What is a minimalist?
The answer depends on who you ask.
To some, you cannot be a minimalist unless you own 100 or fewer possessions. Real purists will insist you cannot call yourself a minimalist unless you can fit all your possessions into a single backpack.
I’m going to tell you something a little different. Minimalism is simply understanding that every possession we own must pay for itself. It must earn its place in our lives by contributing a tangible daily value.
Minimalism does not mean chucking out everything you own and living a monkish life. Unless, of course, you happen to be a monk. In which case, carry on.
Minimalism really has nothing to do with the actual number of physical objects you own - or do not own. The intent behind minimalism isn’t about counting how many things you own. That’s just inventory.
The heart of minimalism is simply about ridding yourself of the things you own that do not bring value to your life. If you own something that does not contribute real value to your life, regardless of the price, it is simply clutter.
Let's talk about clutter
Most of us don't think of our expensive purchases and prized possessions as clutter. After all, we've spent hard earned money and valuable time to acquire these objects. Sometimes we have spent quite a lot of time and money and in many ways have tied our sense of worth and even identity around the quality and quantity of objects we own. A closet crammed with clothes we seldom if ever wear, an array of electronic we don't use, a collection of equipment for hobbies we don't pursue - clutter.
There is a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety in living a life surrounded by the clutter of who we aspire to be, think we should be, or feel we are expected to be. A minimalist lifestyle frees us to be mindful of who we really are in the present moment.
Have you surrounded yourself with past memories and future aspirations - leaving no room for living mindfully in the present? Minimalist living forces us to shift our attention away from the physical objects in our lives to the more important aspects - our relationships and experiences. It can also be a little scary because, as we rid ourselves of distractions, it forces us to look at who we really are and what we truly value.
Sometimes we hide behind material possessions. Instead of being outward expressions of our identity - they can become our inner identity. Without those props to tell the world who we are (or who we want to be), we have no choice but to engage as our most authentic selves.
Take the Challenge
Take stock of each of your possessions, large and small, and ask: what does this bring to my everyday life? Is your closet filled with clothes that actually fit comfortably and you enjoy wearing? Is the array of appliances on the countertop ones you really use? Do you actually play those musical instruments? Do you really use that expensive equipment to engage in the sports/hobbies they were purchased for? Are there a half dozen books on the shelf that you've never read but felt you should own? In other words - have you filled your living environment with objects that serve no real function in your daily life?
Be honest, be unsentimental and even be a little bit ruthless in your assessment.
It can be tough to face how much "stuff" you own that has no real, practical value in your daily life. But, it can also be incredibly empowering to rid yourself of this clutter.
We all have a limited time to create the life we want to live. We can spend the majority of that time stressing over the acquisition, preservation, and display of our clutter. Or, we can spend our time living in an environment where everything we own is something that brings us happiness.
Grab a couple of boxes, ask the important questions, and don't be afraid to start chucking. Your soon-to-be uncluttered (and less stressed) self will thank you.