There’s no getting around the fact that, when it comes to people, we like STUFF.
Stuff holds memories, turns a house into a home; stuff can be silly (like the adult onesie we live in on chilly, snowy days) or practical (like the adult onesie we live in on chilly, snowy days), and stuff can be inspiring, as in the case of art arranged on a wall as a grand dream board.
At a certain point, though, our stuff becomes less a guest in our house and more a demanding lodger.
It demands time cleaning it, rearranging it to accommodate other stuff, and subtly orders us to engage in the mental gymnastics of justifying why, precisely, we absolutely need to have so much stuff.
It’s been noted that paring back “stuff” reduces stress, increases a sense of well-being, and allows the brain much-needed time to focus on things people really want to think about, as opposed to “Oh hell, do I have to vacuum that rug I simply had to have AGAIN?”
Enter Minimalism. What is “minimalism”? It is de-cluttering with a cool name. Minimalism is not getting rid of all your stuff, but it is living with less stuff.
Minimalism, then, is an exercise in prioritizing stuff. How does one do that?
Needs, Wants, Comforts
The easiest way to get started with minimalist living is to break our possessions (even our adult onesie) into 3 categories: Needs, Wants, and Comforts.
Of the things surrounding us, what majority falls under one of those categories?
This is something of a trick question. If any single one of those categories dominates – even needs – there’s imbalance, and imbalance leads to shoddy logic in prioritizing.
Your home should fairly evenly reflect all three categories.
This Is NOT Sparta!
A home outfitted only in needs is one attempting to push itself to the breaking point.
It’s akin to a dieter throwing out everything they formerly were happy to eat: inevitably the snacks and desserts and delicious bits will flood back into that person’s life with a vengeance.
Sorting your needs should be an exercise in honesty, not punishment. Having a spatula is a need. Having 3 spatulas because one was a gift, one is slightly bigger than the others, and one is green is not a need. Decrease.
The same goes for a television in every room, or completely outfitted offices for upstairs and downstairs, or even having so many potted plants in a single room it qualifies as terraforming.
Our needs must have a function beyond emotional attachment, collector enthusiasm, and self-congratulation. This still leaves a wide variety of possessions laid before us to turn our houses into homes.
Excessively Spartan living is fine for those with the stomach to tolerate it, but it is hardly a prerequisite for minimizing a “stuff footprint.”
Want, Want, Want
The Veruca Salts of this world doggedly maintain that they deserve the things they have, meaning the things they don’t yet have are an implicit insult to them.
Meaning they must have more and more and more… which, paradoxically, leaves them satisfied with less and less and less.
If you’re a sci-fi fan, you may want every edition under the sun of USS Enterprise model kits.
Book lovers will cling to their wobbly TBR (“To Be Read”) piles until their last breath.
Record aficionados never plan to “get rid of” (in quotes because they can’t quite fathom the request) their vinyl in favor of downloads.
The things we have often play a role in defining us. The question then becomes: must our lives be so high definition that no one ever fails to notice the richly detailed identities we put on display?
Giving in to unyielding wants creates whirlpools of stress. Minimize by realizing that a want is often a shout for attention, be it external or internal attention, and that you don’t need to shout to be heard, nor sparkle to be seen.
Comforts. Comforts rule. Literally. Needs and wants are driven by comfort: physical, psychological, and emotional comfort.
We love our favorite plush robes. The vibrating chair massager is a can’t-live-without after a long day. Even our food: it’s not enough to have one type or flavor of chip in the house; we must have a variety to cover our changing moods.
But we need to figure out what gives us comfort… and what merely masks pain.
It’s no secret that a lot of what we think comforts us harms us. That plush robe may be our way of tuning out the world and our families.
The massager keeps us from feeling like we’re a bother to our lover if we ever asked them to give us some attention after that long, hellish day.
The chips? Salt, grease, cholesterol…
How does one minimize reliance on comforts? Face more of the things that make us uncomfortable.
A desire to tune out the world might come from feeling as if you’re never heard. Speak up for yourself, your needs, and your wants, otherwise mental clutter takes over, and that clutter spills over into your home surroundings.
Avoiding emotional confrontation might come from a desire to feel loved all the time, which might lead to a closet full of self-care devices, perfumes, colognes, dresses, suits, mountains of “date night” shoes never worn, or an attempt to turn as much of the home into “entertaining” space as possible.
Facing what causes us emotional discomfort is a sure-fire way of escaping the hypnotic haze of filling our lives with gunk.
Just as there’s a Feng Shui of the home, there’s Feng Shui of the mind and Feng Shui of the body. All three elements must flow in harmony with one another to prevent blockages, discomfort, and waste.
If you’re outgoing, make your home inviting and casual. Bean bags and an open floor plan – instead of plush leather sofas and so much vintage seating an investigation of running a senior center without a license is warranted – bring out way more conversation and laughs.
Rather than have both a refrigerator and freezer full of quick and handy foodbits, consider a garden to supplement mealtimes.
A minimalist lifestyle means focusing on what actually brings pleasure and contentment rather than that which obscures it. Consider donating excess clothing, furniture, and house wares to trusted charities or resell shops.
Rethink your definition of furnished. A lavish bed doesn’t sleep any better than a simple one.
A sectional sofa that needs a “You Are Here” map in order for you to find human contact in your living room really doesn’t have a solid advantage over a comfy loveseat built for two.
So think about it: What do you have, why do you have it, and would there be any appreciable vacuum if it were gone?
If the answer is even remotely “Too much,” “I don’t know,” and “Not really,” start letting things go.
Wrap-Up, Minimalist Style
Always keep in mind that the less you have does not equal any less in the world of you.