What’s Your Minimalism?

Though I am by no means a minimalist, I understand the appeal (and hope to embrace a simpler lifestyle). But why? Why are so many embracing the minimalist movement? For many, it stems from trouble with money and dissatisfaction with one’s current lifestyle. I know it did for these two as it does for me.

But what exactly is minimalism? Getting rid of your possessions doesn’t automatically make you a “minimalist.” To explain minimalism, let’s start at the beginning. Minimalism or the fundamentals of it, has been around for centuries in different countries, cultures and religious movements. In modern North America, minimalism gained popularity as an artistic movement in the 1960s. Minimalist artists removed the personal, or the biography from their work; particularly going against the popular Abstract Expressionism of the day (think Jackson Pollock). Minimalism was a simplified art form, giving attention and detail to the work or medium itself, not the whims of the artist creating the work. In this way, personal effects were “minimalised.” Simple forms, hard edges and linear forms were prevalent.

How does the minimalist art form translate itself into minimalism as a lifestyle? Well, the meaning is still the same. Just as minimalist artwork focuses on highlighting the work or medium itself, so to does the minimalist lifestyle. Except in the minimalist lifestyle, you’re the medium. The focus is on what’s most important in your life and that’s where your direct your energy and time. Once you figure out what you want out of life, you remove, or “minimize” everything that doesn’t get you closer to that goal. In essence, simplifying things around you makes what’s important crystal clear; in the same way that taking the personal or biography out of art makes the clean lines and simple forms clear.

So what steps can you take to approach the minimalist lifestyle? You start by taking a good look around you, both literally and figuratively. Are your finances a mess? Why? Did you spend on “stuff” to gain happiness and create an image in society, only to find yourself in debt because of it? Do you find yourself spending time and energy on things that don’t really hold importance to you i.e., constantly organizing and “cleaning” the stuff that’s piled up in your closets and garage on the weekends , when you’d rather be spending time with family and friends?

Once you assess the things in your life that are sucking away your time and energy, remove them. Some things you’ll be able to remove immediately (the junk that’s taken over your garage), others may take more time (debt that you’ve accumulated). Create a plan to remove these things and make room for what truly matters to you: This is the heart of minimalism.

Your picture of minimalism may look different than mine. Maybe your picture of minimalism is a tiny house with no mortgage and very little possessions to manage. Maybe your picture is one in a modest sized home with your spouse, children and a car or two in the garage, but your home is paid off and you’re without the other “trappings” of life that keep you tied to a job you hate just to keep up said trappings. You may choose instead, a career and financial path that gives you freedom to play and teach with your children, spend quality time with your spouse and have intellectual pursuits that interest you. Maybe your picture of minimalism is not having a home at all, instead being location independent, living out of a backpack and travelling the world.

What does your minimalism look like?