“How might your life be better with less?”
This was the question I first heard from The Minimalists’ podcast as I was driving back to my college town. For me, as for most students, college was a huge transition. My living space, schedule, and environment had all changed.
College often shows a pattern of more; more expectations, coursework, obligations, commitments, and responsibilities. In many ways it mirrors life after college, as the full schedule never seems to end.
In a season of my life where I was bombarded with more, I knew it was time to make a change. I was feeling exhausted, overworked, and unfulfilled. So I continued listening to The Minimalists’ podcast, where I began to learn how minimalism allows us to remove the clutter in our lives so we can focus on what’s truly important. My curiosity lead me to other great minimalists, like Joshua Becker, Leo Babauta, and Courtney Carver.
Minimalism and College
As college was filling my schedule with more, I decided to fill my schedule with less of what didn’t matter and more of what did. Here are a few about minimalism that I learned during college.
1. You don’t have to live like everyone else.
Not everyone is a minimalist, and that’s okay. I’m the only minimalist that I’ve ever lived with, yet being able to live with yourself is what’s important.
Minimalism helps me live in alignment with my values and beliefs, and that really helped me throughout my time in college and still helps me today. We have to learn how to say no to what’s not important, so we can say yes to what is.
When everyone and everything tries to pull my time and attention in different directions, minimalism helps keep me focused and on track.
2. There is no universal schedule all minimalists follow.
Some minimalists enjoy doing very few things with great pleasure, while other minimalists have arranged their life in a way where they’re able to contribute to multiple projects they’re passionate about.
Those who aren’t familiar with minimalism may think minimalists must have an empty schedule all the time, yet that’s far from the truth. It’s not about the quantity of tasks, but the quality of tasks.
During college, I was able to work part-time, intern for a nonprofit organization that I care about, be a full-time student, and still spend quality time with my family and friends. This was all possible because I knew what was important to me and scheduled my time accordingly.
3. Less clutter allows for more focus.
Just as I assessed what things were filling up my time, I assessed what things were filling up my living space. I washed my laundry before it became a mountain that took over my room. I washed the dishes before they piled up and resembled a game of Jenga. I kept my room tidy so that I could find what I needed when I needed it.
If I had to spend time looking for my phone charger or most recent assignment, I couldn’t spend that time doing something I wanted to be doing. Even desktop and app icons were beginning to create unnecessary visual stimulation, so I deleted the ones I didn’t need and stowed the rest away.
I remember when I first started decluttering, my friend asked, “There is nothing on your desk? Don’t you use it?” In reality, there was nothing on my desk because I did use it regularly. Having a clear desk helped me create a clear mind, and that’s the mindset I needed for whatever I was going to do next.
4. Work is important, but so is having fun.
Our to-do lists and errands can overwhelm us to the point where we feel like we don’t have time for anything else. In an era where productivity is prized, it’s easy to get caught up in a mindset where we must never stop working. Yet this idea leads to burnout, low morale, and fatigue. Minimalism taught me when we slow down and do things we enjoy, we can enjoy life and recharge.
5. There is no one way to minimalism.
It’s easy to want an ultimate guide to becoming a minimalist. We are used to being able to Google anything and get direct answers. But minimalism isn’t that straightforward and can seem to be full of irony. Just take a look at some of the great minimalists I mentioned earlier.
Leo Babauta has six kids. The Minimalists recently launched a physical product. These may seem like they would disqualify them from minimalism, but that’s not how minimalism works. Minimalism doesn’t have a set standard, it can be crafted to your life as you see fit.
I learned these life lessons during college, but they have proved valuable well beyond college. You don’t graduate from minimalism, but that’s the beauty of it; there is always more to learn about the benefits of living with less.