What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear that word?
Is it a bare apartment furnished with just a lone sleeping mat and a toothbrush? Or throwing practically everything out à la Marie Kondo and living with practically nothing? Or perhaps it’s a young, free and single 20-something with high ideas and a loose grasp of what real adult life is all about?
If so, I don’t really blame you. Because that’s exactly what we’ve always been told about minimalism. That’s what the trendy minimalists of the 21st century want you to believe. But it simply isn’t true.
As you’re about to find out, real minimalism isn’t just about getting rid of your stuff and lightening your stress load. It’s about living the life of your dreams, discovering your inner hopes and desires and allowing your inner badass to emerge.
So if you’re ready to open your eyes, listen to a few home truths and find out what minimalism is really all about, hold tight! I got your back.
Minimalism isn’t just about getting rid of your stuff
You probably first heard about minimalism when your best friend declared she was doing Project 333 and was going to try to live with just 33 items of clothing. And after you picked your jaw up from the floor, you proclaimed that ‘you could never do THAT!’ to anyone who would listen.
Then you might have spotted Marie Kondo’s best-selling “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” in your local library or come across the likes of Tammy Strobel who decided to pare down to just 72 personal possessions.
So you’re probably thinking that minimalism is all about getting rid of stuff and living with less.
And it’s true- most people find minimalism when they reach a point of overwhelm with that excess of stuff they have filling up their cupboards and homes.
They’re sick of wasting time and money to maintain all this stuff, to clean around this stuff and to organise it all. They realise something has to change before they really lose it, so they hit google and minimalism is what they find.
When they’ve sold, donated or thrown away their excess possessions, people really do feel pretty darn amazing for a while.
They feel less stressed, have more free time for the people they love, can dedicate more of their energies to doing fun stuff (instead of cleaning!), they feel more content and they even give themselves a pat on the back for being more conscious about what their former consumerism was doing to the planet.
If you’ve ever had a ‘good clear-out’ and got rid of stuff you don’t want, you’ll know just how virtuous you feel.
But you’ll also know very well that this simply doesn’t last.
Pretty soon, the discontent starts to seep back in. You realise that this wasn’t really the answer. Not really. And you ask yourself, if this isn’t the answer, then what is?
Minimalism is about finding what matters to YOU
When you threw everything away, some really great things were going on. You were taking the time to reflect on the material possessions in your life and consider whether these really held value for you or brought meaning to your life.
You asked yourself whether you were ever going to wear that brand new dress that you never wore but still has the labels on. You looked at the family heirloom crockery that your great-grandmother used to own and wondered if there was really any point with it sitting there gathering dust.
And that was all really awesome. But you forgot that there’s more to life than the s*** that fills your home. You forgot to apply the same principles to your emotions, to your relationships, to your career and to your overall happiness.
Imagine what would happen if you could do the very same thing in all of these areas of your life too.
If you could prune the dead wood from your relationship tree, your career tree, or your fitness tree, eliminate the crap that has been holding you back for so long and allow those brand new juicy fresh buds to appear, what would happen then?
Go ahead and take a moment to really think about this…
Yes, you’re right. This is where the real magic starts to happen. This is when minimalism brings out it’s transformative superpower, revolutionises your life and helps your inner badass break free.
In the words of the great Michelangelo, ‘Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.’
Except in this case, YOU are the sculpture, YOU are the sculpture and MINIMALISM is your chisel.
Minimalism isn’t about sacrificing your desires
Real minimalism isn’t about becoming a martyr to a cause, making sacrifices, ‘doing without’ or living a life of poverty. It’s not about waving goodbye to your earthly desires and becoming a Buddhist (although I’m not knocking Buddhism- far from it!).
We all have desires and dreams- they’re part of what make us uniquely human. Minimalism simply helps us to focus better on what really matters to us, not what we think we want or what some fancy advertising campaign tells us we want.
I still have a ton of desires like travelling the world, winning my next marathon (as if!), finally mastering the splits and building myself a tiny house, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a ‘minimalist’.
But minimalism can be difficult
That’s not to say that’s an easy or an instant process. Because minimalism isn’t an overnight solution to the pain and overwhelm you’ve been feeling your whole life. And boy, does it hurt!
With less stuff to hide behind, fewer bad habits to cling to and fewer toxic relationships to blame for your f*** ups, you’re forced to be brutally honest about what you want from life. You have to get clear about what makes your heart sing and what drains the joy from your soul.
Which is tough, especially if it means saying goodbye to that loveless relationships or quitting a well-paid job. But it will all be worth it in the end.
If you’re serious about taking your life to the next level of amazing, if you really mean it when you say you’ll never (again) settle for second best and you want to unleash that badass within, this is a challenge that you absolutely have to face. There can be no other way.
Minimalism is as much about the journey as the destination
In this age of instant gratification, we tend to expect to get result quickly whenever we dedicate ourself to a cause, including minimalism. But I’m afraid that it just doesn’t work like that, nor would you really want it to.
Michelangelo wouldn’t chip away frantically at his stone block to get it finished much more quickly so he could get on with other things. If he did, we’d just end up with a dusty mess full of careless mistakes and a creation that lacked love, care and artist vision at all.
It’s the same with your life. If you attack your life with all guns blazing, desperate to ‘heal’ yourself, you’re more likely to do more harm than good.
So slow right down. Enjoy the entire process. Take joy in learning more about what really makes you tick. Discover things about yourself that you never knew you loved. Allow your talents to emerge in the same way as a butterfly comes from the chrysallis.
And most of all, BE YOURSELF.
As you can see, minimalism isn’t just about getting rid of your stuff. It’s not about sacrificing your possessions and becoming a martyr to a cause, nor is it about depriving yourself of joy- quite the opposite. It’s about focusing on what really matters and learning to live your life to the fullest. It’s about living bravely, wildly and embracing everything that life has to bring you.
This is what minimalism is really about.