‘So, do you even have any furniture in your living room anymore?’ Yes – we have furniture because we truly enjoy not having to sitting on the floor all day. I am often asked similar questions from friends and strangers alike when I discuss minimalism with them. When we talk about minimalism as an idea, many people have vastly different concepts about what it means and that’s perfectly fine.
It’s a human tendency to look for systems, grade levels and rankings in our lives. We want to know where our place is in the world. In a way, society is built around this concept as well. First grade through eighth grade, then you’re a freshman, eventually a high school senior, then do that all over again in college. Get a ‘good job’ and you’re a Business Analyst, then a Business Analyst 1, a Business Analyst 2, Senior Business Analyst, Business Analyst Manager, etc.
A lot of people try to create artificial rankings in areas of life that do not need them.
Minimalism is a very personal journey and an important tool that helps us identify and pursue what we truly want in life. The way we use the tool will vary as greatly as the people themselves that use it. If you came to this post hoping for a cut and dry definition of what a real minimalist is, you won’t find it here. This way requires a little more thinking about what is important to us and what we want in life. With that, here are six things that real minimalists always do:
1. Seek rules that fit
If a particular structure or system would be helpful, maybe the 100 Thing Challenge would work. Perhaps playing the minimalist game month after month until the clutter is gone will be the solution. I found that creating space limitations for my clothing was very beneficial to my previously dreaded laundry process. There is no one thing that qualifies nor disqualifies you to be a minimalist.
Let’s remove the ‘aspiring’ from our minimalist titles and know that minimalism is the constant pursuit of what makes us happy, not a goal to be reached. We are minimalists from the start, until we decide not to be.
As there is no one minimalism solution that works for everyone, we have to be willing to try different things. It’s a personal lifestyle choice that requires us to try new systems and strategies to see what will work best. Be willing to try new things and let them marinate for a while to see how it works for us. If it doesn’t go so well…
3. Be willing to fail
Failure is how we learn in life. Learn to celebrate failure when a system is too restrictive, or doesn’t quite work. If having 100 possessions makes us miserable, that means we failed using that particular system. We must learn the difference between failing and being a failure – we must not tie our self-worth to any particular number that someone came up with. What works for some will not work for all.
4. Reduce clutter
Clutter is anything that gets in the way of doing more of what brings us great satisfaction. That may be reducing physical clutter around the house to make cleaning easier and being around the house less stressful. It’s possible that reducing clutter may consist of freeing up time on the calendar to avoid constant business. Being a minimalist means reducing clutter in life to pursue that which matters most.
5. Do more of what matters
Now that the clutter is reduced, put that energy towards doing more of what matters. Whether that’s traveling, finally building up a savings cushion, or spending more time cooking healthy meals for our families, it’s all about what matters most. It’s been shown that experiences bring the most lasting happiness and great personal satisfaction comes from helping others. The happiness that comes with decluttering will eventually fade, so we must continually pursue the things that matter most to us.
6. Potentially ignore this list
You may have noticed a theme with these rules – they’re not so much of rules as much as a set of instructions to find the minimalism that works best. You can be a minimalist today and I highly urge you to own that title and go forth into the world viewing life through that lens. In the end, the only thing that will matter is whether we lived the life we wanted to live.
What is your minimalist mantra? Share what has worked for you in the comments below.