Contrary to popular opinion, embracing minimalism does not require you to live in an all-white abode with just one of each necessity and little, apart from your designer approved cactus plant (in the obligatory style-y pot), to distract the eye.
Nor does it require you to wear your own version of a uniform (preferably black) every day, own only one handbag (black) and two pairs of shoes (yep, black also), till they are replaced by another set remarkably similar looking to the first.
Nor must you eschew technology, books or comfort.
In fact there are no official ‘Minimalist Rules’. Nothing to suggest minimalism works for any specific societal demographic or gender more than another. No lower limit on the number of items you possess or any upper limit either.
The premise of minimalism itself is best described as: removing that which does not serve you, so you can pursue more of that which does. That ‘that’ could be more time, more play, more experiences, more sleep, more quality interactions, more peace of mind, more freedom, more hiking, more thinking, doing, being whatever it is that matters to you.
Evaluating what we put in the way of our ‘May I have some more, please?’ can be a thought provoking exercise. Because we are, after all, grown-up people who are able to make grown-up choices about the way we live our lives. If something is preventing us from experiencing all we wish to, surely it’s on us to address that?
One of the most visible areas to consider minimising is the time and attention we pay to taking care of our stuff instead of maximising that time to do something more fulfilling.
I had fallen into a habit of going shopping on Saturday mornings. It was (in my self-justification) a release valve from a full-on week of work. Looking at lovely things, which demanded nothing of me, seemed harmless enough but truthfully, it was rare that I came home empty handed. The clothes, plants, shoes, cushions or must-have duvet cover all required attention of some sort and depleted my bank account as well. When I tuned in to what I wanted more of, however, I realised that it was time to read, garden, write for and engage with Ripenists and generally restore my soul. Not add to or take care of my possessions.
That’s why the pathway to minimalism often starts with decluttering. Warning: the overly enthusiastic may swing this particular pendulum far, in their desire to get it all done once they start seeing piles disappear and clearer surfaces emerge.
I enjoyed playing the rather addictive decluttering ‘Minimalism Game’. Simply put, you start at the beginning of a calendar month. On day 1, remove 1 item; day 2 – 2; day 3 – 3 and so on, till by the end of day 31, you will have decluttered 496 items. You must actually remove them from your home – not just put the items in the garage, another room, your car or anywhere else you may be tempted to revisit. The trick is to set up the where, when and how you will dispose of your items before you start playing the game. You’ll have no excuses then!
After my initial ‘oh, this will be a piece of cake!’ self talk, I found myself eyeing shelves, opening drawers, picking through linen and planning ahead for the day 31 pile. I confess that it wasn’t as easy as I imagined but it was immensely more satisfying too. Fanciful it may be, but it seemed as though my belongings and I were breathing a little deeper, with more space around us. And knowing my donated excess would brighten someone else’s day sure gave me a sense of doing good in the ‘hood. Win/win!
Some of my favourite folk on the ‘get yourself a life’ (i.e. not white, shiny, hard edged) version of minimalism are:
- Courtney Carver at www.bemorewithless.com
- Leo Babauta at www.zenhabits.net
- Joshua Becker at www.becomingminimalist.com
And if you are a fan of podcasts:
- Brooke McAlary at The Slow Home
- Tsh Oxenreider at The Simple Show
- Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus at The Minimalists
Ripenist reflection: What are you willing to minimise in order to maximise?