In this age of physical and mental clutter, minimalism has become an appealing lifestyle choice. People are looking to declutter their homes, schedules, minds, and priorities.
And at a time when caring for the planet’s resources has become a major priority, living with fewer possessions and distractions is a step toward a healthier environment.
In this post, I’ll take you through what a minimalist lifestyle is to me and what I find so attractive about it. Plus, I’ll fill you in on what I believe is the biggest pitfall for many people.
At the end of the post, I’ve included a more detailed section about my personal experience with the minimalist approach to life.
What is Minimalism?
According to Merriam-Webster, minimalism is a style or technique (as in music, literature, or design) that is characterized by extreme sparseness and simplicity.
Originally, the concept of minimalism was always applied to a style of art or the design of buildings and spaces. But it’s become more mainstream, and evolved into a lifestyle where you do away with the unnecessary, creating the freedom and room to just be.
It means taking simplicity to the next level.
For me, a minimalist lifestyle is about not accumulating things that you don’t need or that don’t add value to your life.
This applies to all levels of living, including your physical environment, your mind, your work, your relationships, and your spiritual being.
For me, it’s about regularly taking stock of your accumulated possessions, thoughts, and beliefs to see what has outlived its time with you and needs to move on.
Because that’s how you make room for the next stage of your development. By letting go.
Next, I’ll talk about the general benefits of a minimalist lifestyle.
The Benefits of a Minimalist Lifestyle
According to theminimlaists.com, embracing a minimalist lifestyle can bring benefits in the areas of health, relationships, finances, creativity, and giving. And, I wholeheartedly agree with them.
Decluttering the unnecessary elements of your life and reducing your focus on possessions and mental belief systems, frees you to put your attention on your priorities.
A lack of clutter allows you to see more clearly what matters to you on a deeper level. You can put your attention on the details of life that make a difference to your overall well-being and that of the planet.
It allows you time and space to see past yourself, with a more giving attitude toward the needs of others and society in general.
So next, on a more practical level, I’ll show you what a minimalist lifestyle can look like.
What Does a Minimalist Lifestyle Look Like?
Often, a minimalist lifestyle is seen only as decluttering your home and living with fewer material possessions. While that’s a part of it, the big picture embraces more aspects of life in general.
Decluttering doesn’t have to be limited to the mess in the living room. You can tidy up and prioritize all areas of your life, including:
- Your home and property
- Your relationships
- Your mind with mindfulness practices
- Your finances
- Your daily schedule
- Your life goals
- Your leisure activities
- Your work habits
There’s no limit to how you can personalize and adjust your lifestyle to become more minimalist in your outlook and perspective. “Keeping it simple” can become a mantra for everything you do.
However, there is one trap many people fall into that can undo their good intentions and make their new lifestyle a burden.
I’ll tell you how to avoid that next.
The Biggest Pitfall of Minimalism
There’s one big pitfall to minimalism that people often talk about when they discuss the changes being a minimalist has made in their lives.
If you listen carefully, it seems that many people trade possessions for a position to defend.
The problem is, many people trade a decluttering of possessions for an increase in mental clutter. It means that instead of embracing their new lifestyle and the comfort it brings, they create an identity around it.
They often fall into the trap of judging, labeling, and criticizing the rest of the population and their habits.
A minimalist lifestyle is only beneficial in as much as it doesn’t become a mental position to be defended.
Similarly, some people trade possessions for the pursuit of experiences. They exhaust themselves and the planet’s resources chasing new thrills and distractions.
So don’t fall into the pitfall of trading your possessions and mental clutter for a hilltop to defend or a new set of demands.
Allow others to follow their journey and don’t judge where they are on that path. And, be more gentle with yourself, too. Use your new freedom to learn how to just “be.”
Finally, I’ll fill you in on the secret ingredient that I’ve learned you need in addition to the minimalist lifestyle for true success.
What You Need in Addition to Minimalism
Embracing a minimalist lifestyle will bring more peace and comfort if you simultaneously embrace mindfulness.
Don’t make your new decluttered way of living into a platform to judge others. Make it a channel into the present moment and live with awareness.
If the space in your decluttered life causes you restlessness, you probably need something to still your mind and create space there, too.
Starting a practice such as meditation, yoga, or a mindfulness activity like focusing on breathing will help you learn how to become more present and conscious.
Intentionally doing mindfulness activities will allow you to develop the ability to just be. And, you won’t need to replace what you’ve discarded with other things like more labeling and experiences.
You also won’t need to judge your neighbor’s crowded garage or your sister’s dozens of shoes.
Instead, you’ll find it easier to just be with them, without expectation. Perhaps your non-judgmental attention will be the inspiration they need to declutter their lives.
So, watch out for any pride and labeling that starts to creep in as you clean things out. Be on the lookout for a frantic need to fill your time with more activities dressed up as “experiences.”
The practice of embracing stillness will help keep you grounded as you create space in your life.
Here are a few more details about my personal journey with minimalism wrapped up in mindfulness.
My Personal Experience with Minimalism
My experience with minimalism is like many things in my life: a process. I’ve learned never to go full throttle with any type of lifestyle change. If I do, it becomes overwhelming and I’m more likely to give up.
Just as I’ve done with becoming eco-friendlier, I take it one day at a time, making small changes, and adjusting to them before I move on to the next step.
And in between steps, I let go of any judgment on what I’m doing in the meantime. I’ve learned to focus on my wins and progress to keep the momentum going.
And, as I mentioned above, mindfulness practice has been essential to my way of being more minimalist. It’s the only way that the lifestyle makes sense for me and works well.
I’ve also had the personal experience of sharing living space with those who find minimalism difficult and tend toward hoarding.
It’s been a good lesson for me that the only way to compromise and make it work is to become present and mindful in finding balance and harmony.
Minimalism can be easier if you live alone, but a difficult lesson on compromising if you share living space with other people. That’s when being mindful is essential.
A minimalist lifestyle can be a freeing and profound experience if it is done consciously and mindfully. You don’t need the pitfall of making it a position to defend or a platform to look down from to make others feel smaller.
And, as I said earlier, don’t judge yourself either. Take your time and make the changes that work for you. One person’s version of a minimalist lifestyle is not necessarily the same as someone else’s.
A minimalist lifestyle is a way for each person to free up space in their life on all levels for peace and joy. These wonderful benefits show up naturally when you create room for them.