1. Intro | What really is minimalism?
Minimalism has been used as a buzzword for quite some time now. You most likely got suggested a Youtube video with it as clickbait, seen a blog post shared on Twitter about it, or heard a friend mention it. And if you ventured even the slightest bit into the rabbit hole that it has become, you probably saw the hoards of people yelling at each other about what minimalism is… and if x person is minimalist enough or not.
Let’s leave all that aside, because arguments like those don’t serve us any purpose. In this 4-part article, I will go through what minimalism truly is at its core, if it’s good for you, and how can you implement it further than just decluttering your house.
Minimalism is living with what (and who) is useful and/or brings us joy. That’s it. It has almost nothing to do with minimalistic style and design, those are aesthetic choices you have when deciding on what furniture you want or what hat to use. You can implement style and design into making your life more practical, but we’ll talk about that later.
It’s also not about the amount of items that you have. If you want to collect 8 million types of stamps and it genuinely makes you happy, you can still call yourself a minimalist, no one’s stopping you. You’re being conscious about what you spend your money on and on what you don’t.
This lifestyle is about minimizing stress around you and time-wasting activities, and maximizing your free time to spend it doing what you like with the people you love. Sounds sappy, I know, but isn’t that what we all aspire to do? To live with no worries.
Of course that’s idealistic. Problems will always arise, drama will happen at one point or another. But it’s about leaving all unnecessary issues aside and focus on what’s really important to you.
This article is divided into 4 parts:
- Intro – You’ve just read it!
- Physical minimalism. – The part we all heard about first: decluttering and organizing your space to maximize productivity.
- Digital minimalism. – Reduce all distractions, social media and the effects it has in you, how to focus on quality content and avoid unnecessary drama.
- Mental minimalism. – How to reduce stress, choosing the people you associate with, leave drama behind, focus on your goals. (The cheesiest-sounding one, but probably the most important and dependent on all other areas of minimalism)
2. Physical Minimalism
The physical aspect of minimalism is the most well-known. The idea of decluttering sounds super fun and to some people, relaxing even.
So let’s talk about decluttering first then, where do you start? In the area closest to you – It’s 10x easier that way. For every item you see, think:
- If you actually use it,
- If it’s practical to have it,
- If you have multiple, is it necessary to own more than one?
- If it’s not exactly practical, does it make you extra happy? Would you be ok if it suddenly vanished?
If it’s useful to you in every day life, keep it. If it makes you really happy, keep it.
If it serves no purpose or you use it extremely rarely, trash it. If you’re indiffferent and it’s not practical, trash it.
Only put things in a donate/sell pile if you are sure you’ll get rid of them soon. That pair of shot glasses will probably do better in the trash than in your cabinet for 9 months until you find someone that wants them. Donation piles too quickly turn into ‘ahh, I might as well keep it’ and we’re back to square one.
The rest is self-explanatory. Sell what you can, throw the rest away, clean everything up, etc. etc.
But what happens after decluttering? As I said on Minimalism After Declutter, the key is maintaining it. You need to learn not to spend money on useless items. A cute shirt is nice when you first buy it, but if it was a split second decision it’ll probably end up at the back of your closet.
Only buy things you need or really look forward to using/enjoying. I personally don’t go shopping unless I have a specific item of clothing in mind because I need it. To some people this is too much and would rather buy something nice once a month. This is totally up to you, the key is never going overboard.
Reading up on consumerism may help you put into perspective why we all feel it’s instinctive to buy a lot of items, and consequently will make it easier to go against those impulses (I wrote about this in Consumerism Is Dead).
It may take months, but once you get the gist of it, physical minimalism becomes a piece of cake. And then what?
Decluttering your physical space helps you focus on what you actually use and what you like doing. The next step is decluttering your virtual space to have access to quality information, get rid of unnecessary, vapid online drama, and ease the anxious feeling that often comes with using social media.
