Don’t fall in love with things
For the past months I have been trying to get my head around the idea of minimalism.
Now I feel I have finally grasped some its ideas and took those into use in my own life. The most important lesson has been to be able to let go of things.
If you look up Wikipedia for minimalism, you will find this:
In the visual arts and music, minimalism is a style that uses pared-down design elements.
And indeed, if you look up Reddit or this popular blog (at least among my friends), you will get that very image about minialism. However there is another side of minimalism, which in Wikipedia is called Minimalist Lifestyle:
Primarily involves minimizing possessions. People who live this way are sometimes called minimalists.
That is what I am aiming for.
Own less, worry less
If you have not yet watched Graham Hill’s fantastic TED talk Less stuff, more happiness, I recommend you do it right now. Right. Now.
A lot of words of this blog post relate to the concept of owning less. Although that is not in the very core of minimalism, it is just one simple path towards it. As a citizen of a western society we have used to think consuming and buying will eventually solve our problems and in the end provide us happiness. Can you remember a single thing that you have bought during the last year, which has really made you happier? I doubt you can do it. For every new item you buy, you have to take care of storing it, maintaining it and using it. All of this increase mental load of yours. The cost of owning things is much more than just the monetary cost of buying those.
Which leads us to think about the very opposite: Can you reduce your mental load just by letting go of physical posession? Followers of this so-called minimalist lifestyle believe you can; me included. My own real life examples of this are somewhat mundane ones, but on the other hand, that’s propably the case for everyone. We eg. sold all of our stereo equipment a while ago (though you are still welcomed to buy my DAC), and replaced those with a simple tabletop radio. It’s easier and quicker to use, so we listen to music much more nowadays than we used to. I did not need to wall mount it, position it, wire it or setup it, like I have had to do with my previous equipment. It’s an old-style audio apparatus, which is built to last. It’s not just electronics; I’ve done similar kind of simplification for my clothes, furniture, kitchen appliances, books and even hobby projects, to mention a few.
All in all, minimalism is not so much about owning or not owning of some particular item; it’s much more about having or not having the mental load and meta-work associated with it.
Simple steps on how you can let go of things today
Trying this method out is not really so hard. Just take 10 minutes of your time, and follow these steps:
- Pick a target. Don’t try to fix everything in your life with a single shot. Pick something concrete. You may already have a slight idea of what it could be. I for example had thought for a while already that I have way too many dress shirts. I will pick that one now; try to pick some similar easy target for yourself for now.
- Go through the items, and set aside the ones you don’t like. This should an easy task; why did you even own those in the first place?
- Now, go through the items, and set aside the ones you haven’t used in the last year. A year is a nice target clothes; for some items even a smaller timeframe works nicely. This step is a hard one, because you keep thinking that even though you have not used that and that item, you still like it. Liking stuff is OK if you are collector, but in this exercise, we are trying to get rid of things instead of liking those. The fact you like it is a good thing, because it means someone else will propably like it as well and have much more use for it than you.
- Take the items that you put aside. You are going to recycle those. Recycling and environmentalism is quite close to minimalism in terms of ideology. If you would put those aside items to trash, you would just transform your personal mental load into waste and environmental load. What you can do instead, is to wash or otherwise clean the items, pack those, and recycle those. Valuables ones you can sell in the Web or at a flea market. Most second hand shops and organizational flea markets accept clothes and other things as donations. Shelters accept clothes (even underwear is needed!) and blankets. Local clubs accept hobby equipment. The list is endless. In practise anything that is not broken, or is easily repairable, can find a new home quite easily.
- Look at your closet/bookshelf/whatever now, and feel proud. Those are the items that you use, like and own now. Nothing less, nothing more. Just the good parts. It is very much OK to feel proud now.
Where to learn more about minimalism?
The Web is full of fantastic sites about minimalism. You can Google it up as much as you like, but I can heartily recommend these sources:
- 8 TED Talks That Will Inspire You To Become A Minimalist
- Leo Babauta’s blogs mnmlist and zen habits
- Joshua Fields Millburn’s and Ryan Nicodemus’s blog the Minimalists
- Hidasta Elämää blogs (in Finnish only, sorry)