Chapter I: Not Just Another “Minimalism” Guide
“Simplicity, clarity, singleness: These are the attributes that give our lives power and vividness and joy as they are also the marks of great art.” ~Richard Holloway
Minimalism is a lifestyle philosophy that places experiences and personal well-being above the materials things cluttering up your life. It is designed to simplify every aspect of life from your closet to your obligations. Minimalism is designed to make you think about how many relationships, acquaintances, and friends you can take care of at one time. It is streamlining your life and maintaining a low impact on the world. You only own what you need to survive, and you avoid spending money on replacing or maintaining items. Minimalism advocates simplicity, even if this means taking income and a prosperous future out of the picture.
According to dictionary theories, minimalism “removes the meaningless to make room for the meaningful.” Minimalism means living with only the things you need. Having only a few possessions is a popular concept and leads one to avoid the stress caused by trying to out-do your neighbors and friends. With minimalism, you have a clarity of mind that you are living a fulfilled life. Minimalism’s philosophy is a great precept if taken in the right spirit.
Minimalist bloggers remind us daily that plainness is not a religion, it is a great approach to simplicity, but it is not the answer to every problem. Minimalist lifestyles can have legitimate motivations, but sanctimonious anti-consumerism of the dogmatic minimalist isn’t a motivation. Showing off how little you have is counterproductive; you are cluttering your mind and emotions with “I am better than you” attitudes that come from decluttering your possessions and living sparingly.
Austereness is a trending style that is also popular in music, art, and design. In the arts, minimalism emphasizes extreme simplification of form and the use of monochromatic pallets of primary colors and basic shapes. You can also ascribe minimalism to music or a reductive style that uses only simple rhythms, patterns, and simple sonorities. To put it simply, minimalism is characterized by extreme sparseness and simplicity. If you are a minimalist, you are one who favors restrictions and often sets goals to a minimum.
Difference between Minimalism and Simple Living
Although the two terms, minimalism and simple living, seem to be interchangeable, there is a noticeable difference between the two topics. Minimalism is a catchall phrase for those who are attracted to externally paring down to the minimums in their life. Phrases and single words often used by minimalists to describe their lifestyle are austerities, de-cluttering, anti-consumerism, getting rid of stuff, and eliminating as much as possible. When thinking about minimalism discipline becomes a watchword. There is nothing wrong with those terms, but it does make one want to stop and think about lifestyles.
Extreme minimalism seems to attract those who are young and male. This class of people tend to be able to work through thoughts and emotions with a sense of purpose. Women who are often fascinated by minimalism are those who are aware that a lifestyle of minimalism is practical in this age of overconsumption. Women have specific items they love for comfort, and they often surround themselves with the stuff that provides emotional release.
Simple living embraces life much more gently and internally than does minimalism. A simple life means integrating uncomplicatedness in every area of your life. Living simply does not focus on total stuff elimination, making lists and de-cluttering, simple living is identifying the things that add value and joy to your life. Simplicity means freedom to be yourself, natural, living authentically, and caring for the environment. Simple living is contentment.
Those who love simple living appear to be experienced, concerned with family, and established. After you have worked and lived for years and been a part of the consumption and consumer lifestyle, there is an awareness of how much you to turn to a simpler life.
Simple living is more of a family or community approach. It is not, however living in a commune, and gardening for the rest of your life while sleeping in a monk’s corner. It is finding a way to continue learning, doing things you love, and finding experiences and memories that are important.
The differences between simple living and minimalism are not black and white. Minimalism and simple living do complement and strengthen each other and can be considered as two parts of a whole. As you move through your life’s journey, you may find that both minimalism and simplicity will evolve into something totally different. Think about smart living and practicality. Live simple and involve some of the traits of minimalism. Be a consumer, but be smart (Gottberg, 2015).
Types of Minimalist
There are different definitions of what minimalism is. Reading through these different types of minimalists, you may find yourself reflecting a certain minimalist type. Don’t panic; it’s all good.
