Spring is a good time to embrace minimalism. Though really, any time is a good time.
Because when we do not actively clear life of clutter, we can start to feel like thinly spread butter, and drained of joy and life enthusiasm.
And there is something even bigger at stake when we fail to create space for what’s meaningful.
A life of meaning!
So you could say that in order to keep things real, we have no choice but to simplify.
Just a few benefits of reducing life’s superfluity:
- More time (although be warned: that means you actually have to figure out how you like spending the time).
- Less stress.
- Less procrastination.
- Better health.
- Better relationships.
- Clearer purpose.
- A feeling of not being ‘owned’ by stuff.
- A feeling of living more deliberately/intentionally.
It takes real effort and dedication to streamline your life. I like to think of it as the same as writing: conciseness is the hardest thing to achieve. It’s pretty much the same in life.
That said, the rewards are far greater than the effort.
This post is about how I create my necessary blank spaces. You will do it slightly differently.
The best definition I have found is: ‘Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it.’
Minimalism in practice – clothes and clutter
We know that many successful people choose to wear the same thing everyday in order to avoid ‘decision fatigue’ (refers to the deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual after a long session of decision making). Which is kind of important when you are the US President, or the CEO of Facebook/Apple.
Research suggests that the more decisions an individual makes in a short period of time, the more each decision decreases in quality.Our ability to make quality decisions might lower each time we make one Click To Tweet
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up has raised awareness of the value in decluttering our living environments. Home clutter, we have learned, is an unhelpful form of distraction that pulls at our attention and redirects our thoughts. Clearly, it is a thing to avoid in our places of work, and arguably everywhere else about your home.
How I do minimalism – three ways
Below is a brief account of how I leverage simplicity to good effect through the lens of three specific life areas. Again, note that what’s minimal living will vary from individual to individual (it’s dependent on what you value).
Food and meals
Most people already do this – the difference is whether it’s conscious or unconscious. Given how often we need to refuel, it would be a little mad not to automate some of the decision-making around food.
Because I place a high value on health, I am in the conscious club. I tend to eat the same 7-10 foods/meals on rotation throughout the week, for weeks on end, with little variation. Some people would find this ultra boring. You know if you are a person that needs greater variety.
- Have 7-10 ‘go-to’ meals and snacks that are based on nutrient density, what’s relatively easily available, and what you enjoy eating.
- Do this with your alcohol choices, too.
- Readjust as when you need to.
- Obviously, mix things up when you eat out. We are not robots.
If you aren’t confident in your nutrition choices, ask your health-conscious friend about their ‘go to’ meals.
By the way, there are several key health benefits to eating this way:
- Your gut bugs like it – you will cultivate microbiota in a way that optimizes your digestion and assimilation of your regularly chosen foods.
- You will find it easier to stay healthy (because of the advanced planning element).
- You will get ultra familiar with, and sensitive to, how certain foods affect your body and wellbeing.
Letting go off superfluous friendships is challenging. Sometimes they are relationships that we have allowed to drag on for many years.
Often what’s really difficult about this is being willing not to be liked, which takes a robust sense of self. However, this is massively important to do if we value personal growth. As entrepreneur Jim Rohn says, we are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
Only those who respond to the real us, good and bad, facilitate our growth in the long run (it’s do with ‘mirroring‘). Our responsibility to ourselves is choosing friendships with people who are dealing with us as we really are, rather than people who are dealing with their issues through us. It can take a while to know the difference.Bringing minimalism to friendships involves nurturing friendships with those that respond to the real us Click To Tweet
- Sometimes it will happen naturally over the course of creating a more authentic life. After that, it’s just a case of letting go – mostly of your attachment to being liked.
- Catch yourself agreeing to things you don’t want to do.
- Appreciate that things are rarely a one way stream. If you feel disconnected from a person, they will feel that too, and you will do them a favor by not forcing your presence in their life.
- Be willing to have difficult conversations.
- Get better at saying no.
Information capture, curation, productivity and organisation
Possibly the most important thing on this list.
Effectively curating relevant information from the swaths of data that bombard us in life is a relatively new challenge for humans. Like poor dating prospects, it’s important to filter out the unworthy.Effectively curating the information that bombards us is key to living more simply Click To Tweet
Likewise, it is critical to streamline our methods of capturing our thoughts if we care about being productive and unlocking our innate creativity.
- Curation: Discover the most valuable resources in your niche/industry, and establish your method for capturing information. I use my Facebook news feed, plus a collection of places that I regularly check in an electronic folder called ‘curation’ on my desktop.
- Capture: limit your record keeping devices to one or two. Remember to include one physical notepad for capturing thoughts post shower/runs/before bed and in the morning – I invariably keep mine by the door or by my bed.
Other ways to apply minimalism to this life area (a lot of it is obvious):
- Check email as few times as you can get away with.
- Do the same tasks at set times through the week (schedule in free time too, like Noah Kagan).
- Only have notifications on when necessary.
- Clear up space on your hard drive.
- Delete old notes.
- Unfollow any social media account that doesn’t add value to your life.
- Generally just remove what is unnecessary and potentially holding you back.
What this is really about (and why it’s a little scary)
The potential of minimalism lies in what you choose to pursue with your life in place of material possessions, distractions and unfulfilling relationships.
It’s tough to know what’s important to pursue! That’s why we resist simplifying life so much.
As Richard Rohr says in Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, ‘all the emptying out is only for the sake of a great outpouring. God, like nature, abhors all vacuums, and rushes to fill them.’
Whilst we are ‘filling our vacuum’ with the void and meaningless, we don’t create opportunities for the awesome stuff to get in.
After the initial discomfort of having space to fill, we bend our pursuits towards things that matter.
And that’s a worthy pursuit.
The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything, by Neil Pasricha.
Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, by David Allen.
Sites and articles:
Top 8 benefits of minimalism (blog post).
The relationship between self worth and minimalism (blog post).
5 digital minimalism practices (article).
31 tips from the Minimalists. These are so awesome that I have listed them (slightly adapted) for ease of reference below:
- Appreciate that your stuff doesn’t bring you lasting happiness.
- Each possession should serve a purpose or bring you joy.
- Stow inactive kitchen appliances away.
- Make your bed (it’s an easy win in the morning).
- Establish a simple morning ritual.
- Pare down your wardrobe (you’ll enjoy your clothes more).
- Get rid of the TV in your bedroom.
- Place a donation box somewhere suitable in the house.
- Slow the F down.
- Donate your excess stuff.
- Organize old photos.
- Have a decluttering accountability partner.
- Get rid of most of your stuff.
- Consume more intentionally.
- Let go of ‘just in case’ items – definitely if it can be replaced with 20 dollars and within 20 minutes.
- Let go of sentimental items that no longer bring you joy.
- Declutter your car.
- Use your technology as tools rather than pacifiers.
- Clean up your digital world.
- Appreciate that you don’t need to own a thing in order to enjoy it.
- Clear your desk.
- Avoid sales.
- Gift experiences rather than stuff.
- Embrace a junk drawer.
- Know that everyone can benefit from simplicity.
- Tidyness is good for you.
- You can apply minimalism to diet and exercise.
- Appreciate that less junk is fulfilling.
- Know that the more we have, the less we really have.
- Unfollow any social media account that doesn’t add value to your life.
- Extend the simplifying theme to all life areas.
What do you do to keep it simple? Get in touch in the comments below!