When did things get so complicated?
More internet, more cars, more clothes, more drugs, more dinners, more alchohol, more television, more news, more negativity, more social media.
More, more, more, more, more.
This is what we’re up against as a society. More of everything. Let’s call it “The More Virus”.
What impact does The More Virus have on us? According to multi-year a poll conducted by U.S.A Today, “Not enough free time together” is the top source of stress in marriage, above finances and sex.
I remember when I went back to Ghana, in West Africa, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Ghana is a third world country, and for the most part, is poor. In the town that my parents come from, there’s one main street where everyone hangs out. There are limited toilets, sewerage is open and making money is tough. But with all of these things that people from developed countries would consider to be a “struggle”, when you walk through the neighbourhood, you are welcomed by happy friendly people, engaging in eye-ball to eye-ball conversations, kicking soccer balls and dancing. There’s laughter, banter, calmness and unity.
The point is, considering this town has “less”, it’s arguable that the people living in Ghana are happier than those in developed countries. I know where we live in Australia, if you go out on the street, it’s completely desserted, as everyone is inside stressing about obtaining more. Sad isn’t it?
So what do we do about this epidemic? More products are being made everyday, there’s more pressure at work to perform, more negative stories are being told on the news, and there is more social pressure than ever with the dominance of social media. Overall we just expect more of our lives. All while levels of stress and depression are at a all time high.
To combat The More Virus we must learn to do less. This is where the power of minimalism kicks in.
Minimalism is about living intentionally
Minimalism is not some extremist behaviour about owning nothing but two black T-Shirts and sitting in a room with nothing but white space. To me, minimalism is the process of doing what you deem is important in your life, and eliminating the rest. That’s it.
It can be applied to pretty much any area of your life. Up until 12 months ago, The More Virus was running our lives. We were stressed out of our brains because we were overcommitted and busy chasing shiny objects.
Since then, we’ve gone on a minimalist rampage, ruthlessly analysing what we do, what we own and who we spend our time with.
Here are some of the results:
- Work and projects – Even just 6 months ago we had too many things we were working on. I was teaching, doing freelance consulting, whilst running two separate blogs. Masha was managing a health clinic, running a successful photography business, studying at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and running a personal health coaching website. Using the principles of minimalism, we determined that starting The Minimalist Vegan was the number one project we wanted to work on. So we picked up part-time jobs to support ourselves and literally got rid of the rest of our projects. Now we have the time to give this blog everything we have, and it feels great!
- Clothing – We did an audit of our wardrobe and decided to keep the items that we absolutely love, or used often, and got rid of the rest. Our wardrobe is now ⅓ of what it was 12 months ago. We’ll continue to review every 3 months.
- Household items – We recently downsized into a 1 bedroom flat, so we were forced to get rid of a lot of our things. This was an absolute blessing for us, as we really had to think about what was essential for us to keep. So we took an audit of our furniture, bedding, towels, toiletries, kitchen items, electronics, and kept the best items and what we used, and got rid of the rest.
- Vehicles – We got rid of one of our cars 12 months ago, which dramatically cut down costs. In this process we have also obtained employment within a 5 minute drive from home, so we’re saving on petrol and travel time as well. Double bonus!
- Bills – We reviewed all of our recurring expenses. It was quite surprising to see what we were spending on things we just didn’t need – things like iPad data and accounting software. These simply weren’t essential. We were able to scrutinise our costs and make incremental monthly savings. Again, eliminate things that are just taking you away from what you really want to be doing in life.
- Extracurricular activities – I was committed to two basketball teams which meant I had to pay fees and show up every week. I love playing basketball but the commitment was starting to weigh me down. So I made the decision to quit, which has allowed me to trial different forms of exercise and play basketball casually when I feel like it. This was a big step for me as I have been playing basketball for over 15 years!
Keep in mind that we have made these decisions based on what is important to us. This process will likely be different for you.
Start small and enjoy the process
The process of minimising is both challenging and empowering. Saying no is a tough skill to acquire, but one that let’s you live life on your own terms.
So to get you started, try the following:
- List all of the current commitments you have.
- Prioritise them in order from commitments that are essential to commitments that are least-essential.
- Start eliminating your least-essential commitments one at a time.
- Every month, start this process again until you’re only doing what is essential.
- Say no to things that don’t move you in the direction you want to be going or don’t really want to be doing.
- ALWAYS ask yourself “do I really need this?” You’ll be surprised how many times you will actually say no.
Other definitions of minimalism and simple living
So far, we’ve just talked about our interpretation of minimalism and how we’ve applied it. However, it’s always good to get multiple perspectives on a topic – so we’ve put together some additional definitions of minimalism, from some of the thought leaders in this area.
Leo Babuata, founder of Zen Habits
Joshua Becker, founder of Becoming Minimalist
“It is marked by clarity, purpose, and intentionality. At its core, minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it. It is a life that forces intentionality. And as a result, it forces improvements in almost all aspects of your life.”
Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, founders of The Minimalists
“Minimalism is a tool used to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.”
Colin Wright, founder of Exile Lifestyle
“What Minimalism is really all about is reassessment of your priorities so that you can strip away the excess stuff – the possessions and ideas and relationships and activities – that don’t bring value to your life.”
Courtney Carver, founder of Be More With Less
“What starts out as an external journey (giving things away, cutting the cable), becomes very personal, intentional and more meaningful. You start to think of “stuff” as not just things but obligation, debt and stress. Then you see how this “stuff” is getting in the way of your LIFE and decide to make a bigger change. It’s at this point that minimalism becomes more about who you are, instead of what you have.”
Mike Burns, founder of The Other Side of Complexity
“Minimalism, as a concept, doesn’t really focus on the “where?” question. It focuses on the “how?”. You decide what’s most important in your life. Minimalism is a strategy for how to accomplish those things. It’s about living with less so you can live well.”
What are your thoughts?
Hopefully by now you have a clearer understanding of what minimalism is and how you can apply it to your life.
We would love for you to share your personal experiences of living with intention in the comments below. More specifically, do you believe in minimalism? If so, how have you applied it?