Minimalism's Sublime Squishy Factor
Minimalism can sound extreme. Daunting even.
Have you read those articles where someone declares they own a total of 100 things? Or a woman showcases her entire wardrobe made up of 33 pieces, including shoes?
I mean, those decisions are cool and they make for great stories. But I have at least 100 books. I'm not culling that collection any more. And my wardrobe needs to adapt to my having a life in Tucson where temperatures are high, but I travel to places where I need clothes for colder and damper climates.
Minimalism has no one-size-fits-all definition for the number of things you're allowed to own. My favorite feature of minimalism? It's squishy!
At its core, minimalism is about what brings you joy. What are the passions you want to focus on? How do you delete the distractions from those passions? And that core meaning is what I derive great inspiration from!
But those are big questions that every person must answer individually. So everyone adapts their own definition of what minimalism means to them. On my road to minimalism, I had a few Ah ha! moments that guided me:
- Consumerism was sucking me (and my wallet) dry.
I was cluttering my couch with Crate & Barrel throw pillows that I never used. I had wicker baskets with nothing in them lined up on shelves. I bought this wire-mesh urn from Pier 1 Imports and filled it with these colorful balls to place next to my fireplace.
I was trying to create the perfect stage for the Pottery Barn catalog photo shoot that would never happen! I was living on a teacher's salary and buying all of this decorative crap because I thought it was making me happy.
- Advertising was contributing to my skewed world view.
I realized that I was watching a lot of TV. And receiving tons of catalogs in the mail. I was spending time with friends window shopping through high-end malls and stores. I was subscribed to way too many store email lists.
The amount of advertising I was allowing myself to be exposed to was astronomical. As I took steps to cut back in all of these areas, I felt myself being drawn to my passions.
- Some of my passions were obvious, but I needed to evaluate them.
I have always loved being a teacher and a reader. Both worthwhile passions, but also all-consuming passions.
Being a teacher is making an emotional investment in my students. And when I watch my kids grow as readers, writers, and people, the high is amazing! And for years, I spent the vast majority of my time, lesson planning, creating materials, teaching, grading, analyzing data, attending workshops, and basically being "on the job."
Hence, reading was a favorite past time. I certainly read enough professional development books. And I've always been in the relaxing habit of reading fiction for a bit before bed. Falling into someone else's world allows me to detach from my own and "turn off" the chaos of my day.
And then I realized...aside from teaching and reading, I didn't really do much, except consume.
- I needed to identify more passions. More opportunities.
I started listening to more podcasts and exploring many blogs. I checked out books on various topics at the library. And I examined my life to determine what else was important to me.
I realized that being amongst my fellow geeks, my people, was incredibly important to me. I started attending more events that were centered around science-fiction & fantasy and books.
Since these events are often held in different cities, I remembered how much I loved exploring. I considered traveling one of those passions that I needed to financially figure out. After all, there must be a way to balance attending family events with wanderlust.
I decided to start eating healthier, to cook more often, to get out and exercise.
I realized how much I missed writing. I had kept journals for years, but my consistency in writing had become incredibly sporadic. I researched blogging and thought, "Well, that sounds fun! And if I write something that helps me, maybe it would help other people too."
- I had to purge the excess piffle wiffles. The gobbledegook. The refuse.
Minimalism offered a structure that would allow me to stay focused on my goals for my life. When I finally took the final plunge to rid myself of the Pottery Barn flotsam and jetsam, I was incredibly relieved.
I counted nothing. I kept the items that I either used, wore, or truly loved. That urn from Pier 1? Donated. Many books? Also donated. The books that I consider friends? Kept. My Mulder and Scully action figures? Oh, definitely kept them!
But piles and piles of stuff was just gone. And I miss none of it!
- And with this decluttering, I have shifted how I spend my time.
Rather than watching endless hours of TV, I have seven shows that I watch semi-regularly. And by whatever luck of design, they're not all in-season at the same time. I don't go to the mall, unless I have to. I've unsubscribed from catalogs and email lists. I've placed limits on how much time I'm allowed to spend consuming anything.
Minimalism has allowed me to focus my time on pursuits I consider worthwhile. Pursuits that allow me to create. I have this blog, which I love putting together. I love brainstorming new ideas to write about and share. I love cooking new dishes. And since I started treating cooking more as a hobby than a requirement, I've been eating better and better.
Even my relationships have better focus. My Person and I have several scheduling structures in place that keep us focused on our goals. And we do have short-term and long-term goals. And now, when my friends and I are deciding upon activities, we get creative. I'm not spending time with anyone who thinks trolling the mall is the height of sophistication.
Minimalism's squishy factor makes it an incredibly adaptable lifestyle. I've shared some of my moments of clarity as I became a minimalist. What are your Ah ha! moments? Or if you're considering minimalism, what are your concerns? Please share in the comments below.