What Is Minimalism? An Introduction To Living With Intentionality

What Is Minimalism? An Introduction To Living With Intentionality

What is minimalism? To answer this question, here’s a snippet from our book:

In recent times minimalism has become a trend, even though it’s a concept that has been around for centuries. It’s all over mainstream media, and we’ve seen it used across various industries including fashion, design, food, technology, beauty, housing, and more. We even named our company Minimalist Company Proprietary Limited! But when the hype-dust clears, what does minimalism actually mean?

Minimalism has traditionally been linked to pure, intentional art and design concepts. But we believe it’s much more than that. We define minimalism as the process of identifying what is essential in your life and eliminating the rest. Less is more.

Our modern lifestyles are far from minimalist. With so many distractions around us, we often find it difficult to create time and space to enjoy the simple things in life, like spending time with our loved ones, exercising, getting creative, cooking, or just doing nothing. We’re too busy being overwhelmed by physical, digital, and mental clutter that leads to increased anxiety and an overall sense of dissatisfaction. Minimalism is an antidote to that state of overload.

So that’s our stance on minimalism. But it still has me wondering…when did things get so complicated?

More internet, more cars, more clothes, more drugs, more dinners, more alcohol, more television, more news, more negativity, more social media.

“More” is what we’re up against as a society. This constant desire for more is something we call “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.

Quick story…

 

I remember back in 2005 when I went to Ghana, West Africa; I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Ghana is considered to be 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 neighborhood, 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. Now of course, like any community, they have their struggles and desires. But considering that they have significantly less than first-world countries, I’d like to think they’re doing quite well.

The point is, considering this town has “less”, it’s arguable that the people living in Ghana are happier than even those in developed countries. I know where we live in Australia, if you go out on the street, it’s deserted, as many people are inside stressing about pursuing more. Sad isn’t it?

So what do we do about this epidemic? More products are being made every day, there’s increasing 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.

To combat “The More Virus” we must learn to want less. This is where the power of minimalism kicks in.

Minimalism is about living with intentionality

 

Again, what is minimalism? It’s not some extreme behavior 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 intentionally pursuing what brings you joy, and eliminating the rest. That’s it.

Minimalism can be applied to pretty much any area of your life. A number of years 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 analyzing what we do, what we own and who we spend our time with.

Here are some of the results:

Work and projects

In 2014 we had too many things we were working on. I was teaching, doing freelance consulting while running two separate blogs.

Maša was managing a health clinic, running a portrait photography business, studying to become a health coach, and running a wellness 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 got rid of the rest of our projects. Now we have the time to give this blog everything we have, and it feels great!

Update – in addition to this blog, we’ve started an online store and written a book. We’ve been able to do this because minimalism has freed us up to pursue projects we’re passionate about.

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 closet is now ⅓ of what it was. We continue to review our wardrobe a couple of times a year to make sure we still fit into everything well and that nothing is sitting in our cupboards that needs a button sewn on or a hole patched up. It gives us a good opportunity to assess if we want to continue wearing those items and fix them up then and there. 

Household items

A few years ago we downsized into a one bedroom flat. So we were forced to get rid of a lot of our things. Downsizing was an absolute blessing for us, as we had to think about what was essential 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. Since this exercise, we’ve been able to run a lean household, only bringing in things that have purpose and meaning.

Vehicles

We have had one car between us for the past three years, which has dramatically cut down our costs. During this time we were fortunate enough to obtain employment within a five-minute drive from home. So we were 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 scrutinize our costs and make incremental monthly savings. Again, eliminate things that are just taking you away from what you want to be doing in life.

Sports and hobbies

I was previously 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 minimizing is both challenging and empowering. Saying no is a tough skill to acquire, but one that honestly lets you live life on your terms.

So now that you know what minimalism is and what the benefits are, here are some actionable steps to get you started:

  1. List all of the current commitments you have.
  2. Prioritise them in order from commitments that are most essential to commitments that are least essential.
  3. Start eliminating your least-essential commitments one at a time. Really think about the “what brings me joy” part here. 
  4. Every month, start this process again until you’re only doing things that add the most value.
  5. Say no to things that don’t move you in the direction you want to be going or don’t want to be doing.
  6. ALWAYS ask yourself “do I really need this?” You’ll be surprised how many times you’ll say no.

What is minimalism? Other definitions

 

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 thought leaders in this area.  

Leo Babuata, founder of Zen Habits

leo babuata“It’s basically an extension of simplicity – not only do you take things from complex to simple, but you try to get rid of anything that’s unnecessary. All but the essential.”

