The 4 tips to living minimal and the reasons why having less is more.

I used to think I couldn’t call myself a minimalist.  That because I own “stuff” I would have to label myself as like a minimalist-in-progress. But now I am starting to think differently about the word minimal and just what it means to live a life with less.

What is minimalism?

After reading most of Joshua Becker’s new book The More of Less, I was reminded again not only what minimalism is but also to just how minimal I am truly living.  And now, I think I can call myself a minimalist for a different reason.

If you look up the definition of minimalism in the dictionary you will see that it is defined as “a style or technique (as in music, literature, or design) that is characterized by extreme spareness and simplicity”.  {Thank you Merriam-Webster online for that}.  And that definition is what I think people measure their “minimalist” ideals against.  While “simplicity” is a word I love and can identify with, extreme spareness is one where the definition throws me off.

And will deter anyone from embracing a lifestyle that I believe gives you more.  Not extreme spareness.

What does it really mean to live with less?

Joshua Becker, on the other hand, defines minimalism in a way that feels more true to what actually happens when you decide to live with less.

Minimalism: the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from them.”

He goes on to say that “the beauty of minimalism isn’t in what it takes away. The beauty and the full potential of minimalism lie in what it gives.”

And that, friends, is exactly what we need to think about when we hear the word minimal.  Not bare walls and rooms with no furniture, not extreme spareness.  Rather, richness of being surrounded by those things (and people) that bring us joy and peace and…freedom.  Minimal clears away obstacles that prevent us from living the life we want to live.

Now of course, with clearing away obstacles comes a fair share of being honest with yourself, making tough decisions, donating and tossing things. But the idea isn’t to look at what you are tossing, rather that you are getting rid of things to open yourself up to see and embrace what you love.

Clutter is an armed robber you let into your home.

I always say, if you don’t like it, need it, or won’t use it – why are you allowing it to take up any space in your space?  When it takes up physical space, it takes up mental space as well. And that kind of clutter is the worst offender because it robs you of a freedom we all deserve – the freedom to feel happy – not cluttered, or confused, or overwhelmed.

We can’t be afflicted by clutter, and all that comes along with it, and live a life truly free and happy.  The two can’t co-exist.  And the harder we try to convince ourselves that they can exist in harmony, the more work we put into spinning our wheels and not really getting anywhere on the happiness front.

And it is not just clutter that robs you. It is anything that weighs you down and burdens you that perhaps does not need to. Think about the things you have that are excess.  As Joshua says “mess + excess = stress”.  We have excess so we never run out. And we keep duplicates just in case.  Just in case what?  We keep adding for all kinds of reasons. And marketers are having a field day keeping us addicted to more. We see five thousand ads every day telling us to buy more! Five.thousand. …A.day!

Benefits of Minimalism

At some point we have to stop the madness.  Because the business of getting more really gives us less and less of the things that matter like time and energy, money, freedom.  With less, there is less stress, distraction, environmental impact.  There is also less comparison with others when we make a commitment to own less.

And I especially love that “comparison” benefit. I really think half the reason we buy more and have excess lies in our natural tendency to compare our lives with those around us.  We have a built-in desire to impress others by owning as much as possible. Purposefully owning less begins to take us out of the unwinnable game of comparison”.  That in itself feels freeing!

Give minimal a try!

With anything new, fear plays a role in whether or when or how we give something a go. And that is understandable. With “stuff” comes a lot of …stuff – like in our head and heart.  And I get it. I have kept my fair share of things that do nothing but clutter a space and it can be hard to let go when the sentimental strings are being tugged.  But the benefits of letting go far outweigh the tug.

To truly live minimal I think we have to take stalk of what we own so it doesn’t end up owning us.  And we have to decide how we want to live our life – how we want to feel in our life.

Try these 4 tips and give minimalism a try:

  1. Journal for 10 minutes about how you feel about your home, your things, everything you own (or don’t own but put money towards). How do you feel?  Are you truly living a big life or do you just own a lot of things that make it feel that way?
  2. Pick one room that is driving you nuts and keep your focus in that room. Don’t focus on the whole house.  You must start small or it will get overwhelming to even think about and you’ll toss the whole idea of minimalism all together. Then take 10 minutes or 40 – whatever you are comfortable with – and remove from that space what is excess, what you don’t use, like, need.
  3. Sell or donate those items.  Posting on Craigslist is an easy way to lighten your load and make some dough. Or consider donating to places like churches, schools, and shelters that would need the items you no longer do.
  4. Repeat the process until every room in your house has been touched, looked at, lightened.

If room-by-room doesn’t float your boat, think in terms of categories — all books, or all clothes. And work to lighten your load always keeping in mind your goal for how you want to live your life.  Challenge yourself to be more with less.  To live more with less.

Choose minimal. Not because you want stark and plain and spareness. But because you want to see and feel beauty and meaning and color in your life.  When you choose to keep the things that give you joy and discard the rest you open up your life to a whole new way of living.

You will live more — because you have less.

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When clutter feels suffocating, free yourself with a purge