Minimalism, what even is it?
By Tricia Scott
Overwhelm, stress, and a self-confessed 400mph lifestyle left me burned out and bedridden, I was sick and very, very tired. I couldn't work, write or even watch TV for any period of time. What I was left with was a lot of thinking space and my godsend kindle app with no backlight, so I could read in short bursts without the glare of a screen and a stack of audiobook credits lying unused in an account I had continued to pay for, for many months. At first, it was scary. I wasn't used to this (crazy) slow pace. Days seemed endless and monotone without my dependable distractions of TV and work to fill them. I was literally forced to listen to my body for the first time in years and I've got to tell you I didn't like it one bit.
As the days and weeks passed, I began to realise and take responsibility for the fact that I was the sole cause of my situation. I had filled my days with a barrage of useless information and it was only through slowing down that I could really see it for what it was.
I was allowing myself to be distracted from all of the things I was dissatisfied with and guess what? I wasn't alone. Hurrah! There were literally thousands of people out there just like me. People waking up to the very same realisations, only they were doing something about it.
They were called Minimalists.
I was stunned. I was NO minimalist! I LOVED stuff!! I had carefully ‘collected' lots of it over the years, my couches are cosy, I have décor that Elton John would be proud of and my loo was inside my house (and has a glittery seat)!! Pah.. Not for me thanks.
But it kept coming up.
I discovered a documentary called Minimalism, live a meaningful life by Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus. I actually found it by accident when the cat sat on the remote control and turned on Netflix, talk about the universe in action! I managed to watch it in three sittings as it was all my dizziness would allow but it gave me time to take it in and absorb the message. It was a revelation.
It was a turning point.
As it turns out, I didn't have to shun all of my beloved belongings, sell my home or fit everything I owned into a backpack (although if that's your thing then check out Colin Wright over at Exile Lifestyle, amazing stuff!) I could actually continue to be me, just with a different mindset. You see, minimalism to me meant all of the above but in fact, there is no solid definition for it. It's not about your stuff, it's about what's underneath all of that. It's about you on a soul level. Joshua & Ryan, The Minimalists, define it like this "Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we've built our lives around. Real freedom."
Those words were enough to wake me up. Did I declutter? Absolutely. Did I get rid of my favourite things? No way. What I did do was to consider the reasons behind the stuff I owned. I asked myself the question ‘do I actually own all of this stuff or does it own me?' You better believe I got some interesting answers.
Minimalism to me was a massive digital declutter. Out went the thousands (seriously) of email subscriptions that invaded my email inbox daily and kept my total to over 3000 consistently. I backed up all of my digital pictures and files and then deleted them from my phone and laptop. It felt freeing. I felt lighter. I was able to donate clothing, household items and furniture to amazing causes locally and not even notice they were gone. Before I knew it I was down to one wardrobe of clothing from seven (yes, you did just read that correctly) and It felt amazing. I was regaining control of my life by letting go of the things I had believed were sustaining me but were, in fact, overwhelming me Every. Single. Day.
Turns out they were just things.
Without the mental, digital and actual clutter I was able to prioritise my life. I was thinking clearly, for the first time in years, about what I wanted, the intentional life I was ready to live on my terms and it didn't include what I wanted to buy next to fill a gap which needed to be filled with intention and not material objects.
I felt free.
Several months later and I continue to fully enjoy the gorgeousness of my surroundings, you certainly wouldn't come into my home and think I was a minimalist. I keep in perspective that it's just stuff and that I could, of course, live quite happily without it but I also know that these are the things that make my life comfortable and I'm happy with that. I don't own an excess of anything anymore and I certainly don't feel guilty for ownership of my things but I am mindful of what I let back in. I purchase always with the question ‘will this bring value to my life' If the answer is no then I know it was just a fill in for something I need to deal with internally and back it goes.
Minimalism will mean something different to everyone who encounters it. I have no doubt of that. I would suggest if your initial reaction to the word brings up something like mine then dig a little deeper, you never know what you might find out about yourself. This is just my story. If I could sum up what it has brought to me I would say a have a better sense of personal value, a quieter mind and space for creativity.
To me, that's just fabulous.