A Working Definition of Minimalism

Oh hello. What brings you here?

You want a …definition? Of minimalism? From me?

Why, I’d be just delighted…!

Okay okay, you didn’t ask. You probably already have a good understanding of what makes someone a minimalist or not.

But you know, I think I’d like to offer you one. I’d like to offer up the working definition that I use. We could compare ideas, you and I. There are a lot of resources out there for decluttering and obtaining more “minimalist looking items”, but that’s not really something I’ve had an issue with. I understand the “stuff” aspect. The mentality is a little more tricky to nail down. How do you know when you’ve made the transition into thinking like a minimalist? How much of that journey is just struggling with yourself? When does that become a lifestyle?

As a short answer, if you recognize that stuff is just stuff and that your relationships with people, with the world, are what’s important, then I’d say you’re bonifide GD minimalist. It begins as a lifestyle when you are able to let go and choose deliberately things that add value to your life, to deliberately choose to live with less.

I recognize that this answer is not a complete one.

One could argue that choosing to have a collection of say, sneakers, adds value to their lives. The aesthetics of the collection, the variety, the rarity,

This lifestyle is still a new transition for me, and my mindset is not set in stone. My definition is not yet calcified, nor do I honestly hope for it to ever be.

The nice thing about choosing Minimalism as a lifestyle is that the interpretation of it can be curated to suit anyone. There’s no wrong way to do it, there’s no limit on the ways you choose to incorporate it in areas of your life. The definition you choose can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be.

For me, that has a few parts:

A mantra:

Live a conscious, intentional life, curated by purpose, driven by happiness.

A physical aspect

Owning no more than what adds value to my life.

An aesthetic:

Functional, pleasing to the eye, does not disrupt your overall harmony.

A standard:

High quality, durable, and eco friendly to the end.

Within each of these are other parts and qualifications, but mostly, I think it’s simple enough to follow.

Basically, I try to only introduce an item into my life if I need it (wanting it, not withstanding); if it serves a specific function and I anticipate using it consistently; if it fits in with my style, is durable and environmentally conscious.

So. Easy.

No, actually, I struggle with this a lot. I may not go to the mall on my lunch breaks anymore, but the pull of fast fashion is erewhere. Shiny things still grab my attention. New gadgets, and of course, finely crafted shoes are still greatly appealing. As I delve deeper into sustainable fashion and products, and maybe one day transitioning into a zero waste life style, one very important thing becomes clear:

This is hard.

Conscious, sustainable living isn’t easy, and changing lifelong habits is supremely difficult until, of course, one day it isn’t.

So…What do you think?

What definition of minimalism do you like to use?

About me/First post.

So, here’s a section one rarely sees on the blogs these days– the first page. The very beginning of the blog. First page. First impressions. Newbie gainz in the world of the social media. Mostly because… we tend not to go this far.

And you- you actually did the thing! You made it! Nice job! Here’s your prize.

Just kidding.

Perhaps you’re looking to dig into my roots- see where I started, how I was when I first began this venture. Perhaps, you want to compare my writing in a now v. then kinda situation (I hope it gets better as I go along, but idk, what if I minimized down to just bullet points or haikus??). Maybe you want to binge on my posts and ride the roller coaster of transition from start to finish. Maybe you clicked the wrong thing by accident.

Maybe you want some ideas on how you can get started in living a minimalist lifestyle.

As I am writing this, I want you to know that I am a beginner to minimalism. It’s been something that I have been thinking about seriously implementing for only half a year, so I am very, very new to this. I didn’t really commit to it as a permanent lifestyle until April of this year, and even then it was somewhat of a spontaneous decision.

It began with a friend giving me his ticket to see Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things the year before. I call this The Before Times.

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The Minimalists, Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn. They love coffee.

I had a pretty specific idea of what minimalists were, and I kinda thought they were all crazy people. My working definition was something like those folks that ration out exactly 4 squares of toilet paper to their five kids per use (different group o’ folks, thankfully, those Extreme Cheapskates). They all had precisely one cup, one spoon, one lamp, one chair… going by that example – and some people really do live that way, happily- I hadn’t any particularly strong,  positive feelings about it being something I could apply to my own life.

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My cat with her scrunchie. Gawd, LOOK AT HER. Get u a man that looks at u the way she looks at me.

