What is a Minimalist?

a woman sitting with a cup of coffee
If you've heard about the wonderful world of minimalism, but aren't sure what that entails, it's essentially what it sounds like.

A minimalist is someone who wants minimal aspects in all the things they own and do. This could be things in their closet, their kitchen, the amount of mugs in their cupboard, or how many jobs they have. This could even be fewer social media apps.

As minimalist expert, Joshua Becker, says in his book, Things that Matter: Overcoming Distractions to Pursue a More Meaningful Life, "I define minimalism as the 'intentional promotion of the things we most value by removing anything that distracts us from them.'"

Anyone can minimize their lives, but it takes special determination and wisdom to keep this lifestyle, long after the newness of owning less has passed. 

Minimalism encompasses the goal of living with less so you can love what you have.

To be a minimalist, the biggest shift for most people is understanding that we have too many things. We have so many choices from food, clothing, books, shoes, and even the bread aisle at the grocery store. Because of our options, we're inundated with the desire for more as if this is how we're supposed to be.

But, are we? Is acquiring and wanting and needing more the way we're supposed to live?

From social media to television ads, print ads, books, blogs, newspapers, and on, we're literally told we need to buy. It's assumed that we consumers are just supposed to keep on consuming for the rest of our lives.

But, why? Since when was it wrong to love what we already had?

I became a minimalist when I realized I had way too much of everything and didn't like what I had. It was depressing to turn around and see what I had accumulated, only to see that I wanted more! (I didn't appreciate what I already owned either.) 

I had on my fast-fashion, fast-living, I want-it-now attitude and was miserable.

I was also in a big contradiction. Back in 2015, in the earlier days of Instagram, I was promoting fast fashion on my social media ... but I loved vintage fashion (wearing and selling it). This began to grate on me. I already despised fast fashion, I hated the cheap clothing created at all the Targets and Wal-Marts, Sheins, and Forever 21s of the world. But I was promoting it because of money and popularity.

It was easy to buy something and then a season later, throw it away, because it wasn't trendy. But, this made me sick to my stomach. The tenets of slow fashion - which I loved- are the polar opposite of this. That was what I wanted.

I had to get out of that hole of desperation thinking I needed to be like everyone else to succeed. It obviously wasn't working, because I was not happy. It felt fake, forced, and lowly. 

I got rid of that social media account a couple years later and became honest. I loved real true vintage clothing and planned to wear, keep, and sell it for as long as possible. So, I chose that way of living and haven't looked back.

Minimalism is a way to bring back order and peace to enjoy what we have in our lives. Minimalism is about slowing down; about getting rid of excess and the superfluous stuff that we think we have to have.

Our society tells us we need to consume, buy, update, and be on trend. Instead, all this does is create stress, put us further in debt, and lie to us. There is no permanent satisfaction in consumption. There will always be the desire for more. Just one more this, just an extra that, just this thing...

In a way, these lies form our identity. We are so tied to what we consume, that we don't know how to live without it. Our things begin to own us, control us, and take over every part of our lives. Last time I checked, being the large-brained mammals that we are, we're supposed to own our stuff, not the other way around.

Two other minimalism experts, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, talk about this in their book Everything That Remains: A Memoir by the Minimalists. Millburn says about everything he owned, "... they were a part of my identity. A part of me. And once something's a part of your identity - once it becomes a part of you - it's hard to shed."

Your stuff becomes you. And it is hard to shed what you think is a part of you. It's asking a part of yourself to die. But that death is what's going to bring new life. Like pruning a tree, taking off the dead wood, this trimming - or hacking, in my case - allows for new growth.

To bring control back to our lives, we have to let go of what owns us. Minimalism, at its root, is about order, reason, and peace. And becoming a minimalist is a way to regain control and focus on what really matters.

For me, minimalism is about paring down to love. What I love to have, love to be around, and love to have front and center in my life.

Here are examples of how minimalism affected each area of my life:

My closet: I had upwards of 150 items of clothing. I wasn't even wearing close to half of it. I got rid of what I didn't wear or didn't love,  and today I have a solid 85 items. I wear each item and love each item. It's simple, all of it is wearable, and I own nothing that doesn't serve me.

My kitchen: I got rid of all excess plates and dishes (I love vintage dinnerware and have been collecting for decades, so this was hard to let go, but I wasn't using most of it- I only saved what I loved the most) and lots of kitchen gadgets. I didn't use that air fryer after all, the plastic containers to hold food were out of control, and I only needed one spatula, not five.

My books: A lot of folks balk at giving up books. But unless they're your favorite books of all time, and you're rereading them semi-regularly, books are only for display. I downsized my library by hundreds of books and only kept what I loved the most. I love my library more than ever.

My social media: I went through and got rid of accounts I didn't use, and apps I didn't like, I even got off Instagram for two months to see what that was like. Less is so much more! I felt free; free to get off my phone and focus on what was important to me. Instead of scrolling, I was reading. Instead of shopping on an app, I was decluttering some drawers. Instead of wanting more, I was wanting less.

Becoming a minimalist is like waking up and realizing you've been living in a fake world. It's like Neo in the movie The Matrix. We aren't living, we just think we're living. 

The real living is when we give up the desire for more and appreciate what we already have.

Being a minimalist allows me to really live and truly love. And I don't think there's any higher calling than that.

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