The creative minimalist is resourceful and artsy. They feel that minimalism is a way to express themselves. They are found looking through other people’s trash and turning it into art, donating stuff to thrift stores, and their homes are very minimal. The furniture they use has been repurposed, rebuilt and refinished. They love simple art; pieces that emphasize primary colors.
The traveling minimalist is a bit on the extreme side. They are usually outgoing and adventurous. They often have a smile on their face, and a mission in their heart. They usually own less than 100 items and live out of a duffel bag. You can recognize a traveling minimalist by the worn out shoes they wear and a sweatshirt tied around their waist. A traveling minimalist may also live in a tent. They cook outside and carry all their possessions. They are usually nature lovers and spend very little time with attachments, relationships, or emotional entanglements.
There are minimalists who are intentionally homeless. They seem somewhat happy with their lifestyle and are free of attachments, stuff, and responsibility. They have to worry about a bed and board but carry out their lives by being a super-tramp to staying exclusively in hostels. Some intentionally homeless minimalists are even business men. There is a consultant who works in a New York firm who is intentionally homeless and prides himself because he only owns 15 items. He does make a nice living however and hoards his money in his backpack.
The next time you see someone on the street with their belonging in a grocery cart, you might want to ask them if they love their minimalist life. You will probably find out that they would rather have a nice home and stuff in one place.
The tiny house minimalist is an off-shoot minimalist movement gaining popularity. Living quarters are set on someone else’s lawn, a small bit of land, or living quarters can be mobile. These homes are so tiny that they require no planning permission, no mortgage and have little overhead. These homeowners might have electricity and hot water, but very little else. You can find these minimalists and their tiny houses on country parcels. Google “tiny houses” to see examples of tiny house minimalists.
The accidental minimalist is one who became a minimalist by force rather than choice. This type of minimalist may have lost their job, become divorced, have no family or friends, and have no options left, but simplicity and minimalism. They may be homeless or living very sparsely in a small apartment.
An accidental minimalist might also be someone who is just tired of stuff. They stand in rooms they don’t use and look at all the stuff around them. They stub their toes on stuff and finally decide enough is enough.
A professional minimalist is difficult to live around. These are the working professionals who have lofty goals to simplify their lives. They are the ones who have attitudes of superiority towards those who have stuff. Often a professional minimalist is driven to declutter to prove a point. They sometimes turn to the homes of their friends to try out their de-cluttering ideas. This attitude can lead to having few friends. Professional minimalists claim they are getting ready to travel, but they never seem to leave.
The original minimalist has always been a minimalist. They love their simple lifestyle and can almost be called an urban minimalist. They are down to earth, loving, grow their own food, and sit on their porch in a rocking chair contemplating the universe, or perhaps trying to determine the next thought to clear from their minds.
The curious minimalist is not really a minimalist by definition. They want a simpler lifestyle and they may dabble in simplifying. They have a simpler lifestyle, but are not really ready to scale down too much. They love their stuff and do want to become organized, but they only talk the talk instead of walking the walk (Sanger, 2014).
The small holdings minimalist lives in an eco-community and escapes to the country. They live very simply and farm the land only for what they need. They do not ask for much and work hard for basic comforts. These minimalists embrace a lifestyle that is built around sustainable practices. Often these are carefully planned neighborhoods that reflect simplicity and efficiency. It is a simple life and sometimes not all that comfortable.
If you have ever been to a huge and highly populated city, you will note that there are many people living in very small places. They intentionally live in the attics of larger homes or apartment houses that have minimal corner rooms. Most of these minimalists’ homes have unique architecture designed to maximize the space. These minimalists, who choose to live in these miniscule flats over larger homes, love their small spaces. The overhead is less expensive; they enjoy simple spaces, and their lives can be very sparse, but unique.
Dogmatic minimalism is similar to a professional minimalist. They own only 100 items or less. If they own a car at all, it is older and barely runs. They urge you to get rid of your television and live a life of meditation. Reading is a great pastime and this type of minimalist believes in reading self-help books. Dogmatic minimalism states you should not any type of distraction. If you have books keep the organized and in set places. Dogmatic minimalist demands an uncluttered home and mind. Dogmatic minimalists do not have many treasures, but they do have experiences to share.
