My parents divorced when I was young, so as you’d expect, I ended up with two bedrooms in two different houses. When the time came to move out as a 21-year-old, I combined all my things and was immediately overwhelmed with anxiety. Though I hadn’t yet considered living with less until a few years later, when my mindset suddenly shifted.
I’d known about minimalism for quite some time, but my impression of minimalism had taken the form of a manufactured home decor post on Instagram. It seemed an unrealistic, bourgeois aesthetic. But my entire perception changed while scrolling through the r/minimalism subreddit.
The forum posts a weekly “My Room” thread in which members post photos of their minimal bedrooms. As I was scrolling through, I was in awe of realistically minimal bedrooms of the internet. The visually calming rooms encompassed neutral tones, negative space, and thoughtfully displayed items. Suddenly, I couldn’t wait to free myself from the shackles of clutter.
Minimalism entails a life of intentionality by curating your items, relationships and values. Call it what you will – Essentialism, Anti-Consumerism, or Intentionalism. But the core of the philosophy is about creating space for what matters and shedding the excess. It’s an individual process – not a competition of who can own the least. I’d like to share some of the ways that minimalism has improved my life over the years.
How to Let Go
Minimalism empowered me to let go of things that no longer brought value to my life. What I lost in physical items, I gained in mental clarity and contentment. To this day, I still love auditing my things and uncovering new items that can bring others joy. Sometimes I hang onto an item for a little longer before selling or giving it away, but I haven’t regretted a single thing I’ve passed on.
Decluttering has never felt so satisfying. The initial cleanout a few years ago resulted in bags and bags of stuff I’d completely forgotten about. As my possessions reduced, I no longer needed the furniture to store them. Selling my empty furniture then allowed me to free up a spare room for a future housemate.
How to Desire Less
Minimalism taught me how to distinguish between what I want and what I need. I’ve always been frugal by nature, but at times I’d catch myself falling under the spell of consumeristic ideals. These days, I’ve become more content with what I have and more careful with bringing new things into my life. In turn, I can hold onto more of my hard-earned money. Owning less also means less debt and less debt means you can earn a lower income to live comfortably. This is my motive for working a 4-day week.
In Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism, Fumio Sasaki suggests that different stores are essentially your “personal warehouses” – shelves filled with everything you could ever need. But most of us treat our homes like warehouses; we convince ourselves to keep items for the “just in case” or “when I have time” occasions that never come.
How to Practice Gratitude
Minimalism taught me to be more grateful for the roof over my head. It also taught me to appreciate the little joys peppered through our daily life. Sitting in my favourite chair on bright mornings with a coffee and a novel. Catching up with friends over wine and a home-cooked meal. Or watching my favourite show with a purring cat nestled on my lap.
Every time I move to a new house, the process becomes quicker and easier. My last move took exactly one week from beginning to end, all while working full time. Likewise, I am pleased that every item has a home, which helps create a calm and welcoming space.
How to Focus on What Matters
Minimalism taught me to channel my focus into pastimes that matter to me. Throughout my days, I’d accumulated a bunch of unused hobby tools but with leading a busy life, my “someday” had turned into “never”. So, I decided to give them away. If the time did come, I knew that I could easily repurchase them. I now have so much more time to focus on the hobbies that will bring value to my life.
I also learned that an arbitrary salary is not worth your mental health. During my working life, I found myself needing to get out of a few stressful, soul-sucking jobs. And each time I changed course, I had to take a massive pay cut. Nevertheless, what I lost in income, I gained in happiness. Maybe we can measure success by something other than our pay cheque.
Over time, I’ve grown more resistant to the hedonic treadmill. Personally, I’d rather not work my ass to the ground for 40 years to acquire the biggest house, newest phone upgrade, or the fastest luxury car, just to feign some materialistic image of success.
Minimalism is a wonderful philosophy to maximise your life while minimising the chaos. Not everyone wants to live a minimal life, of course, but it has drastically improved the quality of mine.