Let's start with what minimalism isn't. Minimalism does not mean living in a tiny white-walled house with five outfits comprised solely of denim and white items, no decor, and less than a prescribed number of books and other belongings. It can mean that for some, but it will look different for everyone. I've heard so many people tell me "minimalism sounds great, but I just couldn't part with all my books." Or "I love fashion, there's no way I could have a minimalist wardrobe." But it's not about deprivation! You can still have an abundant life full of hobbies and beauty and things as a minimalist. As far as the white walls, clean lines, and classic clothing -- those are all expressions of the minimalist aesthetic and art form which isn't what I'm talking about here. I'm talking about the growing movement of a minimalist lifestyle.
I define minimalism as only owning and allowing into my life the things that I love and the things that I need and letting go of all the excess. That's it. So if you love to cook and need a lot of kitchenware--that's fine. If you're an artist and have tons of art supplies--that's fine. And if you love to read and bookshelves full of wonderful books that are meaningful to you just lights you up inside and makes you really happy to be home--awesome! The thing is that in our consumerist have-it-all culture, all of the things are marketed to us as necessities whether we're interested in them or need them or not. We are marketed the ideal of a big house (the bigger the better, no matter how many people will live in it, isn't that strange?), expansive wardrobes filled with clothes, shoes, and jewelry, garages full of gardening equipment, tools, and sports gear, large kitchens filled with (multiples of) every type of gadget you could possibly imagine, bookshelves filled with books, rooms full of furniture and on-trend decor, bathroom drawers full of beauty products that will perfect our hair and skin, and a truly insane number of toys and contraptions for our children. But the truth is that only a small percentage of our things get used on a regular basis or ever, and we can't use everything. I am a woman of many interests and hobbies, so I very much understand needing different equipment or supplies for different things that you do. But it's important to evaluate whether you buy or have things because you actually want them, or just because they are things that people have.
Even if you're not a big shopper, (I never have been) stuff still manages to finagle it's way in. Papers from your kindergartener, junk mail, hotel shampoo bottles, the swag bag from your 5K, Christmas gifts, birthday gifts, plastic eggs full of trinkets from the community easter hunt. It all adds up to a staggering mass of possessions.
And for so many reasons, we tend to hold on to things. Maybe we don't like anything to go to waste, we don't want to admit we wasted our money, or we simply don't have the time and energy to sift through all the stuff! Whatever our reasons, the laws of entropy work against us and as we consume daily while only occasionally removing things from our home, the things build up. The bags and bags we bring home from our many shopping trips turn into junk drawers filled with dozens of pens, broken crayons, cords and dead batteries. They turn into closets overflowing with nothing to wear. And then one day you realize you own 17 rubber spatulas and wonder "How did this happen?!"
Enter minimalism. It says, "stop the madness!" It says that every single item you own is a drain on your precious time and resources and that life is too short to waste it buying, fixing, moving, cleaning, and organizing things that you don't even need or that didn't make you happy in the first place. It lures you in with the promise that if you cut out all this excess you'd have more time for the things and people that really matter to you. It reasons that debt-free financial freedom is more important than the stuff you're buying.
Minimalism is about way more than just decluttering, but that is admittedly a huge part of it. It requires that you methodically go through every single item you own and honestly evaluate whether you love it, need it, or not. (More on methods later.) Honestly is crucial! The end result will look different for everyone, but only you know what you really use, what items really matter to you, and which ones you're keeping out of guilt or other reasons. Once you've done this, if you're anything like me, you'll have to do it again. And again and again and again. Because since we are always growing and changing and our things are breaking and wearing out, we will need to get rid of old things and acquire new things. But by being more intentional about what we buy and bring into our spaces, we can significantly reduce the mass of this burden!
Minimalists value experiences over things, but when they do buy, they are conscious consumers. They value quality over quantity, buying less but buying better. They think about purchases longer before making them. The math is simple--you can afford to buy much nicer clothes if you choose to invest in a few basic high quality items that you'll love and that will last over dozens of cheap impulse buy so-so items that will lose their shape quickly. As a minimalist I've learned to hate cheap crap! I don't want to waste my time and money on replacing things when I could have invested in a quality item in the first place.
Again, I define minimalism as only owning and allowing into my life the things that I love and the things that I need and letting go of all the excess. Isn't that something we can all be on board with? No one really thinks "no, I want to own tons and tons of crap that I don't need" right? I don't want to end up there by default. It begins with our possessions, but minimalism is basically about simplifying, and many minimalists carry these principles over to other areas in their lives. Clean eating, social media, relationships--just being intentional about what we let in is important when we live in a culture of abundance where we are bombarded with too much so often.
As I searched through my photos for the perfect image that demonstrated what minimalism looks like and means to me, I found this.
This is what I did yesterday. I took my kids to a nature center where we hiked, climbed, and threw rocks. We made new friends, had great conversations, and enjoyed the spring weather in abundance. My daughter is in the back there with a couple of boys building a fort with sticks. Minimalism for me is about more of this. It's not about stuff, it's about removing stuff from the spotlight. More afternoons spent hiking, fewer sorting toys. Less time working, buying and caring for things we don't need, and more time spent doing the things that bring us value.
I'd love to hear you questions on minimalism! I'll use them for ideas for future posts and just love in general to hear where other people are in this process or what thoughts resonate with you.