What is Minimalism?

 

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. 

What is Minimalism?

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:

Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important — so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.

The Minimalists

What Minimalism is really all about is reassessment of your priorities so that you can strip away the excess stuff — the possessions and ideas and relationships and activities — that don’t bring value to your life.

Colin Wright

Minimalism is simply getting rid of things you do not use or need, leaving an uncluttered, simple environment and an uncluttered, simple life. It’s living without an obsession with material things or an obsession with doing everything and doing too much. It’s using simple tools, having a simple wardrobe, carrying little, and living lightly.

Leo Babauta

Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it.

Joshua Becker

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:

Remove everything (from your life) until you uncover the real you.
Decide, execute, live. (No regrets)

Simple Man

 

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.

Perfection is a Myth

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.

 

Cheers!

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10 Responses

    1. “Remove everything (from your life) until you uncover the real you.
      Decide, execute, live. (No regrets)”
      You feel it deep inside, and you know. It is hard to explain with words because for everyone is different.
      No, it takes time to do it. Some need more, some less, but everything…in time.

  1. I love that this article mentions Leo Babauta. Leo was the only Minimalist that influenced me actually. All the other big names I just never related to. And even still, I dont relate to. But there was always this humility with Leo that inspired me.
    Im guessing over 15? years ago now, he had started a blog called Zen Habits.
    At the time, 15 years ago, I was a somewhat known blogger myself, in decorating Lol and also in homemaking. I was living simple even back then, moderately minimal. And it was Leos blog that inspired me to go more minimal.
    Ive defined minimalism for myself as: owning only the things that I absolutely need or love.
    Absolutely ‘need’ would be essentials such as I need a bed of some kind, a basic one. I need a towel, 1 or 2. I need a fork to eat food with. I need soap. Actual essentials. Which turns out isnt many things, for me.
    The ‘absolutely love’ part can be tricky. Bcuz we can say oh but I love this and this and this and this…
    But for me, Im extremely truthful to myself about what I love. And its usually items I do need such as a nice face moisturizer. I love it, and I do have use for it. I dont necessarily need it.
    Ive also trained myself when I go in stores to enjoy an item in the store and leave it there. If I see a beautiful blanket for example or a super cute coffee mug or whatever.. I have taught myself to recognize the beauty of it and that I dont need to buy it and bring it home. I can just enjoy it with my eyes and leave it in the world for others to enjoy.
    I share this example bcuz one time I would of bought it bcuz I THOUGHT I loved it. I didnt really love it. I usually forgot about it by the time I got home Lol.
    So for me, Im very intentional about the things I need or love. Intentional and honest with myself.
    I loveeee minimalism so much!!! My quality of life is better than ever. I love life because of minimalism. I am truly happy, content, and at peace. Minimalism aligns with my faith as well.
    And because Im happy, my happiness and peace influences others. My husband and son are just as happy and content. Truly happy.
    Its amazing how much STUFF weighed us down before. For some ppl, they might not need to go as minimal as us to find their happiness but we had to go right to the bare essentials.

    1. Hei Candy,

      I read your comment three times because it’s that good 😆
      Leo was also one of the main influences in my life (+ The Minimalists). Actually, I think that he is one of the best minimalists, and even Joshua and Ryan from The Minimalists admire him and call him The Godfather of Minimalism.
      Based on everything you wrote, I think you’ve found your enough and you’re completely satisfied with it. Not many people can do that, and I really admire it.

      Cheers!

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