Often people focus on the act of getting rid of things when talking about minimalism. While purging is indeed an important part of removing excess and distractions in your surroundings, it’s not the end all be all. In fact, it completely misses the actual reason we decided to become minimalists.
Yes, it can feel amazing to go through the process of deciding what is important to us but it can also be pretty miserable. Decluttering is something that almost always gets worse before it gets better. The closet gets torn apart, those tucked away storage areas explode onto the dining room table and we’re often overwhelmed by the prospect of deciding what on earth to do with all of it. Like all good things, it takes time to realize the full value of our efforts.
Is there a point where we can fully be ‘minimalists’? Do we reach a point where we are completely comfortable with our surroundings, the things we own and live with? In her book, Marie Kondo suggests that this point is attainable: We will hit a point of decluttering that we will likely not relapse from. She states that once the things that don’t bring you joy are gone, everything will have its proper place in your home.
My question is, what then?
It seems the focus on getting rid of things is prevalent because many of us really do seem to have so much stuff to get rid of. Once we’ve come to the realization that we’re surrounded by excess the most reasonable thing to do is to start purging. Would someone coming from poverty having few possessions experience the same kind of positive feelings around minimalism if the point were only to get rid of their already few things? I don’t think so.
To us, the point of minimalism is what happens once the things are gone. It means being content with the things that we have and being able to quiet the voice that desires more. It doesn’t matter how much or how little we had before – the point is what happens next. Removing the distractions and the clutter is what makes room for more good to come into our lives (and it has). Maybe it was there all along and we were simply too busy organizing, acquiring and spending to see it. We must first expel the bad in order to make room to receive the good.
We’ve seen more flexibility come into our daily lives, we have more time to work on things we care about, as there is much less cleaning, organizing and laundry to do. Opportunities have arrived that simply did not exist previously.
It does feel great to get rid of stuff, but the true value lies in what happens next.