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What really matters
‘Less is more’. A classic quote. However, many of us live in a world of ‘more is more’. I realized that this mindset did not make me a happy person, so I decided to downgrade. Or rather upgrade; to less. Enter: minimalism. But what does that mean? Let’s get the two of you acquainted.
Minimalism: It means reducing everything in life to the essential. What does not matter most can be taken away. This leaves more time, money and (mental) space for the good stuff: the people, things, and activities that matter most. It means prioritizing: deliberately allocating your resources to the activities and people that you truly love. It means living a meaningful life.
I learned a lot from people like Leo Babauta and The Minimalists. As Joshua Fields Milburn wrote: “I have to stop living the lie and start living the life.” Well said.
We are often taught to compete. Better jobs bring more money. Money can buy us stuff. Jobs and stuff can bring status. Many of us value material things and even abstracts such as status more than we value skills or knowledge. Not because we do not see it, we are not blind. We are just taught to think this way: it is just a perspective.
But there is a catch.
If you want a fancier lifestyle (big house, the furniture we’ve always dreamt about.. the likes) you need to work for it. Once everything has worked out as you hoped, you still have to work hard to sustain that lifestyle. But where does the whole -sit back and relax- part fit? After we retire? What happened to calling your best friend and spending an impromptu afternoon together eating cake and watching your favorite movie that very same day?
We seem to work harder, but what we gain in money, is lost in time and energy. The three are mutually exclusive.* For example. If you ride your bike to school or work, it costs you some energy. You could buy your energy spending off with a bus ticket, which would cost you some money. If you wanted to do something less energetic that costs no money, you could walk there. But that would take a lot more time. No matter how plausible each of these options is, in the end, you are the one who chooses to allocate their resources.
When I came across minimalism it really resonated with me. I read about the freedom people experience through minimalism. About tiny housing, and decluttering the wardrobe/ house/ mind. There are also more extreme stories about people living without furniture, or a guy who owns less than one hundred things.
I don’t know about you, but my wardrobe alone outnumbered what he had in total (and maybe still does). Being a minimalist sounded awesome but also super hard. Here is what I have learned about it in the past few years. I wish I could have told (or rather, listened to) this message back then. Being the perfectionist that I am, it would have saved me a lot of struggle!
Like with any other lifestyle, there are no set rules for minimalism. Make your own party! It´s not about the numbers. What matters is not how little you own. It´s about prioritizing in such a way that everything you have and do, contributes to your life, your values and the goals you are working towards. You can be a minimalist and still have three closets filled with your collection of dresses/ craft supplies/ drill bits. As long as each object contributes to your life, values, and goals, that’s still minimalism.
However, as you apply minimalism throughout your days, you will notice that you will value things and objects that seem super important to you now, very differently later on. I have let go of a lot of things, sometimes very hesitantly so, and from all the objects, relationships and activities I have let go of over the years, I can honestly think of just one that I regretted. It was my make-up collection, which was already tiny. I have bought back a new mascara and lipstick. Which, come to think of it, actually remain nearly unused to date. Interesting…
It’s the ride
I wanted to be like those people I read about, feeling as free as they said they did. So I started working towards my ideal situation, which of course would bring me ultimate bliss. But you cannot get anywhere overnight, and minimalism works that way too. It is a process, and there really is no end to it. After all, it’s called a lifestyle, not a situation. Get it? LIFEstyle.
It is pretty recent that I realized this myself, and I still downsize (and yes, sometimes I also buy things). My goals and values keep evolving and so do my mindset and activities, in order to live up to that. My minimalism is not yours. It is different for everyone.
So, find out what is important to you, lay out your path. Next, just start somewhere and then keep working towards your goals, in accordance with your own values. Remember, they will change again and again, just like you will. And so it begins…
* Thank you, Jessica McCabe from HowtoADHD, for putting this into words perfectly.