min·i·mal·ism (mĭn’ə-mə-lĭz’əm) n. Use of the fewest and barest essentials or elements, as in the arts, literature, or design.
How Did I Get Here?
My life was moving in the right direction. I was moving toward the life of my dreams, paying down my debts, and getting closer to financial & spiritual freedom; but something wasn’t right. And then it hit me, I was tired of all of the stuff — the clothing, jewelry, gadgets, art, collectibles, and all of the other crap that I just didn’t need.
I had spent my entire life accumulating things because I thought that my possessions said something about me. I thought that I needed those things to remember the magic of my journeys, to prove that they had happened, and to justify my existence. I was dead wrong.
The important things in life should exist imprinted on my heart & soul alone. These things can not be held in the hands. I am not defined by my possessions. It is an injustice to my soul to define myself by material objects.
Over the past year, I have begun to adopt a minimalist lifestyle.
Excessive material possessions have enormous negative impacts on our bodies & souls. Severe clutter can impact your physical health. (Think fire escapes and hygiene issues.) Even mild clutter can impact your mental & spiritual health. Minimalism is the path to counteracting these negatives.
Clarity of mind. Clutter can destroy your subconscious. Imagine you sit down to work but you can not concentrate. You wonder why you are so distracted. You feel energized, prepared to work, and excited about your task. However, you just keep getting distracted. You can not focus. There is a chaos in your head that you can not explain. You look around you and find yourself surrounded by clutter.
Even if you did not consciously acknowledge the clutter around you, it impacted your mind. Your mind is constantly absorbing your environment. It picks up on millions of details that do not even register with you consciously.
It is necessary to be in a calm, clean environment to experience clarity of mind. That means less clutter, less noise, and no other distractions (like music, television, Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
This principle applies to all living things. Why do you think that racehorse trainers place blinders on horses? These keep the horse focused on what is in front of him, encouraging him to pay attention to the race rather than other distractions, such as crowds. Additionally, blinders are commonly seen on driving horses, to keep them from being distracted or spooked, especially on crowded city streets. The same goes for you! If you do not have on blinders (a distraction-free environment) you will not experience clarity of mind.
Physical health. Clarity of mind will lead to tranquility. Tranquility will lower your blood pressure and stress level. Less stress means less illness, lower risk of ulcers, heart disease, and even common colds.
Productivity. Clutter is a distraction. Whether you are thinking of picking it up, dreading picking it up, avoiding picking it up, or actually picking it up — you are wasting valuable time with which you could be doing something productive.
Self-realization. When you hold your possessions so dear, you lose track of yourself. Whether it is a necklace, a sports car, a stamp collection, a lucky rabbit’s foot, or a pair of shoes — it is dangerous to rely on a material object for your happiness. Material objects are physical things and as such are subject to all sorts of tragedy — getting lost, destroyed, or stolen — to name a few.
The truth is that a material object is only as valuable as the value that you place on it. Sure, certain things will hold more sentimental value than others. If you inherit your great-grandmother’s wedding ring, for example, it will mean a lot to you. But if that ring gets destroyed in a freak forest fire, you will go on. The memory of your great-grandmother will live on and you will continue to honor her spirit — ring or no ring.
We must let go of our attachments to material things. We are not those things. Like Tyler Durden says, “You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank, you’re not the car you drive, you’re not the contents of your wallet, you’re not your fuc*ing khackis.”
As you begin to eliminate your excessive material possessions, you will be forced to come face-to-face with your true self. You will no longer be able to hide behind the facade of your “things.” You will be revealed as you truly are. This will be a wonderful moment of self-realization.
Only when you see yourself as you truly are, at your core, can you begin to become the person that you want to be.
