Somewhere between the fall and spring I lost my center. Between the unexpected results of the national election (and the divides it created in my organizations and family), the anniversary of our unexpected birth experience, and the allure of more (always more!) to be busy with, I lost sight of my goals and priorities. I lost myself. Fortunately, I won’t be that hard to find.
Minimalism is the answer when we feel this way. When we’re unsure of ourselves or our futures. When we feel our true selves slipping away, or when we find ourselves asking:
“Who am I?”
“What am I doing?”
Where am I going?”
“What do I want?”
Minimalism helps us answer these questions and silence the wondering. It shows us who we are and informs what we’re doing. Minimalism gives us direction. It gives us focus, purpose, and meaning.
How Minimalism Helps Us
Contrary to popular belief, minimalism is more than just the act of throwing away our stuff or clearing out our spaces. True, many of us arrive at this lifestyle by way of our closets and things, but over time, we can learn to apply its teachings about selectivity and intentionality to our agendas, our relationships, and eventually our minds.
What for a lot of us begins as a literal and physical purging morphs into a new way of knowing and seeing. A new way of looking at ourselves, at our place in the world, and at what makes our time here on Earth worth living.
Minimalism requires only that we approach each new day with a little discipline and that we pause to consider real cost vs value added before jumping into any decision. In return, it enables us to think and see more clearly.
When we learn to live and be more minimally, we are able to answer our most burning and eternal questions. Even better, we are able to find the courage to act on our discoveries. Here’s how:
1. Minimalism helps us remember what’s important.
Rather than an absence or an abstinence, minimalism is simply the thoughtful cultivation of a life worth living. Being thoughtful and selective ultimately helps us identify our core values, priorities, and beliefs. Once we do that, we are in a position to recognize what gives our lives real meaning.
2. Minimalism removes the unnecessary.
When we commit to minimalism, we make room for the things that matter most, and we clear out the rest. By doing so, we start to realize how many of the things that tie us down or cause us stress have little to no bearing on our wellbeing or priorities. So why bother worrying about or holding onto them? The practice of minimalism gives us license to eliminate with reckless abandon. It gives us the freedom, the courage, and in some cases the excuse we need to do away with the unnecessary, leaving nothing but the essentials in their place.
3. Minimalism creates headspace and heartspace.
We create space by eliminating the unnecessary. We remove all of the noise and distractions that come with modern life and give ourselves a little room to feel and think. It’s only when we’re able to hear our own voices and learn what’s in our innermost hearts that we can know our true selves. Those selves are always in there; they never get lost or go away. But sometimes they need a little quiet time and breathing room to make their presence known.
4. Minimalism allows us to honor our values.
If we remove the things that don’t reflect our values, all that’s left are the things that do. If we’re diligent in this (in keeping our spaces free and clear), we can’t help but live authentically and honorably. There is nothing to distract us from the causes that are important to us. There are no excuses for failing to live up to our own high hopes and expectations—or to the best of our abilities.
5. Minimalism teaches us to let go of things.
If we practice minimalism, we’re likely to purge things: physical items, calendar appointments, commitments, thoughts, and worries. With time, we learn to let go. And each time we do it, the act of losing becomes a little less painful. We learn to hold tightly to what matters, but to loosen our grip on the things that don’t. We see that everything serves a purpose in our lives and that it’s okay to say goodbye once that purpose is achieved. We learn to let go and to walk away gracefully and with forgiveness: either to enjoy it, or to let it hurt just a little bit less each time.
I don’t mean to make light of serious questions; finding and honoring ourselves takes work, and a lot of it. Navigating life’s toughest decisions is no small feat. But we can make the work a little easier if we practice thoughtful discipline and choose the pursuit of a simple and meaningful life.
*Note – This article was originally published on Growing Up Minimal.