I thought I was doing just fine (just one cat, all my shoes fit into one closet). I enjoyed the film, but it seemed like something only fairly wealthy people could do, that only they could just decide to walk away from their six-figure jobs and possessions into the sunset of freedom and possibility with only the things they can fit into a carryon. I’m just a laymen. Cynically, I surmised that they all likely had significant savings to float on while they figured out how to make this work; of course it was easy to walk away and start afresh when you don’t have to worry about finding a place to live.

Not salty.

One thing I couldn’t throw shade at however, was just how genuinely contented and fulfilled these folks seemed. And that turned out to be a BIG incentive for me to actually give this a shot. They were free to do whatever they wanted, to pursue their dreams, take those chances to end up in places they never anticipated. And when I say “free”, I mean mentally free. The physical decluttering gave way to this incredible mental decluttering, unlocking their final forms. They were able to let go. Like most young folk post university, all that’s been on my mind for four years has been “pay off your student loans, pay them off, do it now, get your own place, learn how to cook a signature dish, figure out what the hell you want to do with your life, and somehow acquire the skills and experience to have a career making those big dollars. And network. Don’t forget to do that. Oh, you’re anxious? Hope you have health insurance!” No pressure, right?

 

With and despite all of that looming ever in the foreground, I had never thought to question whether my own contentment or discontentment in life might be linked to how/why I accumulated stuff, or even why I was so firmly entrenched in this correlation that having certain “stuff” = having all my shit together. I did not have any dreams of living elsewhere, of having goals that required some real risk taking, because I can’t do anything more until my debt is gone, until I have savings of x amount, until I pay off my mattress, until… you get it.

It smacked of unconscious living. Of excuses. Of holding on for fear of losing control. Of Defeat. Of letting the grind grind me. But for a long time, I did nothing about that part; just let it stew in my little brain, broiling in disquiet. Other shit was going on, why should I worry about this now?

 

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Photo by Robert Nelson on Unsplash

In January of this year, I made an impulsive decision. Using that spirit of new beginnings that only happens during the first two weeks of the new year, I decided to give minimalism a try.
My method? I did my first #minsgame challenge.

For those of you wondering why I am hashtagging this, the #minsgame challenge was invented by The Minimalists, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus and is played as follows: On the first day of the month, you choose one item to get rid of; on the second day, two items, on the third, three items, and you continue this way until the end of the month. If you make it to the end of the month, you win.

I completed this challenge and donated/sold/recycled/trashed 532 items from my one bedroom apartment.

532 items.

I was shook. (Still shook.)

In case you were wondering, the losers were lashed 50 times with a wet noodle.

Some Questions:

  1. How did I come to have so much stuff in the first place?
  2. Where did I even store those things? (Junk drawers. Plural.)
  3. Why was it so easy to get rid of it all?

Ah, Consumerism!* (more on that later)

I’m not going to pretend I didn’t struggle to let go of some things, especially during the later half of the month when I was tossing out 28 and 29 items per day, but now, months later, I couldn’t even name you twenty of those items. Because it’s just stuff. And sure, you might be fond of it, you might have good memories attached to some things, your favorite grandparent might have given it to you, but in the end, you can’t take it with you. You know what I mean with that. So, why not adopt the motto of The Minimalists?

Love people and use things.”
Not the other way around.

That phrase is the end goal that keeps on giving as I document my journey into this lifestyle. Live a conscious, intentional life, curated by purpose, driven by happiness. Most of the changes I plan to make start small, but they are intentional tweaks to my everyday processes. Eventually, they will add up. There are a lot of different components to my new working definition of being a minimalist and it seems to be something that needs to be flexible out of necessity. I’m sure mistakes will be made along the way.

This blog as a result will be equally flexible in subject matter. It would be quite boring to only post about what I got rid of, I think, although I will certainly strive to document what I choose to live without and why. My intention is to chronicle my thoughts about Minimalism in real-team as I make these changes across all avenues of life. Decluttering is like 18% of the struggle.

It’s a bit daunting to put yourself on blast for the whole dang world to see, but the best accountability buddies are strangers from the internet. I’m a beginner to this lifestyle, so I can’t say I’m a full on Minimalist yet. You wouldn’t immediately know it looking at me.

Some might say I’m… Low-key. A low-key minimalist.

I look forward to sharing this journey with you all.

 

 

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Wow, this was a pretty long first entry.

If you made it this far, here is a second prize.