Minimalism — a word that has a different meaning to different people. It became more popular in the last 5 to 10 years, and everyone has their own definition of it. Gone are the days when people thought of blank white walls, rooms without any stuff, no colors, etc. Today, most people have a different idea of minimalism. A more realistic one.
All thanks to a few people who really started the movement in a general sense; Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus from The Minimalists, Leo Babauta from Zen Habits, Joshua Becker from Becoming Minimalist, Courtney Carver from Be More with Less, Colin Wright from Exile Lifestyle and many, many others. But minimalism has been here since long ago. Some say that Jesus, Prophet Muhammad, Buddha, Confucius, Lao Tzu, Stoic philosophers such as Marcus Aurelius, Plato, Epictetus, Seneca the Younger, Zeno, Leonardo da Vinci, Thoreau, and other significant people in history were the first to talk about the importance of not owning a lot of stuff.
In some newer times, we can see signs of minimalism in Buddhist monks and Catholic nuns. But if you look for an official dictionary definition of minimalism, you likely won’t find what you’re looking for. That’s because until fairly recently the word minimalism wasn’t used to define a style of living. In fact, it originally had nothing to do with clutter or things. The term minimalism became popular in the 50s and 60s for simplistic trends, first in music and then in art and design. The ideas were similar to what is considered minimalism today – to remove all but the instrument or design pieces of focus.
As it became popular in interior design and architecture (white rooms without much stuff in them), people began to notice visually appealing aspects of the minimalist style for themselves. But that was just the beginning.
Now, let’s go back to the present time.
I am going to borrow the definition from people who defined it very well and whom I admire the most when it comes to this topic. Those are the people who helped me on my journey, to push a little more, to give me words of encouragement when it was hard and I thought it is impossible for me to declutter some of my precious possessions. Without further ado:
These are a few definitions of minimalism. You can choose which one suits you best. The important thing is to live your life on your own terms. If you’re happy with a lot of stuff, then be it. If you are not, you can remove most of your possessions and find freedom in that.
My definition of Minimalism is:
The number of possessions you have doesn’t matter, but being able to live a happy, fulfilled life does.
Don’t just get rid of stuff because you can. Think deeply about what is important for you and what is not. Then remove everything that is not. You don’t want to spend precious time and energy managing stuff, tasks, or people that don’t bring any value to your life. We all have limited resources, so we need to use them consciously and carefully.
If you just recklessly remove all the toxic people, stuff, and tasks from your life, you will be disappointed with the end result. You will be left alone, without things, with nothing important to do, lonely and sad. This will only beget a new buying cycle, and you may end with more stuff and obligations than before starting the journey. Look at the show The Biggest Loser, a few months after it finishes most of the candidates gain the weight back. Some of them gain even more than before the show. You don’t want to do that with your minimalism journey.
Don’t put yourself in this position, start slowly, think deep, and work towards it. Eventually, you will arrive at the point where you will be satisfied and happier than before. But don’t fool yourself either. Once you start minimalism journey, you will always have a new horizon around the corner. Minimalism is like the gym. Once you start going to the gym, you’ll become small forever (in your own eyes) because you will never be as big as you want to be.
The same with minimalism, once you start, you’ll always have something to declutter. New stuff comes to our lives constantly, so we need to be deliberate about what we’re going to allow to come and declutter often. Our circumstances change as we grow, so do our lives. What was appropriate yesterday may not be appropriate tomorrow. Therefore, we need to ask hard questions all the time and then act accordingly.
Nobody’s perfect. Me neither. I strive for minimalism, but there is always room for improvement. I have things that are inconsistent with the message of minimalism, or at least by the definition of others. I’m working on it. Constantly. Daily. For many years now. And I still didn’t arrive where I want to be. But I have time. One day, maybe, I will arrive. But then, maybe, my life will be different. And what was once a dream destination may then not be good enough. But then, I will have a new horizon in mind. And I will happily start walking towards it.
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