“Love people and use things because the opposite never works” ~ The Minimalists, TEDx Fargo 2016
If you know my husband Colin, you know that he is not only very detail oriented (the type of radiologist you would want reading your x-rays), but he is also extremely organized. One of the first things he does when he is not working is he tidies up the house – yes, I am lucky. The frequency and intensity has certainly ramped up over the years, interestingly as the stress and demands of his work have increased. His time off often includes trips to the local donation centers to drop off items we are giving away, scanning documents to keep digital copies then shredding them, and giving away anything that no longer serves a purpose. Colin quickly pieced together that simplifying and organizing his environment was a stress-reliever for him and I happen to reap the benefits.
As it turns out, Colin’s approach to minimizing the “stuff” around him, making room to enjoy what is left behind, is shared by many people who embrace minimalism. During one of the recent episodes of 10% Happier with Dan Harris, a podcast I frequently listen to and mentioned in last week’s post, he recently (August 31st) interviewed The Minimalists, Joshua Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. This really solidified in my mind the genius behind what Colin has been doing.
What is minimalism?
According to The Minimalists, Joshua and Ryan, minimalism gets us past ‘the things’ so we can make room for life’s important things – which actually aren’t things at all. They both discovered this after a personal journey of chasing the “American dream”, making a lot of money and spending a lot of money. As they so accurately point out, “discontent is a by-product of chasing happiness”. They discovered that the less they focused on “stuff”, the more they were able to focus on what really mattered such as health and relationships.
Minimalism & meaning
The Minimalists, Joshua and Ryan, are quick to say you don’t have to get rid of everything to experience the benefits of minimalism. Instead, “Today’s problem seems to be the meaning we assign to our stuff: we tend to give too much meaning to our things, often forsaking our health, our relationships, our passions, our personal growth, and our desire to contribute beyond ourselves.” They say this more simple way of living can free us from success and achievement and allow us to live more meaningfully.
In their recent podcast recorded at a live event in Utah, they outline these 5 values of living meaningfully that the previous paragraph alludes to: health, relationships, passion (such as craft and creativity), growth and contribution. As we can see, living in a large home and driving expensive vehicles doesn’t fit within these values. We know this to be true but it certainly can be tempting to fall into the trap of wanting more.
What small steps can I make to add some minimalism to my life?
In The Minimalist’s TEDx Fargo 2016 talk, Let go, change your life, they ask, “How might your life be better with less?”, where less means everything adds value through purpose and/or brings joy.
To get started, they offer a few ideas:
1) Our memories are inside us – not in the form of external items. They say the best way to trigger memories is with photographs. Don’t want to throw away a special piece of artwork from when your child was young? Take a photograph to capture the memory. They also say it isn’t enough to throw photographs in a photo album. They should be digitized and categorized. So many of us never look at those digital photos but they use digital frames or other ways (i.e. on your TV through Apple TV) to display the photos and enjoy them.
2) One in, one out – something new comes in, something old may have to leave. They say this is a good way to model some minimalism for our children. In our household, we have tried to do this with our teenaged daughter. She would like to continue buying new clothes and adding to her already maxed out closet, but we have been enforcing this one in, one out concept for awhile (thanks to Colin’s already minimalistic approach).
3) Abolish the term “just in case” – Oh, am I guilty of this one. I have often hung onto things for this reason and the ‘just in case’ moment never arrives resulting in it being purged in some way anyhow. Some just in case moments justify hanging onto something, such as first aid supplies (first thing that came to mind), but we can all think of the other things that will likely never serve a purpose or bring us joy. Time to look through my overflowing bookshelf again…
And a couple of Colin’s ideas:
1) Is it a need or a want? – We like to shop in our house, but over time we have tried to stick to this mantra of Colin’s. Of course, this may mean cleaning out your closet before going on a trip where you will be shopping, but at least you can really identify what might in fact be more of a need.
2) Dropbox is essential – Colin has used Dropbox to digitize and categorize our life so it is available at his fingertips. He then stored it in iCloud so that even if everything was lost, he could retrieve it again. This sounds daunting, and is to me too, but time and time again I have seen the value of his paperless ways. In the end, it really does save time trying to remember where you put something or being able to look something up anywhere, anytime.
Do you agree with the concept of minimalism? As the Minimalists say, “consume less and live more.”