The term minimalism to some seems to be like a red flag to a bull. It reminds me a little of the word vegan, which can really elicit some strong responses and reactions. I have received quite a few funny comments about the fact that I proclaim to be a minimalist. I would say that I am more of a minimalist in training, but regardless, it is something that people have strong opinions about. Strong opinions that are usually backed by little know-how or knowledge! I got a message from someone last night who was wanting to declutter their life a little and they asked me what minimalism meant to me and if I had any hints. So, following is my journey with minimalism.
Before anyone gets their knickers in a knot and tells me that they like owning 100 pairs of shoes, or three iPads or whatever it is that rocks your boat, that is great! I am not interested in making judgements about anyone’s lifestyle choices and I never will. Life is short and if you are not hurting anyone, I say do whatever it is that makes you happy. I also would hope that those who are so strident about their lifestyle choices, can also respect mine, without casting aspersions on what is important to me!
What exactly is minimalism? I think there are probably a squillion different forms of minimalism and if you are interested in minimalizing, then whatever avenue you choose is the one for you. I saw a post on social media today of a fellow sitting in the middle of an empty room with no furniture, eating out of the one bowl he owned. Now that sort of minimalism is not my cup of tea and it is not the sort of minimalism I could even hope to aspire to. Like anything (think religion, politics, lifestyle choices etc.) there are a million different levels or anything and it tends to be the extremists, that give any type of choice a bad name.
The core of minimalism is intentionality and at the risk of sounding up there with the fairies, it is marked by clarity, purpose and intentionality. The core of minimalism is focussing on the things we value most and the removal of everything that distracts from it. I value happiness, health and simplicity so that is what I focus on.
Looking back, I can see there were three distinct phases for me becoming a minimalist or aspiring to have less. The first phase was when I was diagnosed with MS. There is nothing quite like a shitty diagnosis to really make you assess what you value most. After those that I love, I realised that the only thing that I truly, truly valued was my health and if I did not have my health, then nothing really mattered. It was around the time that I first watched Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things and something in that resounded in me so strongly that I started a journey mentally, that I had not even begun physically.
The next phase for me was when the kids and I prepared for our big OS trip. We were renting our house out unfurnished and I also needed to raise funds for a trip I had not really planned! By selling things on eBay, via FB, garage sales and via a book merchant in Glen Innes, I raised several thousand dollars and realised how many things I owned, that I did not really need and ultimately did not miss. When the kids and I returned from our trip, we had a household full of furniture and after living out of a backpack for 9 months I found myself giving away a whole lot of additional things as I unpacked.
The final phase for me was the death of my kindred spirit. After she had gone, I realised that it did not matter what she left behind. The things she had owned meant nothing to me. The only thing that mattered was that she lived in my heart and she has increasingly become one of the voices in my head. But her death and dealing with the catastrophic void made me realise again how much importance we place on material things when ultimately, they mean nothing.
My desire for minimalism in my life has affected so many parts of my life. It was what lead me to leave my job and go freelance as I needed an environment that was simpler and less toxic and where I could just focus on my job rather than a million other things that did not matter. I play around with all sorts of things in my recipes but ultimately the ones I return to time and time again are those with a handful of ingredients which are a celebration of simplicity. I make sure my inbox is empty, my simplistic wardrobe means I never have to worry about what I wear. Having a few items in the house means that my house is always tidy. I never have baskets of washing waiting to be folded as if I don’t bring in the washing when it is dry, fold it and put it away, the kids and I will run out of clothes.
I find that by having less, I also have so much more. I might live in my jeans and a couple of jumpers for the winter season, but it also means that instead of buying clothes that I have no interest in, I am getting closer to my goal of purchasing another plane ticket. For our last trip to Italy, the kids and I took one pair of shoes, quite simply, because it was all that we needed. I find a minimalistic approach makes everything so much simpler. It also makes me feel lighter like I have more room to breathe and to live the way I want to live. It’s not just about possessions either, it is simply a matter of asking if something brings value to your life. If something doesn’t bring value to you, if it doesn’t enrich your life, then ask yourself why you even want it! For me, minimalism is about not determining your value by what you own, but rather by how you live.
I have more time to create, to dream, to travel and to spend with my kids. Even though I am busy and have my health challenges on occasion, I am not perpetually stressed or exhausted which seems to be badge of honour in our modern times. I live a minimalistic life, but it is filled with possibilities and those possibilities fill me with more joy, thn owning a million things ever will.