How To Become a Minimalist
How to become a minimalist.
More. A small word that can change the course of your life for all the wrong reasons if you let it. Equally, if used correctly, it can change the course of your life in every good way imaginable.
Minimalism // definition: It is marked by clarity, purpose, and intentionality. At its core, minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it. It is a life that forces intentionality. And as a result, it forces improvements in almost all aspects of your life.”
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We live in a world of abundance. We work long hours to earn money to pay for ‘things’. The latest phone, the newest Mac, ’20 plate car. If we earn more money we can buy a bigger house and by doing so, well more people might know how successful and swanky we are. We consume within our means but often we consume outside of them too. We consume to add value to our lives. The trouble is then, when more ‘stuff’* doesn’t bring the equal amount of value. Minimalism is about understanding what you want to put after the word ‘more’. For minimalists, the word after ‘more’ is ‘value’.
The pursuit of more value.
*for the purpose of this article any time I refer to ‘stuff’, ‘things’ or ‘items’ I’m talking about possessions, things we own. Things like books, laptops, iPads, phones, gadgets, games, journals. The lot. Your things.
We have a lot of stuff
300,000 items. According to the LA times, that’s how many items the average American owns. 300,000. It’s unfathomable. 300,000 things. How can one person or a couple of people, use 300,000 things.
But then I look around and think about what people have in their houses. In the living room, there’s the sofa, the coffee table and the TV. And then there’s the rug, the throws, the cushions the side table, the side table lamp, the plant, the candles, the ornaments. Under the coffee table hordes of magaziness and old books. And then onto personal possessions. Clothes. Five coats for one body, twenty-seven pairs of shoes for two feet. Outfits for the night outs we never go on or the holiday clothes for the holidays we never take. The more house trinkets and trophies we have the more we are able to prove to ourselves and others that we are happy. We’ve got the latest iPhone and iPad we must be happy.
We have more. We have more than any generation before us.
There is literally a whole industry that stores our excessive stuff because it doesn’t fit in our over-sized homes. The storage industry in 2018 was worth $38 billion. BILLION. An industry all about more stuff.
Not just physical stuff
And more isn’t just physical anymore. The world we live in today, is digital. And that can be cluttered too. More apps, more tech, more blue light. We download countless apps, have various social media accounts, stretch ourselves over numerous different platforms, all in the hopes of doing more. More clutter and less value.
Not just physical and digital stuff
On top of that, we have mental clutter. 500 things to think about, battle ourselves with. Expectations, ambitions, opinions, thoughts, questions.
Our world’s are full of excess.
But does having more give us more?
Family spending in the UK, 2015–2016 per week
In 2015–2016 the average spent on fuel and housing was roughly 30% of a families expenditure. Fuel and housing costs us the most. We spend our lives saving just enough money to buy a house at the top end of our budget, to then spend just under a third of our expenditure on it. A house that mightwell be too big and a commute to a job that might well be one that makes you miserable. It might well not, some people love their home and love their job. And that’s what minimalism is about. It’s about being introspective (I love that word) ask yourself: what gives me most value in my life?
There is a principle that we can apply to many areas of our lives called the Pareto Principle. Essentially the principle outlines that 80% of the value, of anything, comes from 20% of the ‘stuff’. Put another way, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Or another way, 20% of our possessions give us 80% of the value.
This idea is that we don’t gain more value from more stuff, instead we probably get most of the value out of the 20% we already own. It’s like this laptop right? I write on this laptop everyday. It brings me great value. I have another laptop upstairs, an old one that I used a while back but it broke, so I got this one. I no longer need that laptop but I keep it all the same. It brings me no value, it’s just in a draw somewhere collecting dust. It’s clutter.
And that leads me to what I’m calling ‘The Point of Enough’. It’s the point at which you have enough stuff to give you the optimal happiness. So car, house, dogs, laptop whatever. We get to a point whereby we have everything we need to live a happy life. Having more won’t actually make us any happier. The happiness is then found in using to stuff to your advantage. Using your new camera to go and take photos, using you laptop to write your book. The happiness then comes from using your things not the accumulation of more.
See that point where the solid black line stops going up and up and starts to plateau. That’s the Point of Enough.
The amount of happiness vs the amount of things we have. The reality is that we get to a point where more ‘stuff’ doesn’t give us more happiness. The Point of Enough.
The Minimalists – Being the Ultimate Minimalist
Very few life changing moments start with the introduction: ‘I was scrolling through Netflix’; but as it happens, that’s exactly where this one started. I don’t remember the day or the circumstances, I just remember seeing a couple of guys standing road-side, in the middle of my screen with the title ‘Minimalism’. I’d never come across the word before, intrigued I watched away.
I heard the stories of Josh and Ryan. Two bright chaps, that in their words, ‘wasted their twenties climbing the corporate ladder’. It’s not often you hear ‘top of the ladder’ and ‘waste of time’ in the same sentence. But the way they see it, they climbed all the way to the top to realise that more money, a bigger house, shinnier cars didn’t change their happiness. In fact it made them feel empty.
“The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.” — Socrates
So, in their search for happiness, they stumbled across Minimalism. What if they pursued less? What would life look like if the aspiration was to acquire less ‘things’ that clogged up a room and more ‘stuff’ that added value?
Not more clutter, more value.
By looking at our stuff we can assess what gives us value and what doesn’t. By ridding ourselves of the things that don’t give us value it gives us more space, clarity and opportunity to enjoy the stuff that does give us value. It also means that we become unclipped from the aspiration of the conventional life model. We no longer have to pursue a bigger mortgage, more rooms, fancier cars. Unless that’s the stuff that gives you more value. But for a lot of people, the things that make them happy, are the things in life that cost very little.
Walking the dog, writing, reading, thinking, spending time with family. That’s the stuff that adds value. Not a new iPhone or car.
I was hooked. I loved this story. It’s so pure, it feels so human. It makes sense to be pursuing a life of happiness, a life of value a life that makes us feel like we are achieving what we want to in this world.
Over the past ten years they stuck at this Minimalism thing and it’s resulted in some huge achievements. 3 books, 1 Netflix documentary, 1 website, 1 coffee house and a podcast. It seems that when you pursue a life of value, you are able to give a lot of value along the way.
The journey of The Minimalists
So why. Why would you want to look at Minimalism. Why is it worth the time. Well there are some benefits.
The benefits – A Minimalist
By being more focused on the stuff that gives you value and ridding yourself of the stuff that gives you no/ little value you have:
More time to focus on the stuff you love
More room to grow into the person you want to become
More freedom to discover whatever your purpose is
More financial freedom
More living and being present
Ultimately, it makes you happier.
Who doesn’t want to be happy?
That’s what we’re all trying to do right? Figure out what brings us joy and doing more of that. Minimalism is about more value and less clutter.