What To Know About Minimalism Before You Try It

by Brianna Wiest
eclipse_images/E+/Getty Images

Minimalism is having a renaissance of sorts (though I'm not entirely certain it was ever "cool" in the first place). If the first thing that comes to mind when you hear that word is nomad-hipsters living in suffocating Tiny Houses and general disinterest, I couldn't blame you. The idea sounds uncomfortable at best and terrifying at worst, especially in a society in which our most primary mental conditioning is that "more stuff" is not only equatable to how "safe" we are, but also to how worthy and successful we are too. We associate "things" with comfort, though they are far beyond what's actually necessary.

So what happens is that we enslave ourselves to work and stress (which is essentially our way of pushing ourselves to keep performing — by keeping ourselves scared) all to keep buying and consuming, which we think will make us happy, actualized, and safe. Of course, we never quite reach that "fulfilled, happy, actualized, safe" space, because it never existed in the first place.

Rather than buy, keep and use our belongings mindfully and with purpose (so as to cultivate a feeling of gratitude for them) as well as aesthetic appreciation, we're missing out on one of the most important tools we have to create a genuinely satisfying way of life. We're focusing on "having it all" rather than "having just what we actually, honestly want."

The core tenant of minimalism is this: if you don't think it to be purposeful, if you don't know it to be meaningful, and if you don't find it to be beautiful, you shouldn't keep it in your space. If you follow this, what you'll be left with are the things you need to comfortably survive (kitchen ware, toiletries) things that hold incredible meaning for you (your grandmother's chest, a prom dress) and things you find beautiful to look at (your favorite piece of art, your clothes).

Yet getting to the point where you're ready to slough off the thousand of dollars and dozens of pounds of stuff seems intimidating if not entirely unenjoyable — so most people just avoid it at best (and criticize it blindly at worst). So to help those who are interested along with the process, here are a few things to motivate you, encourage you, and lend you a (reasonable, enjoyable) way to minimize your belongings, and maximize your potential to feel fulfilled.

To Be Minimalist Does Not Necessarily Mean To Live With The "Bare Minimum"

It sounds like to be "minimal" you have to live with just the most essential things for survival. While in essence that's true, practically, it's not — nor is it realistic. It just means to live with what you actually want and need, not what you think you want and need.

So You Can Have A Decent Amount Of "Stuff" And Still Be A Minimalist – Some People Sincerely Need More Than Others

There is no "correct" amount of stuff to have to be able to call yourself minimalist, it's simply about not having anything in excess. For example, families with kids wouldn't be able to live like a single person does, nor would someone with a medical issue that requires a lot of equipment, and so on.

It Sounds Like It's About Losing Yourself, But It's The Most Radical Way To Find Yourself

I think that's the biggest fear people have: that shedding their belongings will somehow also lead them to losing a part of themselves, but really it's the opposite. By consciously choosing what you don't want in your space, you give yourself room to focus on what you do.

It's More About The Mental And Emotional Benefits Than It Is The Physical Or Aesthetic

Rather: if you're doing it in a way that's actually sustainable, it will be.

Nobody Is Going To Judge You For Wearing The Same Clothes

Or not owning many things. Or even wearing the same clothes every day! Seriously. I know it's hard to believe... but nobody really cares.

You Will Never Find Your Happiness In Another Belonging

And the steepest illusion we're under is that it's only a matter of continuing to search.

But If You're Lucky, You Can Find Happiness From Gratitude

Train yourself to be more and more grateful for what you have each day. Use all the things you own. Admire all the things that are beautiful. Write down how lucky you are. After a while, you'll start to believe it more than ever.

The Easy Part Is Purging — The Difficult Part Is No Longer Consuming

It's easy to donate clothes you don't wear or downsize things you never really wanted. It's far more difficult to address the stress that leads you to want to numb it with shopping, or the sense of inferiority that makes you want to own more and more and more. It's not "getting rid of" that's the challenge here — it's dealing with the deeply embedded psychological reasons you wanted to in the first place.

Images: eclipse_images/E+/Getty Images; Giphy (4)