Dogmatic minimalism can be a dramatic lifestyle change. An extremely good minimalist has no clutter and confusion in their thoughts or actions and details are never offered. They tend to answer questions with one-word answers.
What do extreme or dogmatic minimalists do when they want to cook meals at home or need a tool to fix a door? They typically borrow items they don’t have. They often share living space with others and generally have very simple eating habits. That’s all well and good, but if they need to borrow to exist, then aren’t they really being irresponsible and bothersome?
A practical minimalist is one who doesn’t have to count stuff. You just subscribe to minimalism as a practical means to a simple, but comfortable existence. You don’t believe it is a good idea to throw out all of your stuff immediately. You let others live their life of commercialism, and you join them in their buying sprees at times. You make the transition to being a “real” minimalist at your own pace and in your own time. In the meantime, you enjoy your stuff.
Minimalists are proud of their trendy progress. They tend to bring their friends and family into their homes and proudly show how little they have. What little they have includes the clothes their closet, cupboards, and seating arrangements. They often act self-congratulatory and obnoxious. Being a minimalist does not make you a better person.
There is more to minimalism than just de-cluttering things and throwing out the physical stuff. Minimalism demands that you clear out unused and irrelevant thoughts in your mind. Take away emotions that get in the way of simplicity. Those who embrace minimalism state that in its purest form minimalism is “the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts from it.” Minimalism forces change. (Becker, 2015). A big question asked by those who do not understand minimalism, how do you determine what is most valuable physically and emotionally? How do you determine what is important?
To answer that question, minimalism seeks to bring freedom from the overwhelming passion to possess things. It stops consumerism in your life and forces you to seek happiness inside yourself. The value of relationships, experiences and taking care of your soul is at the heart of minimalism and the center of living a good life.
Simplify your life and become a minimalist by contemplating these ideas, but beware of being too caught up in your minimalist lifestyle changes that you lose focus on what is important to you.
Too many material possessions complicate lives. They drain your bank account, energy, and attention. Possessions keep you from the ones you love and prevent you living a life based on values.
Your lives are too filled with time commitments. If possible release yourself from time commitments that do not line up with your values.
Reduce your goals. Reducing your totals down to two or three major wishes should improve your focus and success rate. Use the list tactic to write down what you want to accomplish in your life.
Negative emotions are useless. Get rid of resentment, hate, and jealousy. Smile all the time and take responsibility for the thoughts going through your mind.
Reduce your debt. Do what you can do to get out from under the weight of debt. Sacrifice luxury and duplicate items.
Use fewer words. Keep your speech plain and definitely avoid gossip and lengthy explanations. Mumble when needed.
Avoid artificial ingredients in your diet. Reduce your consumption of over-the-counter medicines. Let your body heal on its own.
Get rid of constant distractions. That means all your electronic devices.
Stop multi-tasking. It reduces productivity. Do one thing at a time, but do it well.
It is true that consumers are all too hurried, too rushed, and too stressed. You work long hours to pay bills and gain more possessions. People blast from one activity to another, multitasking along the way and never seeming to get anything done. Most of you are in constant connection with your jobs and others via cell phones. You have no real relationships; only electronic friends.
Will simplifying and getting rid of your possessions make you less stressed? Or is it a Catch-22 position? Would you rather have nothing to do and deny your children, friends and family the opportunities to choose for themselves? Should you continue your consuming ways and be a very busy, but contributing person?
Minimalism can be great if you go about it the right way. Note that stuff does not really go away. For example, if you declutter your desktop with a new computer and move your files, CDs and all your books plus your paperwork to the computer, you have not created a simpler lifestyle. You have just moved things around. (Most people will save their CDs and DVDs in storage boxes in case they need to use them again.)
Paring down your clothes to the point they all fit on one rail is great, but what happens if you have given away a piece of clothing that you need? Do you go out and purchase another item that is just like the one you just discarded or do you feel cheated and stressed because you no longer have the items you need?
Becoming a Minimalist?
