Minimalism is something that I’ve been interested in for a long time, but it’s only recently that I’ve come across the actual term for this lifestyle. Essentially, minimalism refers to living light and simply, without physical or mental clutter. It’s about less stuff, and more doing. Even more so, for me it especially means being able to focus on the people and activities that I love.
Talking about ideals is all well and good, but it’s taking action that brings them to life. With that in mind, here’s what I’ve been doing to try and focus on what matters the most to me…
The first and perhaps most basic step, was of course decluttering. Overstuffed closets and cupboards, kitchen table stacked with papers and junk mail–it made sense to start with the obvious. Following rules such as “Could I replace this within $20 and/or 20 minutes,” or “Have I used this in the last 3 months?” went a long way to reducing clutter. Even when it came to more major equipment that I was holding on to solely as a backup or to use “someday,” I got to thinking, why hang on to this stuff solely as backup, not even using it, when I could sell it or give it away to someone else to make use of in the here and now?
There are many items that I’ve held on to for sentimental reasons. Old birthday cards, photos, that sort of thing. The ironic part is that they were all shoved in a box, stored away, rarely to be seen. Well, the wonderful thing about the age that we live in, is that things can be digitized, scanned, photographed, and enjoyed in other ways such as a desktop slideshow or digital photo frame. I’ve been realizing more and more, that the item may be a reminder of the fond memories associated with it, but it does not contain those memories. For the most part, a scan or digital photograph can bring up those warm memories just as well, and perhaps even more conveniently.
This digitization is perhaps my current biggest work in progress, because when we’re talking about 30 years of amassing these types of things, it naturally takes more than a weekend to digitize! My plan is to find the most effective ways preserve these memories so they can be appreciated and remembered, rather than just tucked away. Then, once they’re safely in the digital world, I can ceremoniously and respectfully dispose of them to reduce clutter (in a bonfire for example), while still being able to bring up these memories by the digital scans that keep them alive.
I’ve also stopped being quite as obsessed with having a lot of gadgets and equipment. I used to spend money beyond my means for anything from tablets, new phones, multiple PCs, eReaders, network drives, numerous guitars and amps–you name it. Not only was this resulting in consumer debt, but it made digital life a bit confusing! (First world problem, I know…) Now I opt to get the most use out of the least amount of devices, rather than a separate standalone gadget for every possible application. I find things not only much simpler and convenient this way, but also much less expensive!
Although minimalism often does involve getting rid of some possessions in one way or another, it certainly doesn’t entail getting rid of everything you own. After all, a person usually needs at least a physical item or two (or more!) to enjoy their favorite hobbies, or even to attain their personal goals. In this sense, I think blogger Jana Fadness put it best by saying: “…minimalism is really about knowing what’s really important to you, and arranging your environment in such a way that it’s easier for you to focus on those important things.” To this I might add, “…and also exclude possessions that do not help you focus on those important things.”
Overall, it’s been a lot about defining limits. Whether it be limiting myself to a certain shelf, binder, bin… whatever the case, working within these own personal guidelines has helped a lot. Another major guideline has been to not have anything simply stored away, never to be seen for years and years. “Use it or lose it,” whatever that may mean for that particular item. If it’s useful (and actually used), aesthetically inspiring (and on display), then by all means, keep it!
Gift giving and receiving are both a bit of a sticky topic, but it’s one that I especially want to open a dialogue about. So let me ask you this: Have you ever been shopping for a gift for someone else, unsure of what they would need, or even want? Personally, I know the last thing I would want to do is get the person something that would only clutter up their life, or be otherwise unwanted. For this reason, I’ve always been a bit uneasy when it comes to gift giving. Ironically, even though I’ve always felt a little embarrassed to get a person things like gift cards, food items, drinks, or other consumable/non-material items… yet I’ve always been quite happy to receive them.
I like cool shiny things as much as the next person, but there are ways to look at non-material gifts in a different light. For example, maybe you’re working towards saving for a trip, and could use help with the related expenses more than you could use another gadget. It could be anything from aiding in fitness and health, a dream vacation, aims of home ownership, starting a business project, an educational or personal development goal… If you could help that person reach that goal or dream, wouldn’t you? Perhaps one of the greatest gifts of all, whether to give or receive, is one that lets a person get closer to their goals, hopes, and dreams.
Although I could go on and on about various details, I wanted to keep this particular post relatively short and to the point, as one of my aims of writing this post is to open a dialogue with friends, family, or even random readers that happen to have stumbled upon my post.
If you want to explore this topic further, there’s a very vast and active community of minimalists on YouTube, as well as numerous blogs out there, such as The Minimalists, and Zen Habits. My advice would be to listen to what other minimalists have to say, and take the bits and pieces that apply to your situation, and improving your own life. As always, thank you for reading!
(P.S: Thank you to everyone who read the draft for this post. Your comments and kind words mean the world to me!)