Why less really can equal more
Minimalism started out in the 60s and 70s as an art and visual culture movement to promote the paring down of a lifestyle filled with unnecessary possessions. More recently, however, it’s become a philosophical way of life that’s gaining momentum as more and more people become aware of the overload of consumerism, the damage it causes to the environment, and the role our modern lifestyle plays in all of this.
Minimalism isn’t about living a monastic existence; it’s more about decluttering your life – both your physical as well as your mental space. It’s about getting rid of things – objects, relationships, expenditure – that don’t add value or meaning. In the space that’s left behind you’ll hopefully find true value in the items and relationships that are essential to your wellbeing, helping you lead a happier and more purpose-filled life. Minimalism gets you past the ‘possessions’, so that you can make room for what’s more important.
‘Our money is only as valuable as what we choose to spend it on’ — Joshua Becker, The More of Less: finding the life you want under everything you own.
Your memories are not your possessions
While minimalism in its raw and honest form can be somewhat brutal, it really does make you think about the necessities in life. Nothing questions this more than dealing with sentimental items that you have inherited
from family members. It’s hard to get rid of your grandmother’s antique cabinet, or your late parents’ belongings. But
The Minimalists have such an eloquent way of dealing with sentimental objects: You can hold on to memories without
Start here: The Minimalists
If you’re looking for a starting point, try following The Minimalists – American authors, filmmakers, and public speakers, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. The duo began pursuing a minimalist lifestyle in 2010 after experiencing significant improvements in their quality of life as a result of dumping things they didn’t really need. Prior
to this they were living the American Dream – high salaries, executive roles, homes filled with what they thought portrayed their success in life. Even though they lived the high life, underneath it all they were quite miserable. Today, they travel the world and teach people about the value minimalism has to offer. In their Netflix documentary, Minimalism, Joshua and Ryan talk about modern society’s addiction to consumerism, and how marketing and advertisements send out subliminal messages about the life you ‘should’ be living and what you supposedly need in
order to achieve it. Follow their new lifestyles at Theminimalists.com
Step 1: Declutter and create space for what you value
Think about your home. How much time do you spend moving objects around, cleaning up things that are moved from one cupboard to another? Or rustling through items never used in search of something you really need? This physical clutter spreads into your mental space. The first step to approaching a minimalist lifestyle is to declutter your life by figuring out what brings value and purpose, and letting go of the rest.
Focus on each object and determine whether it adds value or purpose. If it doesn’t, donate or pass it on to someone who may be able to use it. Soon you’ll start thinking more critically about making decisions and living with intention. This begins in our homes through the way we arrange our belongings, and the choices we make about bringing new things into our life, and continues into our relationships.
‘I am not my stuff; we are more than our possessions. Our memories are within us, not within our things. Holding on to stuff imprisons us; letting go is freeing. You can take pictures of items you want to remember. Old photographs can be scanned. An item that is sentimental for us can be useful for someone else.’
Step 2: ‘Love people, use things’
In today’s culture, material goods have become substitutes for deep and meaningful connections. Most of our relationships are due to proximity – work colleagues, people you may socialise with in your neighbourhood or friendship circles. But are they relationships based on mutual values and beliefs or shared ideas? Becoming minimalist means you value your time and the things you bring into your life, including relationships. If you choose to live your life more deliberately, it follows that your relationships should be more deliberate too. They should add value and meaning to your life. If they don’t, consider whether they’re necessary to your wellbeing. Declutter your social calendar the same way you did with your home, and make time for those who truly matter to you.
‘Being chained by obligation to a relationship is disingenuous, a false loyalty birthed from pious placation’ — Joshua Field Millburns
Step 3: Prioritise without the excuses
Do you wish you had a bit more money or time to do something more intentional with your life than just working 9-5 in order to pay bills? Minimalism can help with your finances too. Look at what you spend money on every month, go through each itemised line in your bills and decide if it was a need, want or like. Cut out all the likes from your
expenditure, then later, all the wants, so that you’re left with what you truly need. You should have cash left over, which can provide you with perhaps more time (maybe you can cut back on your hours at work if time is what you need), or more money to get out of debt or to help others, or save for your family’s future.
‘The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it’ — Henry David Thoreau
In essence, minimalism is a practical way to live your life – financially, spiritually and physically. It calls for you to live life with only what you need, in a space that fits your life, and to live with purpose and intention. It requires positive action – it’s a constant work in progress and will mean different things to different people. It doesn’t require you to give up your loves or passions; while your home might be filled with stamp albums or surfaces buried under the latest non-fiction, if they add value to your life, keep them. Minimalism is not just for single people – it can be a lifestyle choice for families, and an excellent belief system to nurture in children. What can be more important than teaching
kids to live responsibly, with intention, purpose, and integrity? And to show them that happiness is not found in material possessions, but in that which we choose to value.
FEATURE: TARYN DAS NEVES PHOTO: FOTOLIA.COM