What is Minimalism? There are many blogs out there that try to answer this question, much more thoroughly than this one as a result of their specialization, but that’s not the purpose of this blog. The purpose of this blog is for me to organize my thoughts, so here’s a review of numerous others’ take on minimalism and, in the next post, my minimalist transformation. I hope you enjoy this and learn something.

Although different people will emphasize different elements of minimalism, everyone will agree that minimalism is about freedom through living simply and living with intentionality.

In the movie and book Fight Club, Tyler Durden, the don’t-give-a-fuck founder and mastermind of a near-terrorist backlash against consumerism, observes that “the things you own end up owning you” [1]. If you’re owned, then you’re not free to do what you want, pursue your passions and dreams. When you don’t set priorities and call the shots for yourself, then someone—or something—else will [3]. Minimalism is a means to remove distractions or encumbrances that lie between you and what you really want to accomplish.

Minimalism–by all accounts and and its core–is about focusing. Minimalist bloggers (read: thinkers) argue that the acquisition of “stuff” is an evanescent acquiescence to the one-size-fits-all, marketing-induced prescription for happiness. Furthermore, they argue that such a lifestyle is ultimately unsatisfying for the majority of people who find themselves Googling things like “minimalism” and “simple living”. As someone who has read Walden cover to cover and found the book rather dull except when he was talking about “Economy” and “Simplicity, Simplicity, Simplicity” [2], I resonate with and wholeheartedly support these assertions. Unless you want to be very intentional about being a disorganized hoarder, minimalism is agnostic regarding on what you should focus; just focus on something that makes you passionate. Something that gives your life meaning.

Dave Ramsey, the Christian personal finance guru, takes the same approach with money: he doesn’t give a damn how you spend your money or what you prioritize in your budget, but he wants you to know and choose what you spend your money on, rather than having your money spend itself [4], which leads me to the next quasi-universal element of minimalism: living with less stuff. Extreme actions like paring all your earthly possessions down to 100 items or fewer [5] have certainly brought a lot of attention to minimalist ideas, but even without such hardline approaches, being intentional about what you buy and keep will inevitably lead to fewer possessions and a simpler life.

For example, my friend found that he was spending a lot of time just surfing the web mindlessly—reading reddit, fark, and other random sites. I don’t mean to say that these online communities are bad per se, but they’re designed to suck you in, and before you know it, another evening has gone and you didn’t accomplish anything of substance. To combat this, my friend did something drastic: he canceled his internet connection. This being 2015, he still has his smartphone and data plan, so it’s not like he can’t connect to anything. More importantly, there are always libraries, coffee shops, and other places with free wifi that allow him to connect with his laptop when he needs, but he needs to go out of his way: intentionally going to a place to use internet for some specific, predefined purpose. No more mindless surfing; he minimized his use of the Internet to maximize its value for him.

Virtually all of aforementioned thinkers (read: bloggers) note that their first step towards becoming a minimalist involved some sort of purge of their physical possessions. This purge of stuff is generally closely followed by a purge of some combination of commitments, affectations, superfluous relationships, and habits that have outlived their usefulness. The rationale is that Having fewer physical possessions means that your life is just cleaner [6] and speaking from personal experience this purge feels like a shower after a mud run. All that crud that’s been making you feel stiff and inflexible just washes away. It feels fucking amazing.

“And everyone else, you can’t think for yourself; Cause you’ve chosen to let someone else do it for you” – Straylight Run [7]

All this clean, simple, distraction-free, intentional space around us allows us to think intentionally as well and live thoughtfully. What’s your passion? What do you want to do with your life? What’s your calling? You can’t answer these questions when someone or something else is running your life [3][7]. Minimalism is a mechanism by which you can strip your life down to the bare essentials; the “bear necessities” if you will [8]. Without all the commitments and distractions of clutter—a cluttered environment, cluttered mind, or cluttered calendar—you can put all your energy towards doing what you want to do and do that thing well instead of doing 100 things poorly [3].

I’m going to very pointedly note that minimalism is limited in scope [9], but that’s not to say it’s not for anyone. More relevantly for the next post, it’s helped me focus and feel “clean” again. What about you? Could your life use a little decluttering, in all senses of the word?


References:

[2] Walden by Henry David Thoreau; https://www.walden.org/Library/Quotations/Simplicity
[4] The Complete Guide to Money by Dave Ramsey; http://www.amazon.com/Dave-Ramseys-Complete-Guide-Money/dp/1937077209
[6] “Don’t just declutter, de-own” is a great mantra from Mr. Becker at Becoming Minimalist; http://www.becomingminimalist.com/dont-just-declutter-de-own/
[7] “Who will save us now” by Straylight Run is a melancholy tribute to what happens when we let other people–religious dignitaries, politicians, tradition, etc.–make our decisions for us. It’s also just a downright good song.http://www.becomingminimalist.com/dont-just-declutter-de-own/
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