Six years ago when I started learning about minimalism, I didn’t know what to expect. Sure, I heard about how minimalism makes your life easier and less cluttered. However, I didn’t truly understand how minimalism would impact me—the specifics, you know? The concrete ways of how getting rid of things, creating space, and minimalism as a whole could lead to living a more intentional, fulfilling life. But over the years of exploring and sharing what I’ve learned here, my experience has validated that minimalism is a fundamental building block for creating consistency in personal growth, and building better habits.
Minimalism is both an effective tool and one of the best places to start if you know something in your life needs to change.
I get the disconnect though. It’s a bit of a leap to believe that simply donating a few pieces of clothing translates to more space and your life magically getting better. The math doesn’t quite add up—but it’s the space that is slowly built over time, even the seemingly inconsequential things that have allowed me to be more consistent than ever.
Consistency is where the magic happens. Small, steady improvements change the entire game. And minimalism creates space for consistency. That’s where it all comes together.
Consistency is impossible without margin.Anthony Ongaro
The Importance of Margin
Life is unpredictable and inconsistent. I mean, look at the year we’ve just been through. 2020 really put a lot of us through the wringer. When we sat down at the end of 2019 to dream up what the next year would look like, I don’t think any of us would have painted this picture. And just in case any time travelers happen to be reading this, buy stock in Zoom and Peloton at the end of March 2020. You’ll thank me later.
Even outside the wildly unexpected global pandemic, things happen. Unexpected delays, events, or tasks can result in not enough time, energy, or resources to do what you set out to do.
So when you’re running late, feeling overwhelmed, and you can’t do that thing you’ve committed to doing—it’s not because you’re not good enough or need to work harder or faster. If you have too many things in a box, and life suddenly hands you another thing to put in it, it’s not because you’re not a capable put-stuff-in-a-boxer. However hard you push, it’s not going to fit in the box. You’re not going to have space for an extra thing if the box is already full. That’s just how it works.
Minimalism is what helps you create the space to be consistent across different areas of your life. If your schedule is slammed full, the odds of you being able to consistently have time and energy get to the gym to work out will be lowered.
Minimalism and Attention
The minimalism effect even goes beyond the calendar and physical space. Minimalism also impacts attention space. I’m talking about the energy bucket that’s drained from us when we’re super focused on creative, analytical, or detailed work. If we’re not careful about protecting our attention space and what we spend that on, we can end up with less energy to spend on the things that are personally important to us.
With decluttering clothing in particular, it’s easy to see how it translates to less time choosing what to wear since you will have fewer options to choose from. Removing an item from your life means that you’re not organizing or cleaning it. You’re not even thinking about items that are no longer in your life. This also applies to attention space. The fewer things you do, the better you can do those things.
But this is where it can get kind of tricky. Because sometimes our subconscious can over leverage our attention as a defensive measure. It’s one of the ways we can self-sabotage and prevent ourselves from giving our full selves to the few most important things.
There are many reasons why it may be scary to give our full selves to something. What if we do that and it’s not good enough? What if it ends up not working out? That can be a scary proposition, and so it’s sometimes easier to be incredibly busy and distracted with lots of things going on. The clutter helps to hide those underlying insecurities and feelings of not-enoughness.
If it were easy to simply commit to just doing one or two things over and over again until we got to mastery, then we’d all choose that path. But instead, many of us feel societal pressure to do more and more. Many of us deal with limiting beliefs that get in our way. Minimalism helps reduce the noise, increase our awareness, and save more energy for what’s truly important.
Minimalism as a Practice
The final way in how minimalism builds consistency is that it’s meant to be a consistent practice that ebbs and flows as your life changes. Minimalism isn’t mean to be an end goal. There’s no pressure to reach an end goal where you’re finally a minimalist and now you’re done. Your life is going to be change; your needs and interests are going to shift.
The decluttering process is a series of decisions and choices on what you want in your life and what you don’t. When you first start decluttering, the items you declutter may be smaller and it may go more slowly. As you go on though, you’re actually building your decision muscle and confidence. It will get easier and easier to decide. Minimalism as a practice is about paying attention and actively deciding what to declutter and what to keep as your life evolves.
At the core of it, I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to be a minimalist. You will have more time and energy to go after what’s important to you. You will have greater awareness and confidence to face the small discomforts and the unpredictability of life. This work is ultimately what Break the Twitch is about—identifying and stepping into small discomforts, slowly building the muscle that allows us to do it better and better over time. That’s personal growth, and it’s what I’ve been doing steadily since embarking on this journey six years ago.