There’s a lot that’s changed with Trevor and myself since we started this blog in 2014. One of the biggest changes has been the complete rejection of consumerism and changing over to a minimalist lifestyle. I’m Allyson, a 27-year-old that’s trying to experience as much of the world as possible, and I’m a minimalist. Here’s what minimalism means to me.
One of the main ways I describe minimalism to people that ask me, is to say that it looks different for everyone. What’s true about minimalism for me might not be true to what minimalism is to you. I believe this with my whole heart. The funny thing is that I effectively downsized and decluttered for quite some time without having my own definition of the word, which leads me to believe that perhaps it’s a definition you come to discover as you had on the journey yourself. Here’s what I came up with.
Minimalism is a tool that is simple and easily accessible to all kinds of people that can be used in any stage of life in any facet of living to review physical, or abstract, things, removing what doesn’t add value to their life, so that the person using it may be able to clearly identify the objects, goals and ideas that are most valuable to them and grant them the unobstructed vision to pursue those things.
Minimalism is a tool, or rather a philosophical idea (also technically an aesthetic in art, design and literature), that demands we review the things in our lives and ask ourselves “Does this [thing] add value to my life?”
Anyone can do this. Wealthy, or poor. Religious beliefs, ethics, morals…all irrelevant. Likes? Interests? Preferences? Don’t matter. Minimalism is a leveler, something that any one of us can do and partake in regardless of what our lives look like. We can use minimalism to declutter our homes, our belongings, our relationships, our goals, hobbies, expectations we have of ourselves, or societal pressures and mindsets. That removal of excess helps us to better realize what matters most to us in our lives, as free-thinking individuals.
This realization, this understanding, creates a clear path and seemingly grants us the ability to follow the things that matter most. It allows us to remove obstacles that had been weighing us down, wether we were aware of that weight, or not, and hands us the time back that we would have otherwise wasted on worrying about, or cleaning, those prior obstacles.
In my own life and on my own adventure, I’ve come to the realization that minimalism develops in our lives in stages. I heard the idea and understood the method, thus entering a transition from a “consumer” that fell for advertising and sales into someone that could recognize need from want. I became an individual that understood products wouldn’t change my life into something amazing. Then, after practicing the method of decluttering, minimalism seems to become a habitual way of thinking. It becomes a concern that’s on the forefront of your mind more often than it isn’t. Finally, I began to understand that the principle of minimalism can be applied to every facet of my life, not just to my physical possessions, and minimalism becomes a lifestyle.
Stage 1: Transition (the Objects that Matter in My Home)
After stumbling across minimalism, looking into it, and falling for the way my life and home would look once transitioned, I looked up the process on how to do it. Almost everywhere you look, they say to go through your belongings; start with clothes.
Starting with the things you we own and removing excess in material belongings better instills the mantra of minimalism: all of the things that are in our lives should be adding value to our lives. From there we can move on to bigger and better things, but this is where a lot of minimalists stop talking (unfortunately).
Stage 2: Habit (the Things that Matter in My Life)
Once all of our physical possessions have been sorted out and we better understand how to identify things that add value to our lives, things we need and things we don’t, we start to wonder wether minimalism can be applied to non-physical things like relationships and activities. We experiment and quickly find out that we can.
At this stage I began to understand that time is my most valuable possession, a position I didn’t hold until I arrived at this place, which leads us to the final stage.
Stage 3: Minimalist Lifestyle (Spending Time to Add Value to My Life)
The final stage is where we begin to understand that, as people, we all have what I lovingly call “personal clutter” surrounding us. The things we eat, the things we say and the choices we make about how we live all have profound impacts on the people and environment around us.
I finally understood that how I spent my time and the choices I made said a lot about who I was, that didn’t necessarily jive with what I felt was most important to me. My focus shifted inward to review the life I was living, to edit the clutter, and ensure that I was living a life with choices that were cautiously curated so that how I spent the time I had was reflective of what I cared about.
There’s quite a few things you can gain from being a minimalist and this is, by no means, an all-inclusive list. These are, I guess you could call, my top 4 picks of benefits I’ve seen in my own life.
- Clean and Clutter-Free Place: Allows for more creativity and less environmental stress (I definitely didn’t realize how much of an impact that stress had on me until it was gone). Less time spent cleaning and more time spent doing.
- Mindset: Positive and more aware of the impact my choices have. I no longer am attached to possessions and am able to control my “sentimental” attachment to items. I treat objects with thanks and appreciation for their fulfillment of duty and do not get upset when things break, or are no longer useful.
- Time for Researching Purchases: Able to think about the bigger picture in regards to how I spend my money, what kind of a world I am propelling with my money. Have the time to research cruelty-free products, goods made from recycled materials, reducing household waste, ethical/sustainable clothing, our water consumption, ethics surrounding diet choices, and chemical-free/environmentally friendly personal care products (just to name a few).
- Time for Habit Change: More tome for me and better caring for myself, wellness. Time for making the bed daily.
Granted, that all sounds fine and dandy, but I’m truthfully not fully arrived at my personal endpoint yet. For sure, I am a completely different person in 2016 from who I was in 2015, and in 2014, and in 2012, and in 2007. I’m better for the growth. There’s a constant evaluation of the things in my home and I happily do it. I create shopping lists of the things I need to reduce the amount of excess that is brought into the house. There are wish-lists where items I want are stored for review as I need to replace items I already have. I’ve donated more from 2014 to now than I had in the years prior, which makes me feel relieved to be able to help those less fortunate than me have access items they might need that would otherwise have been sitting in my house.
Becoming a minimalist is a journey full of trials, there’s no better way to describe it I feel. It’s such a tough process, full of emotional ups and downs, relationship tests, self-discovery, but it’s all so important for personal growth. Minimalism is so much more than waking up and knowing what to wear. It’s so much more than a tidy house that’s clutter-free and the envy of the internet. It’s a life-changing philosophy that centers, focuses, and encourages us to live with less distractions.