I love The Minimalists, as much for their uber cool style and Joshua Fields Millburn's writing as their philosophy of paring back and living a simpler existence. Although I was once a hoarder of letters, knick knacks, clothes and sentimental items I'm finding as I get older I'm less inclined to keep things. Indeed I'm less inclined to buy them. This may be because I've moved house 11 times in 15 years. You think carefully about your stuff when you have to pack it into boxes and move it once every year and a third.
Fields Millburn and his partner in simplicity, Ryan Nicodemus, believe that minimalism is "a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favour of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom." I love that. For me it's tied up with knowing your purpose and your values, knowing what is important to you and being mindful about what you're doing and why. Doing less but doing what's important.
Minimalism is a hot topic. Google it and you get over 100 million results. Sites such as Becoming Minimalist and Zen Habits have hundreds of thousands of followers and receive regular international media attention. Closer to home there are beautiful and popular simple living blogs like Slow Your Home.
Many minimalists or simple living advocates talk about living with fewer possessions, reducing your footprint on the Earth, downsizing, frugal living, tiny homes and living slowly. I love each and every one of these but I've never been able to commit, emotionally to one single approach. I want to do a little bit of everything and that doesn't feel terribly minimalist.
So I did some research and discovered that there are many paths to minimalism. In fact this article from Psychology Today suggests that there are 14 different types of minimalism, from 'stuff minimalism' (getting by with less stuff) to 'open loop minimalism' (reducing the unhelpful thoughts running around your head) to 'commitment minimalism' (reducing the number of promises that you make).
The basic premise or philosophy behind each of these approaches is exactly as The Minimalists have described the concept itself, 'to rid yourself of life’s excess in favour of focusing on what’s important'. It doesn't matter if you're ridding yourself of excess thoughts, or possessions, or financial commitments or plastic packaging. It's about understanding your values and paring back to live in accordance with them.
I recently heard Dr Craig Hassed talk about mindfulness and stress reduction. Mindfulness is the epitome of minimalism for the mind; reducing all of our mental clutter to focus solely on the present moment.
Craig spoke of the rise in depression in the western world and I asked what he felt was the cause. He said that there has been a steady and consistent rise in rates of depression since the 1950s and not all of this can be accounted for by a greater willingness to talk about mental health. He speculated that the increase has come hand in hand with greater wealth and greater consumerism; in short, more stuff.
I wonder. Do you think this is contributing to the increased interest in minimalism? Are we suffering from 'stuff overload' in every sense?
Maybe we are, although it may not be the only cause.
I don't know the answer and people and mental health are both complex beasts, but I will continue to cherry pick my modes of minimalism. I'll buy less stuff and keep less stuff. I'll grow my vegies and recycle my rubbish. I'll walk when I can and I'll be mindful in my thinking. I'll engage in 'multiple mode minimalism' (type 15) but I'll be sure to focus on what's important to me because that, I'm sure, is the key.
What type of minimalist are you?
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