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? Research shows that “getting and spending”–can promote unhappiness because it takes time away from the things that can nurture happiness, including relationships with family and friends, research shows.
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 a third-world country.
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 despite the struggles 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. 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 produced every day. There’s increasing pressure at work to perform, more negative stories are reported on the news, and there is more social pressure than ever with the dominance of social media. Overall we 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 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 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. Some 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.
Further reading: Minimalist Living: Breaking Down The What, Why & How
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
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!
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 need a button sewn on or a hole patched up. It gives us an excellent opportunity to assess if we want to continue wearing those items and fix them up then and there.
Update: we’ve since experimented with wearing the same clothes every day to reduce decisions and develop an iconic style.
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.
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!
Update: we are now officially carfree and are loving the benefits of reduced costs and environmental impact.
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 want to be doing in life. Eventually, we were able to use minimalism to clear $20,000 of debt within six months.
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 minimising 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:
- List all of the current commitments you have.
- Prioritise them in order from commitments that are most essential to least essential commitments.
- Start eliminating your least-essential commitments one at a time. Think about what’s adding value to your life.
- Every month, start this process again until you’re only doing things that add the most value.
- Say no to things that don’t move you in the direction you want to be going or don’t want to be doing.
- 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
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.”
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?