 

 


 

Joshua Becker, founder of Becoming Minimalist

joshua-becker_intrepid

“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 

Ryan-Nicodemus-and-Joshua-Fields-Millburn

“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

colinrectangle2-400x400

“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

Courtney-Carver-722

“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.”

 

 

What is minimalism to you?

 

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 practice minimalism? If so, how have you applied it?

Note: this entry was last updated on 5/2/2018 from original post on 1/3/2015.

22 comments… add one
  • Valesca 03/03/2015 Reply

    love your website and your proces of following your hearts! I’m a victim of the more-virus 😉 and today was a day that it got the best of me and saw that things need to change.
    Thats when i ran into this blog, must be a sign 🙂
    Will follow you two on your minimalist journey and blog! Thanks!

  • Joel Zaslofsky 04/03/2015 Reply

    Wow. What a great start to your site, Masha and Michael. Especially this article. It’s practical, motivational, vulnerable, and a whole lot more. But “more” of the good stuff, of course. 🙂
    Consider me your newest RSS subscriber.

  • Eliana Figueiredo 03/04/2015 Reply

    Wow!
    I’ve been talking about this with some friends these days, I need and want to get rid of stuff… Like my TV, cable monthly payments first!
    What I’ve done already:
    Clothes, ( have already a suitcase full to give away), got rid already of VCR player

  • Meghan Thome 03/04/2015 Reply

    Love this! Just found your blog. As a vegan blogger journeying towards a simpler life, I will definitely be following you guys. 🙂

    It’s crazy how much we accumulate and instead of giving us what we think we want, we just feel weighed down. I’ve enjoyed the process of shedding clutter and feeling so much lighter! Work in progress of course 😉

  • barbadele 08/04/2015 Reply

    This is a very interesting article 🙂
    I too describe myself as being a minimalist illustrator and foodie when working 🙂 Simplicity is the best but getting rid of anything superfluous is something we have to work on everyday! and sometimes it can be hard when memories are involved.
    Nice blog project you two have, good luck, I’ll be following !

    • Thanks! It’s great to see that you’re on a similar journey 🙂 Yes, it’s definitely a challenge. But we’re finding that the more we declutter, the more easier it gets.

  • Richard Ma 22/06/2015 Reply

    Looks awesome Guys, Keep up the great work

  • Kathy Sturr 22/06/2015 Reply

    I recently analyzed my life and decided I wanted to enjoy summer just sitting quietly in my garden. I quit quite a few things and feel so much better! This Fall, when my summer job winds down, I plan to move my impossible-to-move-in-office to a larger room of the house and repurpose, redefine a few things and I have to tell I cannot wait! I like my quiet time, alone. I need more of it.

    • Quiet time is the best Kathy! Glad to hear you’re making the decision to quit commitments so you can spend more time doing things you really enjoy.

  • NutmegsMom 03/09/2015 Reply

    Great article! Thanks for sharing your cookbook as well! I started this minimalism journey over 30 years ago but it wasn’t until Leo Babuata’s blog articles kept popping up in social media that it started to take hold (neuro linguistic programming). I ended up backing his crowd-funding campaign for his book, Zen Habits, and with the help of that book and websites like yours, I’ve been able to turn my minimalism experiment into my lifelong journey. I look at my minpin and see how content she is with just a collar, food dish, water bowl, and some toys. I can minimize my things and focus more on what’s important to me too. It took me over 30 years to pare down and unload over 90% of my possessions, so anyone who puts their mind to minimalism can do it too.

    • Thanks for sharing your story towards minimalism. 30 years is indeed a solid transition, and it just goes to show that we can always simplify. I’m yet to read the Zen Habits book, but I intend to read it on the plane to Europe.

  • This is so true; I can totally relate to accidentally bringing more and more stress into my life. It’s always a challenge to figure out what you truly want to keep, and what you would be ok with removing (especially when it comes to commitments!). But it must be so liberating once you’re there. Thank you for sharing such a meaningful article; I have a feeling it’s going to change my life bit by bit.

    • Emily, thanks for leaving a comment. You’re right—it is extremely liberating once you start applying minimalism to your life at a practical level. Would love to know how you’ve been progressing with your changes!

  • Raj 25/02/2018 Reply

    love this article ,eye opening. I am vegan trying to go raw vegan . love to read on what is minimalism
    thanks for posting

  • Nathalie 25/02/2018 Reply

    I agree with you ! Less is more. Thank you for sharing your experience. Love, peace and compassion.

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