Until last year, I'd never heard of the term "minimalist living". It's something that was quite alien to me. So what is it and does it really make you happier?
The first time I began to appreciate the concept of minimalism was after watching a programme - "Minimalism: a documentary about the important things" (currently available to watch on Netflix). In this movie, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus talk about how we are affected by consumerism, advertising and the desire for more. When you think about it, everywhere we go, we are surrounded by advertising. Be it on TV shows, billboards, or the sides of buses and taxi cabs. We are encouraged to constantly want to buy more, to buy the latest /newest/fastest phone and the most luxurious/designer/expensive fashion items.
Millburn and Nicodemus talk about living pay check to pay check and how the ideals of success are often wrapped up in having the right address, the right status symbols, the right car.
They then talk about how leading a simpler, more stream-lined lifestyle is another option, another route we can follow.
Millburn talks about how he used to own hundreds, even thousands of books; DVDs; wardrobes of clothes and everything else that arrives in our homes without us actually consciously thinking about it. Then he explains how his apartment now contains only items that he needs, items that bring him joy; and the many benefits of living such a lifestyle. It struck me that this idea made a whole lot of sense.
So how can we grab some of this joy and find a way to lead a simpler, more straight-forward, happier lifestyle?
Nicodemus took a rather drastic route, something he refers to as a "Packing Party." You can read his full story here...but in short, he packed everything in his apartment into cardboard boxes...everything! From his toothbrush, toiletries and clothing, to his bed and TVs. Over the next three weeks, he only unpacked those items that he needed to. At the end of the three weeks, he found that 80% of his items were still in cardboard boxes. He hadn't needed them at all...he even reported that he couldn't remember what was in some of these boxes. So what next? Nicodemus stated that he sold or donated all of these items. He reported feeling rich for the first time in his life....having cleared away all the things that were supposed to matter, he now had room in his life for all the things that really did matter and brought him joy.
Reading this story did inspire me. I looked around my home, and I saw lots of items that were unnecessary, unloved, unwanted....clutter. Clutter that I cleaned around, reorganised, searched through when I was looking for something that I really wanted to find.
So how could I use these principles to make my own home simpler, easier to live in, more joyful? Could I do something as radical as a packing party? The answer had to be no......but I did want to adopt some of the concepts of minimalist living, and yes, it has already started to make me feel happier. Here are three of my tops tips to get started:
"Discarding is not the point; what matters is keeping those things that bring you joy." ~ Marie Kondo.
Look at your possessions carefully - do they make you happy? Are you going to use them again? I'm only beginning my journey, but things that I have decluttered include piles of DVDs and books that I was going to watch/read again some day. If I want to watch a movie, I'd be just as happy watching it using a streaming service if it means I don't have to save space to store 50 or 100 DVDs that were gathering dust. Similarly, books were quite easy.....there's a library down the road or an app on my phone where I can download ebooks at the touch of a button. I sold most of my DVDs in bulk and I donated most of my books to charity, so other people could enjoy them.
Conversely, there are things that I'd never part with. Those items that bring real joy. Now that I no longer need three shelves on my bookcase for books, I have space to display special family photographs; to organise the board games that I like to play with my children....and to display the "treasures" they create.
“The best things in life aren't things.” ~ Art Buchwald
Consider and prioritise how you spend your time, your most precious finite resource. Do you spend lots of time doing things because you feel you ought to? Do you work 60 hours a week just to pay for designer clothing and the newest model of car? Or could you do things differently?
For me, one of the best decisions I made was to move from being employed to being self-employed, and to reduce my working hours. On the downside, it definitely means I earn a lot less. My car is second-hand, we don't have Sky TV and I can't afford to eat in fancy restaurants or go on 5 star holidays.
But it also means I am in charge of my workload. I can take time out at weekends to head down to the Lake District with the kids (read more here) and to take time off during the week to watch them in their school play and assemblies. In other words, to do those things that really matter to me.
Consider the Japanese art of Kintsugi -the art of mending broken items with gold, silver or laquer dusted with gold. A cornerstone of this concept is that the item is still beautiful even though it has been broken, that the damage adds to its history and its beauty.
In today's society it sometimes seems that items are almost made to break, made to fail so that they need to be replaced. We hear the phrases - "fast fashion", and "planned obsolescence".... in other words, some items are designed to have a short-shelf life. I don't want to look around my home to see mutiple items, or repeated purchases of the same item because they weren't built to last. How can we get around this?
~ I try to follow the principle of "buying quality and buying once". I try to research items before buying them....reading reviews, and visiting stores to see items before spending my money. I couldn't live without a smartphone or a laptop, so when it comes to buying such items, I always try to buy the best that I can afford at the time.
~ If you can, mend items when they're broken. I take favourites shoes and boots to get re-soled if they still have life in them.
~ Some companies offer lifetime guarantees on their goods, clearly a trademark or their quality. Search out these companies and use them if you can.
Minimalist living clearly means different things to different people, and I'm only starting out on my journey. If you are interested in minimalism, have enjoyed this article, or have any tips you'd like to share then please comment below. I'd love to hear from you.