Note: This is a guest post written by Colin Ashby of Rebel With A Plan.
Living a simple and intentional life has been my goal for a while. I don’t want material possessions and stuff to weigh me down and keep me from doing what I want to do. Over the years I’ve decluttered, given stuff away, and focused on what was important. I feel proud to live a life with stuff and experiences I truly value, I just didn’t expect the anxiety that came from the label of minimalism.
The first foray many have into minimalism is taking stock of all they own. You look at your possessions, determine their worth, figure out what is most important to you, and get rid of the rest. The literal weight of your possessions comes off of your back. You’re able to pursue more of what lines up with your values and optimal lifestyle.
Many of us are nervous when embarking on a new journey. We’re unsure of if we’re doing something right or in a good way. We crave structure and want to attach benchmarks and quotas to hit on our journey toward living with less. Hitting the benchmarks pours out a strong sense of satisfaction. We feel that tangible end goal. We crave that instant gratification of hitting it. Pursuing one goal after the next.
The various decluttering videos on YouTube show us how a person declutters to just the essentials. There are videos on living in tiny houses, being makeup free, and foregoing as many purchases as possible. This in turn creates an assumption: that to be minimalist, you have to do exactly as a certain video or thought leader explains. As minimalism as risen in popularity in recent years, the stereotype has inevitably grown stronger.
The “typical minimalist” is supposed to either live in a cabin out in the middle of nowhere or in an all-white, small and chic apartment. They are supposed to live with only five shirts and be able to fit all of their stuff into two suitcases. If a person still has several possessions, they’re deemed as doing decluttering “wrong”.
Ironically, in the act of running away from the consumerist attitude of more, more, more, a damaging narrative of less, less, less to the point of having nothing outside of living supplies has developed.
Minimalism became viewed as this thing where all non-necessary purchases were deemed bad and living with the bare minimum was to be expected. Anyone who didn’t follow this received a stark reaction from online and offline critics. It caused some to ditch the label of ‘minimalist’ and instead shift their focus towards living with less, without the minimalist branding.
Minimalism doesn’t have to be about living without absolute non-essential things.
On my journey toward living with less, I had set a goal to move abroad. I wanted to live in a different way, free from a car and lots of stuff and instead experience a different societal atmosphere. For several months leading up to the move, I lived on a minimal budget, never went shopping, and ditched my car. When it came time to leave, I had set up a foundation that allowed the transition to be relatively simple.
In my new current living situation, I continue to practice living with a minimal budget and spending on what I really value. One of those values is travel and photography. In the past year, I have gotten to tour all over Thailand and visit places like Myanmar and China. Along the way, I’ve brought my two cameras and accompanying lenses. My laptop sits in my backpack so I have it whenever I want to edit stuff in Lightroom or Photoshop.
People have asked why I carry so many electronics with me when I could just use something like an iPhone for it all. It’s simple, the things bring me immense value. I don’t want to get rid of them and it’s refreshing to realize that I don’t have to.
So this is my current situation. I carry several electronics, I still sometimes get too much take out food, and I have boxes I still haven’t gone through filled with stuff I may not need. But I feel good. I’ve gotten rid of a lot of baggage and I’m focusing my efforts and time on what matters most.
Maybe this is what minimalism looks like for me. No white walls required.