Musings on Minimalism

As far back as I can remember, I have always made excuses to keep things that meant something to me somewhat.

It didn’t matter if I had a notebook that I wrote in for half a page when I was seven, I had to keep it. Who knows what would happen if I got rid of that priceless treasure from my life, that brief, valuable insight from my childhood? It would be useful one day, right?

As I grew older, I started to see things from a different perspective. I started to question my goals of keeping everything I felt was dear to me. Where is the joy of living in the present when you are stuck in the confines of the past? Where is the limit? To what end will I keep collecting relics of my past for no other reason than to spark a fading memory?

These ‘things’ didn’t make me happy in themselves, they just served as a reminder for old memories. Memories are nothing to belittle, but as corny as it sounds, life is meant to be lived in the moment; and it was this realisation that helped me to let go of a lot of the small things I had in life.

There are theories that minimalism can be sparked as a reaction to growing up in the very opposite type of environment. From anecdotal evidence, you can find many discussions online where people theorise that their minimalist struggles are a direct result of their parents’ hoarding (which itself may have been due to poverty). Some go even further and say that hoarding is the same as overeating, and that minimalism in one will naturally lead to minimalism in the other. There is certainly an interesting correlation between these life decisions, but this will likely be covered in another post.

Let’s proceed with how I embraced my minimalist journey.

Everything is a Memory

I had a plethora of items whether it was clothes, books DVDs that were just there. I didn’t have to use them frequently at all, the fact was that they were mine and they were there.

What I didn’t realise over the long term was that as my possessions built up, my life became more disorganised. It wasn’t me who owned these items, it it were these items which were beginning to own me. (credit to Mr Durden for that one)

“The things you own end up owning you”

Now this isn’t me just taking a cheesy quote from a hit movie and going on about how enlightened I am. But this also isn’t downplaying how much influence media can have in helping you form thoughts (isn’t that a purpose of art, after all?).

When I heard that quote I realised how true it was in my instance. If I kept everything I had for the reason that it was mine – regardless of how much I used (or didn’t use) it – then I was a captive of my own possessions.

Another thing which has helped me to let go of things I consider a memory is to understand the fact that everything in life is or will be a memory. Even your existence. It makes no sense therefore to keep things around solely on this basis. The bank card you’ve been using for the last 3 years, the shoes that have carried you to work and to leisure for the past 4 years. Everything is a memory. Where will it end? The boundary needs to be drawn somewhere.

Minimalism is Freedom

Taking a look at the other side of the coin, imagine a life with no arbitrary attachments to daily objects. You use what you need to use and discard that which is unnecessary. It sounds brutal but this is not to say you cant keep something dear to you or that you have to get rid of almost everything you have. Minimalism begins with the mentality before the practicality.

“A tidy room is the sign of a clear mind”

This kind of life is not only practical, but tidy and efficient. The minimalist mentality is freedom. Freedom from blind consumerism, commercialism and materialism.

The stances are set as they should be. If something is not essential to your life then its not essential to you. Minimalism re-establishes the boundaries between Man and the material. You are back in control.

Playing Your Part

Now this might sound like a bit of a stretch, but minimalism can be good for the environment, and by large good for the world.

Not buying things if not essential means reducing your waste usage as a human being. You aren’t necessarily impulsive buying, and taking home with you the plastic wrapping as well as the product.

Minimalism essentially means reducing your footprint, and this goes hand in hand with reducing your waste footprint on the world. By rejecting the need to buy and hoard items and use only what you need you are helping to make the world a better place, one person at a time.

Extreme Minimalism…You’re Doing it Wrong

There are those who look too deep into the practicals of minimalism and miss the point. Such people will make it their life mission to reduce their clothes, items and general belongings to a pre-set number of things regardless of their needs and lifestyle. For these people. Having less possessions is the absolute goal.

Here’s my take: Minimalism doesn’t necessarily mean reducing all your belongings, one doesn’t have to have a set number of belongings to qualify. Minimalism is to remove all excess things from your life which add no value.

This means you can live a minimalist lifestyle with a house full of things, as long as you genuinely need and use those things. A Butcher might need a set of 10 knives for example, whereas the Painter will find no such use. A Carpenter might require a shed full of tools, something which is unlikely for the Chef.

If you have a use for it, don’t let anyone else convince you that you need to get rid of it.

There is no international, agreed upon standard for minimalism. You define your life.

The Tool, Not the Goal

Its important to remember that while minimalism is a way of living your life, it is not the absolute goal. In other words, it is just the means to an end – not the end itself.

Many people strive towards a minimalist lifestyle and feel empty after achieving what they think is their goal. It is important to understand that there is no finishing line. Its just a way of running. Your life goals should be separate and remain unchanged, minimalism is just a tool to help you achieve them.

For example, acehiveing a minimalist lifestyle would be a way of freeing up time in your life, time that would have been spent doing more productive things.

Instead of clearing out your apartment every other day. It wont get as messy in the first place. You will have that time to yourself to progress on your own interests and hobbies. Having such interests and hobbies is essential to leading a fulfilling lifestyle. It is an important compliment to minimalism which is essential to address.

What’s Next?

To conclude, although I have come a long way in my personal journey with minimalism, I know that I have a long way to go. Its a mindset that should be applied to diet, possessions and digital presence. I also need to understand what I mentioned above. That when I’m done, Ill be done. Falling into the trap of not understanding that minimalism is just a means, not an end is something I will have to avoid, and hopefully this will pave the way for new hobbies and activities.

If used correctly, minimalism can be an excellent tool to help live a fulfilling life… Fun times!

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