cluttering and decision-making. Attendees admitted that it can be hard to let go of things. Sometimes we are emotionally connected; other times we second-guess ourselves because we spent a lot on an item, got a great bargain, or received it from someone special. This process can be difficult. Shedding is not perceived to be as much fun as acquiring.
Having a way to figure out how much is too much
For one person it might be four plates and four mugs, but for another, it might mean a butler’s pantry full of entertaining pieces. There was also discussion on how to limit what is kept for a periodic or potential need vs. daily concrete needs and desires.
Setting boundaries so we know what to keep and what to shed
One idea that surfaced was the concept of boundaries. Living a minimalist lifestyle necessitates that we self-impose some limitations on how much we own and how much time we program. This isn’t an automatic process, and many people don’t intentionally draw definable limits. Minimalists have chosen to actively erect these boundaries to help facilitate a desired lifestyle.
Minimalism is not a one-time event where we conduct a massive clear out and then return to “life as normal.” Instead, it necessitates a shift in thinking that is brought to bear on every detail of life. The minimalist seeks to cultivate a simple environment, and works toward that end every day.
After sharing our own thoughts, we turned to some wisdom from the “experts.”
Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, a.k.a. “The Minimalists,” have shared this definition:
Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.
Joshua Becker of “becoming minimalist” explains his approach as:
“an intentional journey to own less stuff… removing unnecessary personal possessions”
“My belongings were not adding value to my life. Instead, they were subtracting from it.”
One thing that became clear throughout our conversation was that minimalism offers true benefits. Minimalism shouldn’t be a painful process of loss, but a freeing pathway to a higher quality of life. Some of the benefits of pursuing minimalism that we came up with included:
- Being able to do more and travel more
- Enjoying a space we feel comfortable in
- Less time spent taking care of possessions we don’t use or care about and more time spent enjoying the belongings we love
- Freedom from the guilt of feeling we’ve wasted time and money
While the benefits of minimalism were evident, the group also acknowledged that it can be difficult to get started. Some of the hurdles to minimalism included:
- The “fun” of acquisition, which entices us to buy more than we really need (a.k.a. shopping therapy)
- The pressure to “waste not, want not”
- A belief that we should hold onto things for our children or other family members
- Inheriting possessions we don’t want, but feel we shouldn’t get rid of
- Believing we need to be prepared for every eventuality (both positive and negative), instead of borrowing, renting or buying if the need arises
- Living with other people who bring items into our space
- The onslaught of digital clutter that is tedious or difficult to expunge
Overall we had a wonderful hour sharing and discussing. We ended our time by challenging everyone to identify one area of his/her life into which to begin incorporating minimalism. Next month we will gather again to see how it went, and to help each other continue on the journey.
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Minimal Quest will continue to be open to the community on a drop-in basis. If you live in southern CT or nearby areas and want to join us, visit www.MinimalQuest.com for more information.
What are your thoughts on minimalism? Do you think it would work for you?