As a longtime minimalist I find it helpful to be reminded that minimalism is a journey, and an often circuitous one. None of us got to where we are overnight and we need to pace ourselves because the race of life is a marathon not a sprint. With that said, I think many people underestimate the volume of their possessions and overestimate what is necessary to reduce it. As the old adage goes, “you eat an elephant one bite at a time,” so start simply.
While Linda and I have always lived a relatively simple lifestyle, it was only when we sold our house to become more mobile that we took greater strides toward radically downsizing our stuff. Until that time, it wasn’t really necessary, as the two of us lived amply in a 1,400-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bath home with a two-car garage and plenty of attic space. But when it came time to tackle our largess, we methodically yet ruthlessly processed each item we owned.
And the key here was our process. We thoughtfully examined all the areas of our home, from the attic above our garage to the space under our beds, and we touched every object before deciding whether nor not it fit into our newly envisioned lives. If it required extra thought we simply placed it aside until we were prepared to part with it, but not on an indefinite basis. Remember: the paralysis of analysis can derail your minimalist journey!
As I have shared before, our mantra was “minimize to mobilize,” and that was the lens we looked through to lighten our load, but I highly recommend adopting your own gauge for getting rid of excess stuff. For us booklovers, donating the vast majority of our sizable library moved our minimalist journey into high gear. Once that milestone was reached, it was all downhill from there. And neither of us regrets what we have jettisoned on our journey.
Economist Jack Lessinger reminds aspiring minimalists: “I recommend that people rid themselves of nonessentials, acquisitions that clutter life rather than enrich it. Examine your real needs rather than those foisted upon you. When you buy, buy to enhance your life, not just for the sake of buying or to keep up with the Joneses.” I might add it is also not necessary to compete with fellow minimalists in an effort to achieve “peak minimalism.”
And lest we think that even Thoreau was the model for minimalism, biographer Laura Dassow Walls suggests otherwise: “They err entirely who suppose that he counselled everyone to build hermitages in the woods, break with society and live on meal. This he distinctly disavows, but makes a plea for simple and brave living, not drowned in the details.” So, enjoy your own minimalist journey!