What is Minimalism?

If you have been reading this blog for awhile, chances are that you’re a friend or acquaintance [or stalker] of mine that just wanted updates on my life and was surprised to see the shift in my posts from weekly updates to a focus on minimalism. You’ve probably stopped reading because you think I’m weird, or you’ve kept reading because this is a new idea that intrigues you. Some of you are very familiar with the concept of minimalism. Others are thinking, “minimal-what?” and have no idea what I’m doing.

What is minimalism?

Many writers, especially radical minimalists, will lead you to believe that minimalism is about quitting your job, throwing out all your belongings and counting them to have the least amount possible, traveling the world, not owning a car, selling your house, living in a bare white room, and doing yoga every day. I’m here to tell you that’s not true.

Well, not entirely. If you want to be location independent and live with ten things, then you will need to quit your job, shed the car, count your things, and be able to travel. While all of these actions have good cause and can lead you to live a happier, simpler life, it may not be for you. Maybe you love your job. Maybe you’re self-employed and already enjoy the freedom of travel. Maybe you love where you live and don’t want to leave. Maybe you’ve tried yoga on multiple occasions and still can’t figure out why in the world anyone would want to remain still in twisted body positions. Maybe you have elderly parents to support, a kid to raise, a Komodo dragon to feed, or some other living creature that depends on you and you can’t quite hop on a plane and run away.

That’s OK. You do not have to do all those things to embrace minimalism. Minimalism is not about ensuring that you only have 37 things. Who cares how many you have? It’s not a contest as to who is the ‘better minimalist.’  Minimalism is not about quitting your job and making money writing blogs from home because, let’s face it, not everyone can do that. Minimalism is not about being a young, single male with no children and huge savings. Leo Babauta has a wife and six kids and lives in one place, yet he’s the writer of the influential minimalist blog. Joshua Becker lives what you might consider as a typical suburban life with a family of four, but he practices and writes about minimalism. Dusti Arab has a daughter and has always lived below the poverty line.

Enough about what minimalism isn’t. Let’s move to how I view and apply minimalism.

Minimalism is about removing unessential items, activities, relationships, and ideas in in your life by shifting your energy and focus to the things in your life that really matter.

Minimalism is about paying attention to the things that bring you the most happiness and peace in your life. Naturally, no two people are alike; therefore, minimalism can be applied in different ways. If you are happy making a living by traveling and writing eBooks, then great! If waking up to your stamp collection brings a smile to your face everyday, keep it! If you are happy with your nine-to-five job and coming home to frozen leftovers, then so be it (but in this case, I’d strongly encourage you to re-evaluate your life and find if you’re just trying to convince yourself that you are happy or if you indeed are, happy).

Do you really need a bigger house? A higher salary? The newest shiny SUV? A large group of acquaintances? The latest gadget released on the market? Do these things really make you happy? Or do these things tie you down?

Minimalism is not an overnight change. It is a steady process in realizing what you value and eliminating the non-essentials in your life. It’s about being honest to yourself about what really matters. It is about placing value on objects and experiences that help you lead a simpler, richer life. It’s about focusing your energy on what you’re most passionate about.

Minimalism as a philosophy can be applied to anything. Your home, your job, your relationships, your commitments, your friends. It is about simplifying your life by prioritizing and organizing every aspect. Minimalism calls for you to remove negative relationships. It eliminates stress and debt. It takes you away from your work desk and to your cherished family and friends. It keeps you from over-booking your schedule with commitments you don’t need.

Overall, minimalism is about achieving personal freedom.

What will reading this blog do for you?

 

I embrace minimalism and living a sustainable lifestyle. I value positive interactions. I encourage improvement of self and building community with those around you. I cherish life. All of these will appear in my posts, one way or another. Minimalism is not the sole focus of this blog, but is the foundation. While I will be chronicling bits of my minimalist journey, I am also focusing on you.

My goal is to help you find what makes you happy, help you declutter your life, help you maintain valuable relationships, and take all the necessary steps you need to help you live a simple, free, happy life. I have found ways to make my life simpler through minimalism and making environmentally-conscious choices; I want you do the same. You may agree with me 100% and listen to everything I say or you may disagree with many things and challenge my thoughts. You may find some things I share apply to you, while you skip over others. All I ask is that you think about each aspect of your life and ask, “What can I do to make my life better for myself?”

