Minimalist lifestyle is for people who believe in getting
the best out of their lives by choosing the less trodden path.
It’s the path that advocates – less is more.
The premise of this post is, clutter of any kind (even if it means this post, in case minimalism doesn’t appeal to you) should be avoided in order to opt for a life of minimalism.
Here is a little story that explains how clutter suffocated me with its tentacles affecting different aspects of my life.
A few weeks back when I went out for a morning run after nearly a month – because of a common cold that lingered longer than it ought to have – there was no fluidity in my movements during that run.
No wonder, I was running after a long while, and the joints were stiff.
Besides, over indulgence on food despite being well versed on the virtues of food minimalism had made me heavier.
I saw the linkage clearly –my weight influences the ease with which I run. And, it is determined by the food I consume.
My mind then wandered to other spheres of my life where unrestrained indulgence put a break on achieving my various life goals.
Over indulgence or clutter of any kind takes a toll on one’s important goals.
Watching too much of TV for instance.
And of course, allowing Digital clutter to invade my space.
Strangely, I permitted these indulgences to creep into my life with so much of ease, in an imperceptible way – almost unnoticed.
I have seen my goals recede into the background as I allowed these factors to have unbridled sway over my life.
A cluttered lifestyle doesn’t take any effort. It is easy and comes naturally.
Like weeds, they stealthily crawl in – as in an untended garden.
They creep in during our unguarded, numb moments, when we are unmindful or unaware about the ticking of the clock.
Day by day, minute by minute, they take us farther and farther away from the destiny that is meant to be ours.
That is why it is important to pay attention to an intentional, minimalist lifestyle.
What is the meaning of minimalism and why do
we clutter our lives with things we do not need?
Marketers the world over have convinced us that we become better and happier if we have more stuff in our lives.
We are led to believe that our happiness, meaning and sense of achievement are measured by the array of material things we own.
There is a tendency for the world around us to judge us by the things we possess than by the content of our character.
Most of us allow ourselves to be broken by the fault lines created by our consumerist society.
In the process, we delegate to the background the most important aspects of our lives – happiness, relationships, being of service to others, creative pursuits etc. Instead we choose to focus on the non-essential things that might just make two or three percent difference to our lives.
In the end, we are distracted from paying attention to aspects that could contribute more than 80 percent difference to our lives.
I read about Diderot Effect in a post by James Clear. It is very interesting and insightful.
It is named after Denis Diderot who became rich out of the blue, after a lifetime of poverty.
The first thing he did after the windfall was to buy himself a beautiful scarlet robe.
The scarlet robe was so beautiful that Diderot found everything else in the house paled in comparison.
That began the train of purchases – a rug from Damascus, a wonderful mirror to hang above the mantle, exquisite sculptures, a new kitchen table and leather chair.
What happens in our consumerist society is a mirroring of Diderot Effect.
Introduction of a new possession creates a ripple effect of more consumption.
We see operation of Diderot Effect in our lives in the spiral of our desires to keep up with the world. We become inclined to hoard things on a continuous basis, believing they will give us happiness.
In the process we as individuals lead lives divided against ourselves, mere shadows of our true potential.
My life has not always been an example of a minimalist life style. I spent thousands of hours immersed in superficial pursuits, spending precious time and money.
I wish I had paid attention to digital minimalism. That would have saved me countless hours. And I could have improved my productivity.
A life of mindful minimalism now seems an urgent need because it is a folly to spend 80 percent of my time on things that hardly yield any results.
The wisdom in Stephen Covey’s First Thing First, is all too evident. It is a call to focus on the most important priorities of life.
Focus on the vital few rather than the trivial many.
There are several reasons why a minimalist lifestyle actually makes our lives fuller and more meaningful. I give below the 6 most important reasons.
- A life of Minimalism introduces deliberate, healthy constraints in our lives. It is counter-intuitive, but the truth is, constraints make us more creative. I like the beautiful words of poet Wendell Berry, “The impeded stream is the one that sings.” Whether it is the Wright Brothers or bootstrapped entrepreneurs, there is power in constraints to bring about creative solutions. When we are given abundance of resource choices, more often than not, they impede progress rather than advance it.
- Being a minimalist will free up space and give us the gift of time. It is amazing how much of time we can save when we don’t spend time on cleaning, arranging and shopping for things we can easily do without. Besides, the amount of money we save as we minimalize our possessions is huge.
- Invest time on the important matters of life. Things we bring into our existence fade and perish. Beyond the immediate adrenalin rush that we experience, the possessions in our lives give us diminishing returns with time. On the other hand, by being a minimalist you are giving yourself opportunities to immerse yourself in a life of purpose, giving, love and happiness.
- Minimalism removes the stress in our minds on account of the clutter in our environment. Researchers tell us that a cluttered home is a stressful home. Psychologists also have found through extensive studies a connection between clutter and levels of procrastination. Even physiologically, people – particularly women – are affected by clutter. Increased levels of cortisol, a stress hormone is found in people living amidst chaotic surroundings.
