Minimalism; It’s more than a pretty instagram picture
Minimalism has become a popular term these days. In 2010, Joshua Fields Milburn & Ryan Nicodemus begin their website, The Minimalists . Over the last few years similar blogs, articles, and Instagram accounts have surfaced as people all over the world have grasped onto this way of life.
So what is minimalism? If you’re like me, when I first heard of minimalism I had this picture of a beautiful white room with a white table and a single stem flower in a vase with ethereal natural light shining into the room. Everything is crisp, orderly, and almost clinical. People can’t really live like this, I thought to myself, this is just an aesthetic for trendy Instagramers. I started doing some research on just exactly what minimalism was and I was surprised and intrigued by what I found. Milburn and Nicodemus summarize the basic philosophy saying,
“Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.”
I really like this definition because it isn’t focused specifically on just purging material possessions (which can be and often is a part of each person’s minimalism journey), but rather it focuses on the freedom that comes from redirecting your energies towards things that actually matter. It’s so easy to get distracted and overwhelmed by all the things that pile up—the U.S. is mostly notably a nation that has grown to crave quantity over quality. The perception others have of us has become a driving factor in our decisions, our purchases, our way of living. Over the years this idea has developed that we can have it all, while ignoring the reality that you can’t have it all and really enjoy it or steward it well.
We only have so much time in a day. We only have so much free income. We only have so much space in our homes until things are overflowing from boxes that we haven’t opened in ages. We buy things on sale because it’s a steal and we keep things that “we’ll get around to working on later.” We overcommit to extracurricular activities because we feel obligated. We keep clothes that we haven’t worn in months because we feel bad we spent money on them and have barely worn them. We live above our means and spend time stressing about how to pay our bills.
Minimalism is appealing to me because I feel like it encapsulates the values that I want to keep central in my life (though I am still constantly learning how to do so!). I want to have time to focus on my relationships and not feel bogged down maintaining my possessions. I want to be able to pick out an outfit in under three minutes in the morning, without rifling through piles of clothes that I don’t enjoy wearing. I want to make sure that my husband and I can pay our bills and enjoy what we have without worrying we’re going to lose it because we’re drowning in credit card debt.
One of the challenges for me in the beginning was falling into the mindset that having material possessions was wrong somehow. It’s not about refusing to own things, it’s about making sure the things that you have are adding value to your life.
This became an important question I asked myself with clothing, activities, and possessions. “Is this adding value to my life?” This is a pretty broad question though and you can easily find yourself justifying keeping multi-colored harem pants that you haven’t worn in two years, because one day you just might feel like it again. Over time, I added the following questions: “Am I currently using this? Is this something that I actually need?”
Purging items from my house that haven’t been used but are in good condition gives me the opportunity to donate things to others who might utilize them better. There is less to clean, less to maintain, and ultimately I am left with space to enjoy what I do have that is adding value to my daily life. My favorite facet of minimalism that I’ve enjoyed utilizing for about two years is the capsule wardrobe , which is the concept of having a small, streamlined wardrobe of items that you really, really love that can be combined multiple different ways.
I’ve gotten so much inspiration from Caroline on her website Unfancy. After my college years (when I didn’t have a lot of extra spending money for clothes) and a year overseas in Tanzania I was already used to working from a small closet, but I never realized how much money I was spending on cheaply made clothes that I needed to replace after a few months. Capsule wardrobes focus on quality over quantity, purchasing sturdy, interchangeable pieces that will last longer than “fast fashion” (It’s an excellent opportunity to focus on ethical fashion choices!).
There are always exceptions to things—I can’t quite bring myself to get rid of all my childhood books and take the plunge to put them all on a Kindle. Those books add value to my life and I hope one day, will be valued by my own children.
It’s okay to keep things! Minimalism is what you make it.
There is no right or wrong way to practice it. You can always add new facets of minimalistic living, and you can go at a pace that makes sense for you!
For more ideas or inspiration on minimalism, you can check out The Minimalist’s website or podcast, as well as their documentary, “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things,” which is available on Netflix!
About the Author
Stephanie Ramos is a film school graduate who has spent the last four years working in the nonprofit sector with at-risk kids and teens. She is passionate about minimalism, experiencing different cultures, cooking, writing and finding new ways to advocate in the fight against human trafficking. She lives with her husband Eddy in Naples, Florida and looks to the future with anticipation and excitement.