I imagine when most people hear the term minimalism their mind first goes to one of those paintings hanging in a museum with nothing but a blue dot in the middle. Now, this isn’t the type of art I gravitate towards, but to each their own. However, I do resent it for giving minimalism a bad rap. This is my take on the actual lifestyle, not the art movement.
Almost everyone of us has, at some point, questioned what type of person we want to be. Especially as a teenager. There’s no time in someone’s life where they’re more desperate to fit into some stereotypical category. The jock, the geek, the theater kid, etc. For me, I was a bit of a loner then and still hang on to some of those tendencies today. Part of me loves to play video games, watch horror movies, and listen to hard rock music. That’s far from the full picture though. People are far too complex to ever fit a stereotype to a tee. I also love cooking, do-it-yourself projects, and modern farmhouses where everything’s white and labeled with quaint little chalkboard signs. Plus I have dozens of other interests. I know I’m not the only one to feel like several different individuals mixed into one.
When we’re trying to figure ourselves out in the mess of all our diverse interests we find comfort in our belongings to help show the world who we are. It can be as simple as wearing t-shirts with your favorite band on them to as complicated as collecting priceless artifacts. Desiring a lot of possessions is not necessarily a sign of greed or shallowness of character. It can be nothing more than a form of reaching out to others for a sense of belonging.
So what does minimalism do? It threatens that coping mechanism. Without our possessions we fear we’ll either be bored or be boring. Minimalism strips us of our stuff and therefore strips us of our personality. That’s the fear anyway. But the reality is far different.
When done within reason, living a more minimalistic life gives you freedom. Your expenses are less which means you can choose to work fewer hours or work doing something you enjoy more even if it pays less. You can spend your money on better quality items since you’re buying fewer things or donate more to the charities you care about. A home filled with less stuff is quicker to clean which gives you more flexibility on how you spend your time. All of these things go back to having more freedom and less stress.
Speaking from personal experience, I feel so much better in a decluttered space. I do have one exception to that rule though. I love my books. I’ve often dreamed of having my own library in my home with the little sliding ladder. But the reality is, I could get rid of many of my books and I wouldn’t even notice they were missing. Does it really make sense to keep things that hold no sentimental value because I like the idea of having a library? If I’m being completely honest, not really. Does that mean I’m going to give away all my books? No. Being a reader has long been a big part of my identity, but that doesn’t suddenly vanish just because I downsize my collection.
One doesn’t have to be “a minimalist” to minimize. If you prefer the word “downsize” then use it. Just get rid of the stuff you never use and wouldn’t miss if it weren’t there. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that. But if you’re anything like me and struggle with having too much unimportant stuff, I really think you’ll see a difference in how you feel when you come out the other side