I looked in the cupboard. It was full of bits and pieces I’ve not used for years. But the thought of getting rid of any of it filled me with anxiety. “What if I need them at some point? I’d better keep them just in case”. Then I examined my wardrobe. Clothes I hardly ever wear because I prefer wearing other things. Yet I was keeping them just in case I ever needed them for that most niche occasion.
After moving house twice in 12 months I became aware of stuff. Boxes of things that I’d moved between homes but unpacked into little storage areas and never used.
There is something highly attractive about the minimalist mentality. I like nice clear spaces, and simple organisation. I get great joy from clearing out spaces and feeling like I’m in control of my environment. But always seem to end up re-filling those gaps with more stuff after a good de-clutter and sort out.
Over the past few months I’ve connected with minimalism at a new level. Although I didn’t properly click with the message at the time, I had read Everything That Remains: A Memoir by The Minimalists in 2014. I was looking for a nice neat blueprint to provide some neat action points for organising my stuff. But this book actually provided a whole lot more.
I’m a slow learner. I now understand that minimalism isn’t actually about stuff. It’s about control, choice, and freedom. At its heart is the pursuit of an intentional life of self-awareness and value. In other words, designing a meaningful life. In this respect it resonates so deeply with what it means to be a Gentle Rebel.
Minimalism helps you question what things add value to your life. By clearing the clutter you can make room for the most important aspects of life: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution. It’s certainly not a one size fits all ideology and looks different for everyone who applies it to their unique individual situation.
Minimalism is Not De-Cluttering
The purpose of minimalism isn’t to get rid of stuff, but rather to be intentional about the stuff we have. This makes de-cluttering the first part in a wider context. It’s only as helpful as the transformation you make in the future about how you interact with the spaces you create. This applies to physical objects, but also to things like time, work commitments, family, finances, relationships etc. You de-clutter in order to make space to live with intention and in accordance with your values.
One of the principle foundations of minimalism is about living in a way that reflects your values. And when it comes to those most important aspects of life: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution, to approach each one in accordance with your personal worldview.
This means distancing yourself from (de-cluttering) habits, things, and relationships that force you to compromise those values. And nurturing habits, relationships, and experiences that chime with, support, and understand the values instead.
Minimalism is about connecting with your actual values, assessing the clutter (both physical and emotional), and taking charge of clearing the path so that you can bring the best of your true self to the table. Reject the “Busy Bubble”.
Rich and poor are words usually associated with money. But what happens if we expand our view of wealth to include stuff like time, energy, relationships, and wellbeing. Minimalism broadens our perspective to include things of meaning into our definition of true wealth. And on the flip-side, it helps us acknowledge that prioritising one thing by nature places a tax on another thing, and can even create poverty in that area. For example, if financial wealth is your sole focus then you might experience relationship poverty, energy poverty, health poverty, and general wellbeing poverty.
The Minimalist Mindset: Recognising When Enough is Enough
In his book Happier, Harvard lecturer Tal Ben-Shahar talks about the arrival fallacy – which is the false belief that reaching a particular destination will bring and sustain happiness. It’s a part of hedonic adaptation, which was coined by psychologists Brickman and Campbell in the 1970s.
We get on the hedonic treadmill, chasing the idea of happiness by seeking more, bigger, better etc, with the belief that it will bring us to Destination Happiness. But after a fleeting moment of satisfaction we will always return back to our original emotional baseline after getting what we want.
Minimalism is an antidote to this.
Everything has a true cost that stretches beyond the transactional price for acquiring it. Maintenance, replacement, fuel, batteries, add ons, upgrades, space to store it, insurance, time using it etc. By inviting things into our lives we are making a commitment that goes deeper than the initial cost of buying (or getting) it. If we’re unintentional about only bringing in things that add value to our lives, then we end up spending a lot of resources (both inner and outer), on keeping things that don’t really matter to us.
In this episode of the podcast I unpack these ideas in more detail.
Over to You
Do you have a minimalist mindset? What does it look like for you in your life? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.