It is not easy to embrace a minimalist lifestyle. Even though removing the meaningless details and possessions in your life to make room for the significant can be very appealing. You load up your excess possessions and drop items at the Goodwill. Everything you think is excessive and non-essential you sell on Craig’s List or eBay. Now you have few possessions, and you wonder, “Now what? Was there a point to this de-cluttering?” You stand in the middle of your barren room and shake your head.
Removing the physical excess is an important part of minimalism, and to many they believe the major goal is to get rid of material possessions. However, let minimalism be the tool that takes you beyond your possessions and gives you the determination to make room for the most important intangibles of experiences, emotions, and time. Sounds incredibly wonderful doesn’t it?
Minimalism is essentially an instrument to help you find freedom from worry, fear, overwhelming responsibility, and guilt. You no longer have multiple possessions to take care of and worry over. You are free from the depression of the trappings of a consumer culture in your life. Stress is gone, and you smile all the time and wonder why your family and friends find you a bit strange.
After all is said and done, becoming a minimalist just sounds tiring. Getting rid of all your possessions, governing your thoughts and avoiding gossip is awesome when talked about, but in the end are you really going to get rid of the lifestyle you now live?
Getting Rid of Thoughts
Minimalism is getting rid of thoughts that are destructive. Live a simpler life and create more space in your mind and forget those feelings that cloud up your vision. Apply the same principles to uncluttering your mind as you used to unclutter your living space.
Begin by realizing positive thoughts and a negative thoughts cannot occupy the same space in your mind. Two opposite thoughts cannot co-exist together, or there will be confusion. Begin to choose thoughts that have meaning and value. Get rid of the thoughts that cause you remorse, stress, and unhappiness.
Move out of your brain space worries, fears, bad memories, questions, yearnings, and more “stuff.” Just like your physical space you are going to clean out your mind, and move to a clean and open space.
Carefully choose what thoughts you are taking with you. Take only those thoughts that you plan to use in your minimalist life. Use the memories that are good and thoughts that are positive.
Find a place for everything you want to keep. Your thoughts have to occupy a space and remember no two thoughts can occupy the same space at the same time.
Apply the rule to live clutter free. Apply this to your mind. Positive thinking is the goal and decluttering your mind is the tool. You have the choice to take either a good memory or a worry, fear or courage, denial or acceptance. Choose wisely.
Trying to declutter your mind is a process. It takes adjustment, but it works if you sincerely let it (Becker, 2015).
Awesome words of wisdom, but very difficult to follow. Most thoughts are chaotic and jump from “room to room.” If you can control your thoughts to follow minimalist ideals, you are amazing.
“Thoughts can be your worst friends”, states Buddhist Monk Matthieu Ricard, “and your worst enemies.” You mind has a path of its own and taking control of your thoughts and emotions to become less stressed and better equipped to solve problems is the goal of minimalism and decluttering your life.
When purging thoughts from your mind, pause where you are at, and take a deep breath. Literally tell yourself to stop thinking chaotic thoughts and focus on breathing. It takes 90 seconds of neurochemical triggers to fade from your brain and return you to happier thoughts.
Remain in the moment. Constantly thinking about the past and believing that you have no power to change your distressing thoughts will make things worse. Live in the moment. Thinking about right now will help to promote inner peace and clarity.
Think without judgement. Stick to objective, concrete facts and get rid of quality thoughts that could cause problems. Write down your thoughts and read them back to yourself.
Take action to address your thoughts. Develop a plan to address your thoughts and worries. Make a plan to separate your anxious thoughts from your happy thoughts. Remember that two thoughts cannot live in the same space.
Place yourself in a comfortable environment as you de-clutter your mind. The outside world affects your inner world. If you are in a place where you feel uncomfortable or out of control, then move to somewhere where you are happier.
Unclutter your thoughts by doing another activity. Go for a run, watch a movie or talk to your significant others. Let them help you move thoughts out of your mind and into another place.
Above all, if you are trying to de-clutter your thoughts, do not try and choose your thoughts. Control them as they come into your mind. Think about controlling and moving your thoughts as they arrive rather than repressing them.