An introduction to minimalism | Your essential questions answered

You probably have heard the term minimalism before (especially if you’re in on internet trends), but found that the amount of information, and rigid rules, leave you feeling more overwhelmed than relaxed. We have your back with our quick and dirty guide to minimalism.

an introduction to minimalism and meaningful living

What is minimalism?  

Everyone defines minimalism differently.

You’ll find people who say a minimalist is someone who lives in a tiny house and has exactly two shirts, two pairs of pants and a 4’’ by 4’’ box that fits everything else they own. And you’ll find people on the opposite end of the spectrum, who believe that going on a Target shopping spree once a week instead of daily is minimalism.

Both are right.

I define minimalism as rejecting the paradigm that stuff equates happiness. You reject that paradigm by decluttering (donating, recycling, repurposing or throwing out what you already own) and simply buying less. This applies to every aspect of your life—from your desktop to your closet, to your entire home.

Minimalism is thriving with less stuff. How much less depends on who you are, where you are in the minimalist process and in your life in general.

Why does minimalism matter?

America is a capitalist country. Advertisements convince you that you need whatever it is they’re selling to be fulfilled. But studies have found that spending more money on stuff only makes you more miserable.

Surprise, surprise the ad agencies are lying to you.

By adopting minimalism you’re rejecting that false narrative and taking control of your own life, setting yourself up to prize your own emotional well being over The Next Best Thing TM.

Minimalists also accept that choice can be paralyzing. That’s the whole idea behind Project 333, a “minimalist fashion challenge that invites you to dress with 33 items or less for 3 months.” You take the choice away and find yourself happier in the process. You’ll never have another debilitating morning, staring at your rack of clothes and feeling that sense of defeat, the “I have nothing to wear” anguish.

In the end, minimalism simplifies your life. By decluttering your closet and your home you’re decluttering your life. You are creating space in your life to focus on other things (relationships, experiences) that will bring you that elusive happiness stuff cannot.

And, as an added bonus, you may find that you’re saving money (hello, Paris vacation).  

How should I approach minimalism?

Living in a country that prizes material items and wealth means that becoming a minimalist can be difficult. At every step of the way you have society telling you that you’re doing the wrong thing (or, sadly, other minimalists telling you that you’re not doing the right thing well enough).

At its heart minimalism is a very personal transformation. Everyone’s journey will look different and you need to decide what makes you happy. There is no “right” way—no set amount of items you can have in your household that will automatically make you a thoroughbred minimalist.  (Although if you need that type of structure both the KonMari and Minimalist Game methods are great places to start).

The simplest way to begin your minimalist journey is to remember why you set off on this journey in the first place. Maybe you found yourself drowning in anxiety that you could never quite shake. Maybe the clutter engulfing your house is overwhelming. Maybe you found yourself turning to stuff to fulfill your life—and felt you were focusing on all the wrong things.  

Whatever the reason, let that guide you as you walk this new path in life.

Take getting a gift for your spouse, for example. If you decided to try your hand at minimalism because you found that you were prioritizing stuff over your relationships, opt for gifting experiences. Take your significant other to a concert, instead of buying them that artist’s CD (even if you know they’d love that CD). You’ll be swapping stuff for time with your loved one.

But if you chose minimalism because the clutter in your house was getting out of hand, you can gift your significant other something that’s meaningful, useful and that will last a long, long time. Perhaps, a nice chef’s knife (on the condition that they donate their collection of less useful knives).

Be conscious and thoughtful about the stuff you buy. When considering purchasing a product, ask yourself why? If you’re satisfied with the answer, go ahead and purchase whatever it is you’re wanting. If not, don’t.

In the meantime, start shifting your focus to the more important aspects of life: your relationship with yourself and others and creating experiences that make life worth living (after all, what is life but a collection of stories?).

Remember, wherever your journey may lead and however long that journey takes, take heart in the fact that you’re on your way to making your life all the more balanced and whole.

Like this post? Consider signing up for our email list to get great content delivered straight to your inbox.