Minimalism is a state of mind

For several years now, minimalist living has been an aspiration, if not an achievement. I can hardly claim to be a true minimalist, but it helps a lot that I don’t particularly enjoy shopping and have no problem getting rid of stuff. Also, I’m a freelance writer – if that doesn’t teach you frugal living, I don’t know what will.

About a year ago, I decided to extend the minimalist principle to the way I spend my time. Society has made busyness out to be this glamorous thing – if you are not juggling many hats, a multi-hyphenate and #winning at every single aspect of your life, you are not doing enough. I love multi-tasking and feeling busy so I get it. Some days I list every single task, no matter how banal and insignificant, so I can see how much shit I’ve accomplished. Ironically, those are the days where I’m really not doing much because who has time to make lists when they’re out changing the world? 

I decided some re-calibrating was in order. Instead of trying to maximise each day, I started to see “doing nothing” as a good thing. Work and study aside, I streamlined my social engagements and actively tried to carve out time to read, watch a movie, journal, pray, play the piano, exercise, and just generally be still. Because I don’t know about you, but I am never really “doing nothing”. Even when I am not running around getting stuff done, my brain is always thinking, What do I need to do next?

Side note: I once read that when you ask a woman what she’s thinking and she says nothing, she’s actually thinking about what needs to be done, and what happened today or last week, and what she should do about this or that. But if you ask a man what he’s thinking and he says nothing, he’s actually thinking about… nothing!

As it turns out, minimalism as a daily living principle is a state of the mind. It gives me permission to slow down and say no to things. It reminds me that it’s okay not to go, go, go. I am learning to cut myself some slack. Even though the reality of my life might not be minimalist – the days are still busy and the weeks still fly by – at least now I know what underpins my decision making.

Here’s what I also learned: in seeking minimalism in the things that I do, I am actually freeing myself up to maximise the day and do more. I am learning and reflecting and thinking and (hopefully) writing more. I am loving those free hours after school with the 7yo where we can begin to unwind in each other’s company after a big day. We are getting outside on “lazy” days to just be surrounded by nature. And on those days when we really have nothing scheduled, I am spending them “doing nothing” with the people I love, which at the end of the day, is everything.

Aspiring to minimalist living, or my version of it

While hardly a true minimalist, I do love having as few possessions as possible. Either it appeals to the OCD side of me, knowing that everything is “in order” and “sorted”, or I really don’t care all that much about material stuff. Maybe it’s a bit of both. In any case, this article inspired me so much that I went through my entire house one weekend in an effort to declutter. I came away with half a recycle bin full of paper, mostly my 5yo’s artwork from the past year, a bag of trash and three bags of stuff to donate to the Salvo’s.

As I unceremoniously dumped a bag of the kid’s kinder artwork into the recycle bin, I remembered this quote from the article about memories not being in things. So true – mine are mostly in my head and hard drive, and besides, I honestly don’t think I’ll miss that stuff.

I read an interview with Will Smith in Esquire about how his son Jaden only has one pair of shoes, three pairs of pants and five shirts. A part of me wonders if it’s really true, but I admire the aspiration behind it all the same. Disclaimer: I love Will Smith, I think he’s all round one of the coolest people on the planet.

I know I will never be able to survive on just 100 items or whatever it is that minimalists do, but this is my version of living a minimalist life and I’m trying my best dammit. Also, I suspect most minimalists are not raising a 5yo in their super compact and trendy abodes.