Originally published in La Plaza Press
By ARIANA GHALAMBOR
Minimalism. We’ve all heard of it. Whether you’ve watched every single episode of Marie Kondo’s hit Netflix series, seen pictures of tiny, empty rooms floating around on the internet, or read a book or two from The Minimalists, minimalism is all about owning only what adds value and meaning to your life (as well as the lives of the people you care about) and removing the things that do not bring joy into your life. It’s about removing the clutter and using your time and energy for the things that remain.
While many people focus on the decluttering and getting rid of several items, for many people, minimalism is all about the intention. It is not that having stuff is bad, it’s when the thing you own ends up owning you that’s the problem. The most important philosophy of minimalism is intentionality. In minimalism, everything the person owns is there intentionally because it brings meaning into their lives. A minimalist will usually choose to value quality of items over the quantity. This means that the amount you choose to possess will be unique to you and fit to your personal choice. Minimalists want to have exactly what they need and nothing more because it affords them a life that is perfectly aligned with their vision of an ideal life.
The goals of minimalism include but are not limited to:
- Focusing on what matters: quality time with loved ones
- Saving money; removing debt
- Have a flexible schedule with minimal commitments
- Pursuing what’s interesting and, where possible, and profitable
- Minimizing distractions and unpleasant elements in life
- Reclaiming more time and living in the moment
- Eliminating distractions and discontent
- Ridding yourself of excess items that don’t bring joy into your life
Contrary to what some people think, there aren’t any actual rules to minimalism. There are no official guidelines of minimalism to determine whether or not you’re doing minimalism right. Minimalism will always look different for everyone. It is meant to be used as a tool that fits each unique individual and changes depending on each person. For some minimalists, they may have 60 CD’s in their library. But they are still nonetheless minimalists because every single CD brings joy into their lives and is there intentionally. You don’t have to own below a certain number of items. You can still have nice things, and no, you don’t need to get rid of your favorite collection—whether it’s books, shoes, or music. Minimalism doesn’t have to look like white-walled, modern and empty homes you’ve probably stumbled upon in magazines and videos.
In the end, minimalism is less about owning fewer items and more about actively making choices on what kind of things truly matter to you. Again, it’s all about the intentions one sets to own mainly what sparks joy in your life and the intentions to rid yourself of junk that doesn’t.
The society and Western lifestyles that many Americans participate in encourage the constant pursuit of bigger and better is an endless cycle. There will always be a nicer car to buy, a bigger boat, a larger home, and or a faster private jet. This is a problem because it creates a society that values quantity over quality. You could have 20 different sneakers that are all uncomfortable and low quality, but there is simply no reason to because you could use that money to buy 3 pairs of high quality and comfortable shoes that will last you much longer. In minimalism, the goal is to fight against this societal pressure and value the quality of items you enjoy over the quantity of that item. This will mean that you will save money from only buying one, high quality item, over buying hundreds of low quality items that you have to continue rebuying because it won’t last.
It may seem like an overwhelming challenge at first, but as you untangle the life you built around owning more things, you’ll find the stress disappearing and the world starting to slow down. Those choices you make will begin to build a muscle that will fundamentally change the way you live your life.
Okay. So you like the idea of what you just read but you feel intimidated on how to begin your minimalist journey. Starting small is the best way to get started on something that feels like a big change. Try by first getting rid of one item you own that you feel is unnecessary in your life. It could be an old tee shirt, a nail polish you never used (and don’t plan on using), or a stuffed animal you haven’t thought about in years at the back of your closet. It can be anything, but make sure to try and donate or recycle items that someone else could benefit from as opposed to throwing them away in the trash. Some people also prefer to resell lightly used items by a yard sale, online app, or to a pawn shop if it is more valuable.
One rule of thumb many minimalists like to use to guide them is: “If you haven’t touched the item for over 6 months and there is no true use for it, get rid of it”.
The next immediate step is to stop the influx of buying new things that you don’t actually need. Whether that means logging out from Amazon or not going to the mall anymore, take steps to prevent yourself from purchasing new things that will continue to clutter your home. It’s important to not find yourself in a loophole of waiting for big sales to buy unnecessary items like Black Friday that won’t get any use. Many people of Redlands have heard about minimalism and have various feelings about it. One of the students, Emily Miller of Redlands East Valley says, “Minimalism means to surround yourself with the least amount of things that will keep you happy and healthy. Not to indulge yourself with unneeded things.” She says that objects and materials have never really gotten in the way of her life but sometimes she spends money on items she doesn’t truly need. Although Miller speaks very highly of minimalism, she would never try it because she has too much attachment to her items to lead a minimalist lifestyle. She adds that, “I think the idea of getting rid of things that don’t get used often is a good idea. For instance, only keeping clothes that fit me and make me happy rather than holding on to them in case I might use them later” are some ways she would introduce aspects of minimalism into her life.