The word “minimalism” has been around for a long time – at least since the 70s, when it was used to describe visual art and music coming out of post-World War II, as it was pieces pared down to the bare bones.
I’m honestly not sure when we started using it to describe a similar, pared-down way of life (if I had to guess, it’d be 2014, but it’s truly a guess).I’d heard of minimalism, and knew a little bit about it, but it wasn’t until I started listening to the podcast, “The Minimalists”, which I simply stumbled upon after searching for something new to listen to (I often browse the top 150 list).
I’m only 7 or 8 episodes in, but I’ve learned a ton! Here’s the basic scoop on “The Minimalists” themselves, from their website: Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, known as “The Minimalists” to their 4 million readers, help people live more meaningful lives with less through their website, books, podcast, and documentary. As featured on: ABC, CBS, NBC, NPR, BBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, TIME, and The Atlantic.
Basically, these guys were each at a crossroads in their lives. Although their personal situations were different, they had one thing in common: they weren’t happy living the American dream.
I know the American dream is often described as a wife, 2 kids, house, picket fence… but it really means working your ass off in corporate America, so you can pay for the wife, 2 kids, house and picket fence – all of which you’ll never see, because you’re hunched over in a cubicle and you can’t even see the light of day.
That’s basically what Josh and Ryan decided they were not going to do. So they quit their jobs that paid six figures and got rid of basically all of their material things.
It’s drastic, I know.
Their original plan was to simply work in a coffee shop, because, hey, they love great coffee. But it turns out that “minimalism”, as a concept, was great enough for people to buy it (we just love consumerism), so The Minimalists made a popular documentary on Netflix, wrote and published two books, and have basically created a movement on minimalism that puts them on tour around the globe.
But even with all the popularity around minimalism as a way of life, people still get hung up on one thing: the stuff.
When really, that’s the entire point. True minimalism isn’t about living off nothing or living off a little or even living off a certain number of things (i.e. “How I Live Off 42 Items). It’s about only living off the things you love and not just keeping things around to have more, for the sake of having.
It about letting go of consumerism – turning away from the idea that buying material, superficial items will make you happier.
Because the fact is, we’re constantly swarmed with ads about how our lives will be better if we just buy these clothes or this car or this house. But in reality? All of those things have nothing to do with our true happiness, and they may actually lead to more stress, anxiety, and… debt.
So, minimalism is about clearing your life from the things that aren’t contributing to your happiness. Maybe that means cleaning out your closet; not so you can say you are a minimalist and own less, but so it’s easier to get ready in the mornings and so you have less laundry and cleaning to do, which means more time to do what you want.
See how that works?
Say you’re someone who likes to cook and loves kitchen gadgets. Minimalism doesn’t mean you have to get rid of those things – maybe there are things you don’t use much and sure, dump ’em, but it really means finding a way to cook more because it brings you happiness. So perhaps you cut out what’s taking time away from the kitchen in order to get back to it.
I am slowly going through my apartment, getting rid of the things I just don’t use, and putting it in a “donate” pile. Why? I feel like I’m constantly cleaning my place, and I hate it. So, I’m hoping that getting rid of some of the clutter will mean less cleaning and more reading and blogging.
I also have a habit of “stocking up” on things like toothpaste or candles, when really, how much of that stuff do I need at once? So, I’ve taken an inventory of things I have and am in the process of using it all before I buy more – it’s a nice surprise to see how much money I’m saving.
So, what do you think? Is minimalism for you?