Minimalism Isn’t About Less Stuff

Minimalism. The buzz-word. The cool new thing. Decluttering. Joy-sparking. KonMari’ing. What does it all mean? Do you throw away all your stuff and suddenly become cultured, rich, and happy?

Several years ago after working 60-80 hours per week with no exercise, a terrible diet, not much of a paycheck, a failing business, and a trip to the ER, I needed a lifestyle change. While looking for answers in places other than the financial success I was chasing, the minimalism trend revealed itself from the dark void of the internet. I was all in. I hunted for the best articles, poured over gear posts and ultra-light backpacking communities, read all the popular books, and entered a super-purge mode. I started selling, donating and trashing everything I owned including my furniture, most of my clothes, and knick-knacks collected over the years. I purchased new light-weight gear, and began the process of living out of a backpack. It felt great. I became passionate about it.

Then I started to digitally catalog every item I owned and pruned the list obsessively like an old man working in the garden. I would argue with people on Reddit about how many items were acceptable to own. I would spend an absurd amount of hours researching products on the internet before buying anything. It became a chore that stressed me out more than it helped. I completely missed the point.

So what is the point of minimalism? Simplifying, organizing and reducing the scope of what you spend time thinking about. Whether it’s your possessions, your relationships, your digital life, your finances, or whatever else. Anything can be improved by removing the clutter and zeroing in on the things that really matter.

The problem with minimalism as a trend is people place value on different things. Are you not considered a minimalist because you own a collection of baseball cards? Trendy minimalists will argue that you are not. Don’t listen to the trendy minimalists. The real question is how much mental energy are you spending on your collection that you’d rather spend elsewhere? If you can honestly say none, you are the best minimalist in the world.

We only have a finite amount of mental energy and should keep track of it similar to a financial budget. Do whatever it takes to declutter your mind. Limit your possessions. Don’t dwell in the past. Write in a journal often. Travel light. Keep your digital life organized. Limit your consumption of social media and news. You’ll start finding it easier to organize your thoughts, communicate clearly, and control your emotions. Conserving energy for the things that are really important to you and reducing the mental load in all other areas of your life–that’s what minimalism is all about.

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