Image by Jeffery Wegrzyn via Unsplash
It’s becoming one of those buzzwords you hear thrown around more often these days. Sort of like “sustainable”, “social impact”, or “organic”. It’s trending, and attention-grabbing. But what is minimalism really? And what’s the big deal with it these days?
You may have noticed the minimalism theme gaining popularity. Netflix recently released some minimalism-inspired films that have been getting traction with viewers. “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things” featuring well-known minimalists such as Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist, and Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus of The Minimalists, as well as “Small is Beautiful: A Tiny House Documentary” about the tiny house movement, are just two examples of minimalist culture creeping into our peripherals.
Image by Bench Accounting via Unsplash
When I first heard the term, I thought about minimalists as the opposite of hoarders. I imagined one with boxes of old newspapers piled to the ceiling and cats running rampid amid the mess. The other I imagined having a lonely floor lamp beside a single living room chair, beneath a sombre black and white photograph hanging on an otherwise bare wall, in an otherwise empty room.
Talk about stereotyping.
Minimalism most succinctly defined, is living without excess. The definition is simple, but the application is vague, complex and sometimes paradoxical.
What makes minimalism difficult is the concept of excess. It is extremely personal, and looks very different for each individual. Even in our own home, my husband and I hold different perspectives as to what constitutes excess.
Let’s think of an example. To a single person living in the city, owning more than one vehicle may be excess (or even owning a vehicle at all if you live where there is accessible public transit). But to a big family living on a farm, owning three vehicles may be just enough. One farm truck, one commuter vehicle for dad to make trips into town, and one gas guzzling SUV that can that can fit all 6 kids and the dog.
I have talked to folks that think minimalism is ridiculous and not applicable to their lives. This idea mostly stems from the stereotype minimalism holds. “How is it even possible to live like that!?” However, once you reflect on your surroundings, your possessions, and your needs, you will be more able to adopt a definition of excess that is appropriate for you.
Why even bother?
Granted, the process of decluttering is time consuming in and of itself. Sometimes you feel like you end up with a bigger mess than what you started with. So why bother?
- Less stuff to maintain. Have you ever noticed that things really do eat up our time? This toy needs new batteries, this tablet needs a new screen, this shelf needs to be fixed, the zipper on this coat needs to be repaired, the old car needs an oil change, the cushions need to be vaccumed, etc. What if we just owned less? It’s less things that need maintenance and attention.
- Less to clean. When I minimized my household possessions, I found more room in my cupboards and closets, and things didn’t have to sit on the floor, countertop or table. Now, wiping down surfaces is quick, and the floors easy to clean with nothing in the way to move or dust around.
- Less overstimulation. This one is interesting. Before I downsized toys, I found that the kids rarely played with what was in front of them. They dumped a bin, rummaged through another bin, and were then so overwhelmed with the mess that they didn’t even want to play there anymore. I started downsizing toys and stashing them away. When there were only a few toys to play with, they actually played with those. No overstimulation. No overwhelming mess. Then every so often I switch those few toys with a few others I’ve stashed. It’s working great so far.
- It feels good. When you donate your belongings to someone else who needs them, it feels good. It brings happiness knowing someone is benefiting from your decluttering efforts. I found a nurse in town who takes trips to Nunavut and brings clothing donations with her to distribute. The cost of living there is pricey. So knowing that my winter coats and my son’s baby clothes are going to a family that truly needs them makes me feel warm and happy.
- More time. Isn’t this something we all wish we had more of? If there’s less to maintain, less to clean, then there’s more time for you. Time to do whatever brings you joy. Whether that’s a hobby, playing with the kids, or walking the dog. We need to make time for joy in our lives. Minimalism has helped our family achieve this.
- More money. A bonus to having less stuff to maintain, is that you’re spending less money maintaining it. Think of the great ways you could put that extra money to use – vacation maybe?
These are just a few of the benefits minimalism has given us personally. You can read more about why people choose minimalism from these great articles:
Let’s get realistic
Minimalism is a goal. Achieving it is a process. Processes take time. So don’t put the expectation on yourself to make your house look like Joshua Fields Millburn’s apartment overnight.
You can still be a minimalist and keep your book collection if that is what brings you joy. You can still be a minimalist and keep your tools and that old Chevy you’ve been working on in the garage if that is your passion. The point is to simplify. To remove the excess. To get rid of the clutter that is suffocating you, and eating your precious time.
I look forward to continuing this series with you all. Keep in touch and don’t miss any of my posts by following me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter!
What images does minimalism bring to mind for you? Is it something you’re interested in applying to your life? Comment below and let me know!