MINIMALISM: What is it and how did I get here?

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WHAT IS MINIMALISM?

“Minimalism is a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives. By clearing the clutter from life’s path, we can all make room for the most important aspects of life: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution.” – The Minimalists

Essentially, minimalism is the anti-consumerism lifestyle. It is the idea that things do not make the person. We are not defined by the job we have, the money we have, or the things we own. Instead, we are defined by the people we choose to be. The impact we have on the world around us. A minimalist looks at what is in their life and they remove the things that aren’t adding value. All the things in a minimalist’s life must be useful or joyful. Otherwise, they are simply taking away the possibility of living a life they love.

Minimalism is all about the essentials. Excess is not an option. Just in case is not a phrase a minimalist will use. When embracing minimalism, each individual focuses only on the most necessary things in order to make room for themselves and their ultimate potential.

BEFORE MINIMALISM

Since getting married, Ian and I have strived to be better and grow together. We’ve moved from one state to another and back and then back again. We’ve contemplated jobs and dreams, made the laundry list of items we would own one day that would, essentially, measure our success.

We were looking towards the big house where everyone has their own room to sleep in, another room to work in, and another to play in. The dreams of the toy room we would eventually make the “cool teenager hangout” while we had our fancy living room just for the adult get togethers us introverts will probably never actually have. The upgrades we’d make to our kitchen we’d never really cook in. The fancy couch we absolutely needed in order to be happy.

I often would start day dreaming about the future, a future that was suppose to be full of joy with my husband and our new baby, and I would start to get overwhelmed with fear and stress wishing I could stop time so I could breath for five seconds. It all felt unattainable. It felt like we would never have the things we needed to be happy. With student debt, dumb-kids-spending-money-they-don’t-have debt, and our passions for a more creative career path, it seriously felt like we could never have it all and we would have to make major compromises to make at least something work.

We had contemplated waiting to start our family, talked about one of us giving up our dreams so the other could live out theirs. We actually considered working opposite schedules forever and giving up ever seeing each other or our children all together so we could at least make enough money to buy the stupid stuff we absolutely had to have. It was seriously absurd the priorities and standards we had set for ourselves.

THE DISCOVERY

So as I was sitting on a blog full of fancy houses with the most trendy furniture and all the right wall colors (you know, to get inspiration for the house I’d never be “successful” enough to have), I came across another blog that really caught my eye.

My discovery of The Minimalists is really where it all started. I read through a few of their essays and became very curious about this thing called, minimalism. A life where my focus was on my everyday, positive moments rather than the stuff I own. I caught a glimpse of my future self through the eyes of minimalism. The couch wasn’t there, the house was much smaller, but I was happy and content. My kids were hanging out with me in the same room. Not all the way across the house in their giant playroom I would soon have to clean up. I had the freedom to pursue my passions without worrying how I was going to maintain my expensive lifestyle. I realized my life and my family were my style.

SO THEN WHAT HAPPENED?

So my first step was obviously to listen to a million of The Minimalists Podcast (I swear this isn’t a plug for them, this is actually what happened) which got me really motivated to venture into this new life. I talked to Ian about getting rid of some stuff and my desire to start creating more quality over quantity in our life while still never letting either of those things bring us stress. This is when Ian learned he was accidentally already a minimalist and we both learned I was really the only one that cared so much about all the stuff.. whoops.

WE WENT THROUGH EVERYTHING

Like actually everything, and got rid of over half our stuff. We thought about the moments we looked forward to and the moments we dreaded. As we reshaped our priorities, we realized that all the stuff we thought we needed would have never brought us the joy that simple moments could. Eating meals together, going on walks, lounging on a hot summer day. The moments we thought were fillers for the day we’d “finally have it all” were really the “all” we were waiting for.

So we made our list of what we wanted our days to look like. We thought about the times we were most happy and made a plan to make those moments happen more. Somewhere along the way our minds shifted from thinking about the stuff we needed to focusing on the moments we needed. The time we needed together, for ourselves, and for our passions.

Suddenly, the old couch we bought when we were first married seemed to fit right in. The old table I said I’d never take found it’s place in my kitchen nook. It did exactly what it was meant to do by giving us a space to sit and engage over meals together. We didn’t need the “perfect” table, we just needed a table. The stuff that I thought would kill me to look at everyday turned into things that I started to appreciate the most. It was there, making us comfortable as we continued creating moments and memories. The house I thought was too small turned out to be more than enough. At that point, we reshaped our goals to not be focused on all the stuff we don’t have. Instead, focused on the meaningful moments we needed more of.

AFTER MINIMALISM

So now that I’ve been living my minimal life, I’ve learned what minimalism really is about.

On the outside, it looks like a bunch of crazy people that sit in their tiny house staring at the wall with no stuff around them. On the inside, it is peace. It’s freedom. It’s taking away all the distractions so that all we’re left with is ourselves and the things we love.

When I started downsizing and took my first step to minimalism, I really had no idea what I was doing. Sure, I was getting rid of stuff. But I had no idea that through the downsizing, I was getting to know myself.

I took away the consumerist desires of the house and the couch (seriously, that dream couch was one of my biggest stresses). All the things that would one day “make me, me.” The junk that was clouding my mind making me feel like I would never amount to anything because I couldn’t afford the things that others could went too. The jealousy and comparisons that held me back for so long, i got rid of it all.

It didn’t happen immediately. I wasn’t suddenly enlightened on my way back from a Goodwill drop. But one day, I was sitting in my clean home with nothing to do. There was nothing to distract myself with. I had time and I had no idea what to do with it. It forced me to look at myself and think about what it was that I loved. For the first time in a long time, I finally had the opportunity to do the things I love.

Really, minimalism taught me that I have no idea who I am. As I went through my closet, I had no idea what my style was. As I went through my projects, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my time. It was a little sad to realize I’d been working so hard towards something. It was sad because I realized I didn’t know where I was really going.

So now that I know I have no real goals, my future has opened up. I can really make my life anything I want it to be. Do want to live in a tiny home? Maybe I want to live in the country, or the city. Maybe I want to have a little cottage in a quiet neighborhood. A place where I can write and play with my kids all day.  Maybe I really don’t want a career. For now, I really just want to have kids and hangout with them.

The most important thing is, I don’t have to have an end goal. I can just live the life I have right now because I already have everything I need. Can it change? Absolutely. Do I have a checklist of things I need to be happy? Not at all.

I still struggle from time to time. I’ll go down a rabbit whole of daydreams. Thinking of all the things I want and all the lives I could live. Ultimately, I always come back and live in the life I have now.

That is minimalism. At least that’s my minimalism. Living in the now and going along with whatever comes our way.

We’re taking control of what we can, but letting go of what we can’t.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova

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