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Like this post? You might be interested in:
Leo Babauta’s Minimalist FAQ
My Minimalist Confession
Advice For Aspiring Minimalists (From the Experts)
Minimalism Explained
Minimalism by The Minimalists
Minimalism is a Clear Mind
The Downside of Minimalism.

Want more? Check out these FREE eBooks, both released on January 1, 2011.
Simpler by Matt Madeiro
Minimalist Freedom by Nina Yao

Step #1 Towards a Happy Life: Quit My Job.

Just to clarify: I’m not unhappy – but I know I’m not perfectly happy. I have been doing a lot of reading and thinking lately and decided to evaluate everything I do, say, purchase, etc. to find a way to maximize experiences that make me happy, peaceful, and minimalist while reducing ‘unhappiness clutter.’ (Whew! That was a long sentence.) I’ve taken many small steps in the past few months (reusable containers/products, reducing the size of my wardrobe (twice!) and donating articles of clothing, getting rid of objects I don’t need) but I decided it was time for a bigger step.

I’m talking about my part-time job.

Last year, shortly before Thanksgiving, I was hired as a seasonal employee in the Juniors (teenage girls/young women) section of a department store of a mall that is currently being rebuilt. I resisted becoming an employee here for months because I despise retail, but I needed a little extra money over the holiday season and it was an easy job. The holiday season came and went and they kept me on the payroll. I stayed because who doesn’t need a little extra spending money for movies or bills? The past couple months, I’ve become really tired of the job. I have so many things on my plate (and more that I want to find time for) that my days are ‘go, go, go’ without ‘sit and rest.’ This job was taking up the space of ‘sit and rest.’

My endless thinking came down to this:

  • I already have a full-time job that is enough to live off of. During the holiday season, the part-time job was twenty hours a week but now it was only on average five to nine hours a week at $8.something an hour. That added up to about $90 or so every paycheck. That $90 would just pay for the gas it took me to get to work, as well as the meals I purchased on my breaks. Any extra money would be spent. The money from the job wasn’t being saved. So what was the point of staying? I could do with a little less money – it would just mean I’d spend less!
  • My classes are three nights a week. Axis group is two nights a week. I work five days a week. My only free time is part of the weekend and I need that for homework, errands, relationships, rest.
  • I dislike shopping. I despise consumerism. Why keep working in a place that isn’t me?
  • Being in the Juniors department also meant I would occasionally drool over and desire certain articles of clothing that I wouldn’t have known to exist if I wasn’t in the store. If I don’t know they exist, I won’t want them, and I will continue to be OK with the clothing I already own. I don’t need more clothes.
  • The lights in the store dry my eyes out (as well as my skin, and leaves me thirsty). Televisions were just added that play videos of loud pop music – which are distracting and cause me a headache. Getting out of that place would give me back my sanity and soft skin.
  • At the end of the work day there, I didn’t feel gratified when I left. I like leaving a job feeling like I made a difference. This didn’t do it for me.
  • I just need to make more time in my life for the things that really matter!

The only reason I was holding on to the job for so long was to have a place to work in the Spring of 2011 when I need to resign from my full-time job to do my student teaching internship. That, and I’m not a quitter. But I just decided enough was enough. I’d figure that out when the time comes.

Last Friday evening, I talked to my supervisor and told her I needed to leave for aforementioned reasons. She was amazingly understanding and supportive of my decision (I had been a bit nervous because the grand re-opening of the store was in two weeks and she previously told me she really needed me around)!! We had a long talk that ended with a hug, and I walked out of her office feeling a huge weight lifted off my shoulders! I’m so grateful. Saturday was my last day there.

As for the period of complete unemployment that will arrive in the spring along with ‘working for free’ and still trying to pay my bills somehow? Kyle has been amazingly supportive with that aspect (his job is also treating him well, financially). If for some reason he is unable to cover my half of our bills, I’ll find something. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned over the past couple years, it’s that everything always works out. No matter what happens, everything is OK. That’s all I need.

Now I have time to breathe, reflect, read, cook a meal, do homework, and continue to shift my lifestyle. I’m very excited about how my life is going! :)