Life style

Minimalism: Focusing on the important

While I was looking for the information for this article one of the definitions that I found was “minimalism means you value yourself more than material things”. Mindful consumption is something that comes to mind as well, “discovering what is important”.

I don’t necessarily label myself as a minimalist because in today’s world people seem to have very strict definitions for labels that I don’t always agree with.

I sometimes say I am a “somewhat minimalist”, not wanting to be judged for owning more things than I should according to “standards”. I do appreciate labels for what they are, but I find it easier for me to explain what I stand for sometimes as oppose to labeling myself and explaining what that means to me.

Most of the times I am mindful about what I buy: do I need it, how long am I going to use it? Is it something that I want to have and use as often as possible or is it just a mindless purchase?

Why, though?

Few years back I found myself dependent on shopping. Every time I felt bored, lonely or sad, I had to buy something. It made me happy for a moment but then I had to deal with a “post-shopping anxiety”, guilt and regret, asking myself: did I buy the right thing, do I really need it, maybe I want that other thing that I saw, etc. It becomes a vicious cycle because buying things will never fill you up if you’re empty, neither it will bring you happiness if you are miserable.

Science backs up the claim that materialists are not the happiest people[1]. Clutter causes overstimulation that can be very damaging for those who suffer from anxiety. 

Materialism is associated with lower levels of well-being, less pro-social interpersonal behavior, as well as more ecologically destructive behavior and worse academic outcomes[2]

Breaking free

When I was first introduced to the idea of minimalism I was excited to try it, but also anxious as I thought it meant that I had to not only get rid of the old stuff that I no longer needed but also stop buying new things – basically abandon my “retail therapy”, my way of dealing with stress and boredom, my escape strategy.

But I took it slow, step by step. First, I got rid of the old things that no longer “sparked joy” in me, things I stopped using. There’s something freeing about it, as not only you let go of your past in a way, but you also open up for something new, that can be things or even experiences. It’s like you are getting ready for the new chapter of your life.

Holding on to things, you sometimes deal with that pressure of “having to” use them even if you no longer like them. By letting them go you set yourself free from that constant guilt, that you don’t ever use these items.

By decluttering you don’t just get rid of what no longer serves you but also learn to discover the real you, calm your mind, focus on what’s important. You gain much more than you lose. 

Minimal to no judgement

Of course there are things that I still buy. For example, I am very much into skincare products and makeup. But even here I try to improve. My goal is to limit my consumption to only bare minimum of products that I use.

I’ll be clear: to me minimalism doesn’t mean I should own only 5 things. I just define it as owning things that I use on a regular basis. And I do enjoy using them. And it just can't be too many things. My things don’t own me, I own them.

Minimalism is not only about practicality for me. Some things have a value just because they remind me of someone I love, or it brings me joy when I look at it. I’m not very attached to things, but I can totally understand where people are coming from when they say some things hold sentimental value.

Overall minimalism is everyone’s personal journey. I think there should not be rules or judgement. At the end of the day only you know how much stuff you owned and how many items you got rid of. It can be a step by step process, or one-night clean-up. Whatever works for you. 


References

[1] University of Sussex, The Relationship Between Materialism and Personal Well-Being: A Meta-Analysis, article, November 2014, <https://www.researchgate.net/publication/267743492_The_Relationship_Between_Materialism_and_Personal_Well-Being_A_Meta-Analysis>

[2] American Psychological Association, What Psychology Says About Materialism and the Holidays, interview, 16 December 2014 <https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2014/12/materialism-holidays>