Purpose. The acquisition of material things is a never-ending quest for emptiness. You will spend your life in pursuit of material objects. You will work until you finally have a diamond ring. Then you will want a Porsche. You will work until you have a Porsche. Then you will want a mansion. You will work until you have a mansion. Then you will want an island. It will go on this way until one day, your life will have passed you by. You will be old and you will look back on your life to think, “What have I accomplished?” You will be surrounded by things but on the inside, will you truly be fulfilled? The story of The Fisherman and the Businessman illustrates this point perfectly. (Watch the video if you don’t feel like reading through it.)
Intention. Minimalism will help you to live consciously. I’ve written previously about living with intention and you can read more here. You will find that the principles of minimalism line up nicely with those of conscious living.
Conservation. There’s a lot we can learn from traditional cultures such as the Native Americans. Including the idea of walking lightly upon this earth. It’s something we’ve forgotten in hundreds of years of striving to achieve more, to produce more, to build bigger and better things.
We have forgotten to walk lightly, and instead mine the earth of its natural resources, clear-cut forests, pollute rivers and lakes and oceans, alter the landscape to fit our needs, make the air dirty and the rain acidic and the ozone holed.
This isn’t news. We’re all aware of the problems, but the solutions are less obvious. Do I buy greener products? Do I buy a greener car? Do I recycle all the stuff I use? Well, sure. You can do all of those things, and they are useful. But even better: live a life of less, and walk lighter. —mnmlist.net
How To Get There
Getting rid of your personal belongings isn’t easy. Many of us are hard-wired to keep things for fear that we may need them “someday.” Here’s a little hint friends, someday rarely comes. (And if it does, it usually doesn’t come until you’ve thrown the stuff out anyway.)
Up until recently, I kept everything. From old magazines, to half burned candles, to childhood toys, to five-year-old day planners — I kept it all. Slowly but surely, however, I’ve been getting rid of the junk. The useless items get thrown in the trash/recycled and the rest gets sold/donated.
Some items have been harder to part with than others. I had an infamously (and embarrassingly) large jewelry collection. I’ve traveled quite a bit and made sure to purchase a piece of jewelry at each destination. The most difficult pieces to part with have been my necklaces from Kenya (actually I’ve yet to part with them). But it is getting easier. I’ve parted ways with many of my favorite pieces and with each one, I feel more liberated & closer to my true self.
Here are some quick & easy tips to declutter in no time:
1. Room by room. Apply the following steps to each room in your house, one at a time. Don’t attempt to do more than a room each week. The process can easily become overwhelming, so pace yourself.
2. Piles. Use piles to sort everything out. Create 3 piles: Keep, Sell/Donate, and Trash. After you’ve sorted, trash or recycle the items in the Trash pile immediately. Don’t waste time or give yourself an opportunity to change your mind. Then reevaluate the Keep and Sell/Donate piles. Are there any items in the Keep pile that you really should donate or sell? If so, move them to the appropriate pile.
3. The 3 Month Rule. Use The 3 Month Rule to add even more items to your trash/sell/donate piles. Ask yourself if you use each item at least every 3 months. If you do not, then you really should not be hanging on to it.
4. Google. Have a quick search for “De-clutter Tips” or “How to Live a Minimalist Lifestyle.” You’ll come up with tons of great resources & then you can really get to work. I did it and found this great post: 5 Creative Ways to Upsize Your Life by Downsizing. I love these creative ideas, especially the Reverse Birthday Party!
5. Have fun. Enjoy the process. Remember that sometimes the journey is just as important as the destination itself. If it gets hard, focus on the end result. You are creating the life of your dreams. Your dream life has to be about your passion, your core values, and the real you. Get rid of the junk & cut the fat!
Get to Work
Minimalism has been an incredible journey for me already and I am not even close to where I want to be yet! My personal goal is to pare all of my possessions down until I can carry all of my belongings in one or two suitcases. Believe me, it is a lofty goal for a former hoarder; but I am determined to meet the challenge. I can not wait to see where I am in a year’s time.
So what about you? What are your goals? Do you have any creative tips or ideas for junk-free living? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Good luck on your path!