3. Digital Minimalism
In this day and age, our virtual space is just as important as our physical space. We store most information online and we have an online image and brand to maintain, whether you’re famous or not. This creates a second layer to our social circle and privacy that we have to keep track of, which more often than not creates feelings of anxiety and nervousness, which have been and are still being researched to this day.
Tech minimalism’s first goal is to have only hardware and software you use, and store information that is actually valuable. Having done that, as well as being properly organizing said information, makes paying attention to the tasks at hand way easier. After all, if you have to hunt down a file or bookmark for 5 minutes every time, it’s unlikely you’ll be very productive.
Tech minimalism’s second goal is perphaps the most important: Getting rid of drama and low-quality content. Cleaning up your follower lists on every social site is a good way to start. Instead of manually going through each person you follow right away, scroll down your timelines. If you constantly grunt at someone’s posts, or ignore them, unfollow them. If they are constantly throwing indirects people’s ways to start drama, unfollow them. Once you’ve done that for a couple of days, do go through your lists. Have someone muted? Why even follow them then?* Do they post misinformation? Why risk believing it? Make sure to discern between toxic people and people with differing opinions, however. Sealing yourself in an echo-chamber won’t do you any good either.
Consider getting rid of certain social media accounts. If:
- That social media company is known for causing privacy concerns (I’m looking at you, Facebook),
- You find yourself not using it rarely or only mindlessly scrolling though it,
- It’s taking up most of your life to the point where it hinders you or makes you anxious,
You should probably start cleaning up. I recently put out Vanish, which guides you through the steps to vanish off the internet, to whichever degree you might like.
Once you went through all of this, deleting apps and programs, unfollowing people, deleting old and/or useless accounts, you will feel much more at peace and in control of your online image. This, again, greatly helps you work efficiently and frees up your time, as well as getting rid of unnecessary stress. Of course, it will take time for you to learn to use social media less and not scroll for hours on end, but it’s a great place to start. If you catch yourself bored and wasting time on it, make a choice not to use your phone for 30 minutes. Eventually, you will only pick it up when you actually need it or want to consciously check new content out.
*There are some exceptions to this, e.g. business accounts, but this article is focused on your personal accounts.
4. Mental Minimalism
The mental part of minimalism is the one ignored the most, yet the most important. What purpose does a clean, tidy house serve if it doesn’t help us be happy and stress-free? It’s hard to talk about this area of minimalism without coming across as cheesy, but let’s give it a whirl.
This part ties in and depends on all the others- To reduce your stress and anxiety, you have to choose the people you associate with, which nowadays has a lot to do with who you follow and who you keep in contact with online, and through what means you do so. To be able to focus better on tasks, it’s great to have an organized space. Being able to put this all together like a well-oiled machine will make your life much simpler and enjoyable.
The one aspect we haven’t touched on yet is social interactions in real life. Just as you unfriend and unfollow someone online, one has to learn to let go of people we know that aren’t adding to our lives. If you have a friend or family member that only feeds negativity into your life, is it really worth it to keep reaching out? These decisions tend to be hard to make, as they should be, but turn out to be the ones that make the most impact in your everyday life.
Minimalism can be divided into infinitely smaller pieces- There’s fitness, food, health, etc. It’s up to each of us to decide what we could use it on. It all comes down to using the two questions we all see repeated time and time again: Is it practical? Does it bring joy? Ask that and you’re set in any area of your life that needs improving. And as said on the introduction, don’t expect it all to be perfect- At the end of the day, we all buy something we shouldn’t, we all have a negative person that sticks around no matter what, and we all get into arguments every now and then.
Don’t get caught up in the number of items you have, if you’re stylish enough, etc. But on practicity. Though if following a certain style or working towards an arbitrary number makes you happy, go ahead! Whatever works best for you. But don’t get into minimalism for the trendiness of it, use only what will truly help you in your everyday life. Like I mentioned in Minimalism: Guilt and Punishment, if you start feeling guilty over havingX amount of items or buying something you love, you end up falling into the same pattern a hoarder falls: one of obsession.
That is all you need to know about minimalism. Whether you decide to use it or have already implemented it, let me know in the comments!