- Minimalism is the route to a productive career and life. By staying focused on the most important things in life in a state of flow or by being in the zone, it is possible to 2x or even 5x our productivity according to experts like Stephen Kotler. He says that during state of flow, “mental and physical ability go through the roof, and the brain takes in more information per second, processing it more deeply.”
- Minimalist lifestyle is a life of deliberate intentionality. Minimalists opt for this way of life not as another short lived lifestyle trend. On the other hand, minimalism is steeped in deeply felt values. So, minimalism pervades almost all aspects of life and minimalists reap many rewards.
Digital minimalism is not about junking facebook, WhatsApp or emails. It is all about intentionally curating your digital world based on your values.
With minimalist fashion we return to our roots and getting rid of unnecessary clothes with frills and ornamentations. Here we achieve more with less by going for quality over quantity simplicity over extravagance. Creating a minimalist wardrobe is worth the effort and money.
With minimalist interior design, we get to express ourselves and our values by creating homes that have minimal colours, minimal but functional furniture and that focus on geometric shapes.
How to get started on minimalist lifestyle
- Know the Why. The best way to start on the path of minimalism is getting clear from your gut levels about your level of awareness, values and why you will take this journey.
Though you should not be deterred by any ‘rules of minimalism’ you should have clarity about things that really matter. Minimalism is a tool to get you where you want to go and there are no rules other than being honest with yourself and being in alignment with the things you own, the commitments you make and the relationships you have.
It is worth remembering, if you commit to nothing, you’ll be distracted by everything.
- Declutter. It is best to start with decluttering the physical stuff we have. There are many books with elaborate rituals of the decluttering process. Marie Kondo’s Life changing magic of tidying up, is a trend-setter in this area. Her principle is, keep things that give you joy and purpose and discard those things associated with pain of any kind.
I like this quote of Saint Exupery, “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” Minimalism does not mean that you lack in anyway. It just means that you have the right balance of things.
The same principle applies in other aspects of life. For example, do not crowd your life with too many things to do. Multi-tasking is counter-productive.
Set time for various works and know the difference between what is important and urgent.
And, remember the purpose of decluttering is to make room for the important.
- Consume Less. Reflect on how to control the Diderot Effect
We all have the urge to go after possessions like Diderot did with his scarlet robe. But, the sane thing to do is limit our exposure to things we do not need.
And when you do need stuff, buy those that are in alignment with our current value system.
Digital minimalism can become a reality if we limit our exposure to the very easy and handy tools – email inbox, our mobiles, social media posts etc.
Set self-imposed constraints in our life. Remember Wendell Berry’s line – “The impeded stream is the one that sings.”
- Create enabling Rituals. It will be wise to set your life around processes rather than on goals. For example, if you create a ritual around decluttering, with a particular time schedule, you are more likely to achieve the goal.
Similarly, you will need to use the several hours of time saved because of decluttering wisely. When a higher value, productive activity replaces the time which earlier used to be squandered away, you are going to feel exhilaration and a sense of purpose.
- Live in the Now, with a minimalist mind set. It is going to be very difficult to make intentional decisions at various points of our lives if we revert to our old, cluttered, mindless ways.
At the same time, do not add to the clutter in your mind by being too harsh on yourself. If you stray occasionally, get back on course without fretting about the straying.
Meditating and harnessing the power of a quiet, reflective mind can take you a long way in your path towards minimalism.
As I mentioned in the little story about my morning run, clutter can spread its tentacles into various aspects of our lives.
Minimalism, likewise, is an all pervasive influence. It touches and blesses different aspects of our lives.
Life can’t be compartmentalized.
A minimalist lifestyle is a personal decision you take to change the course of your life in alignment with your values.
When our external environment is minimalist, there is a possibility that you become less stressed. And you may feel inclined to start on the journey towards a minimalist lifestyle.
In case you want to create external changes to your world, Service Square has a 5 step process involving 1) Decluttering, 2) Optimizing space, 3) Minimalist designs, 4) Organizing and 5) Deep Cleaning.
I am the Managing Director at Service Square and I will be happy to help you with creating an enabling environment at your home.
About taking the path towards minimalism, that is your journey and your choice.
Success in this journey depends on you alone.
It may be a path worth treading, though it is the less trodden path.
What is Diderot Effect?
We see operation of Diderot Effect in our lives in the spiral of our desires to keep up with the world. One purchase paves way for the next and we become inclined to hoard things on a continuous basis, believing they will give us happiness.
What is so attractive about minimalist lifestyle?
A life of Minimalism introduces deliberate, healthy constraints leading us to creativity. Being a minimalist will free up space and give us the gift of time. It will enable us to invest time on the important matters of life. Minimalism removes the stress in our minds on account of the clutter in our environment. It is the route to a productive career and life. Minimalist lifestyle is a life of deliberate intentionality, helping us to stay grounded in the present.
How do I get started on minimalist lifestyle?
The first step is to have clarity on why you want to travel on this path. The next step is to declutter and opt for minimalism in several aspects of your life, including digital minimalism. Then, it will be great to build strategies to consume less. It will help to follow processes and rituals to ensure you don’t stray from the chosen path. The most important thing to remember is to be grounded and live in the present.