Dear Lo: I Want To Go Minimalist - Do I Have To Throw Everything Away?
Now that minimalism is a growing trend, there are a lot of different messages out there about what minimalism actually is. Some people associate minimalism with stark white walls, others with having little to no possessions, and those that think it's about throwing everything away.
One of the questions I get the most is if being minimalist means you have to get rid of all of your belongings. And, for what minimalism means to me, I'm here to tell you no. Sure, that may end up being something you want to do at one point or another - or maybe not. But creating a minimal life or becoming a "minimalist" does not automatically equally throwing everything away.
What Is Minimalism?
You can search this exact question above within google and get thousands of blog posts, articles, videos and more all about people's definitions of what minimalism is. But, for the sake of this space and this blog, I'm going to talk about what minimalism means to me.
Minimalism is the act of recognizing what you want your life to look and feel like, taking inventory of the things & people within your life and asking yourself if they add value to that vision and chipping away at everything that doesn't align.
So, where some people may believe that minimalism is an act or a task, to me, it is a way of thinking. Minimalism is much less about throwing things away and much more about looking at the possessions you currently have and asking yourself why you own them. Or, looking at the people who take up space and time in your life and asking yourself why they're in your life.
I believe that we don't ask ourselves why enough. We often live our life on autopilot or by the rules of someone else's life and rarely take the time to stop and ask ourselves why we do what we do, why we have the things we have, and why we want the things we want.
It's at this question, the question of "why?" that minimalism begins. When you start to ask yourself why and get to the root of something, it is then that you can understand at a clearer level if this person, place or thing is adding value or taking up unnecessary space in your life.
How To Begin A Minimalist Life
Below are the steps I've taken to begin a minimalist lifestyle. As I mentioned above, living minimally isn't so much a goal but rather, a way of thinking about your life. And so while many other blogs or articles will start with talking about getting rid of items, you'll notice that I begin with taking some time to connect with your thoughts about your life. But know that minimalism is a personal journey and so take these steps and apply them as you see fit to your own life.
1. What is your ideal life like?
Take 15-20 minutes (or more!) and free write what your ideal life would look like. What does your morning look like? How do you feel throughout your day? What do your relationships look like? What types of foods do you eat? How do you move your body? These are questions you may want to ask yourself to help you get started.
2. What is your current life like?
Continue your free writing session but this time, take a step back and write about what your current life is like. What continues to trip you up? What do you love about your life? On average, are you more happy, sad or stressed in your life? What do you want more of in your life? What does abundance mean to you right now? Again, these are sample questions that may spark some great thought.
3. How are these two worlds aligned?
Next, take a look at both free writing sessions and see where there is overlap. Is there something that's tripping you up in your current life that has been solved in some way in your ideal life? Is there something you love in your life now that you've also included in your ideal life writings? Take note of what has already aligned within both writings and what items are opposites of one another.
4. What can I let go of?
This is where your work begins. Where there are items in your current life that don't align with your ideal state, it's time to start chipping away at those items. Maybe your ideal life is one where you're not stressed about money and your current life is consumed with how to make ends meet. Your work would begin with chipping away at thoughts & actions that keep you in a scarcity mindset (overspending, not budgeting, using credit cards, saying things like "I can't afford that", etc.) and would also include getting creative with how you can bring in more abundance (budgeting more, recognizing your creative talents, selling items you don't use, etc.).
5. Wash, Rinse, Repeat
The most beautiful thing about all of this is that there is no right or wrong way to do this. And, very rarely have we ever "arrived" at being minimal. As we change and evolve as people, our vision of an ideal life will change and evolve. So as your life twists, turns & curves throughout the journey, take the time to go back through steps 1-4 as often as you need to make sure you're always aligned with the overall goal. And remember, you're allowed to change your mind at any given time.