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The Minimalist's Guide

Updated on December 23, 2011
My kitchen uncluttered and everything what little I have put away.
My kitchen uncluttered and everything what little I have put away.
My living room. I would like to replace this chair with one perhaps a little more comfortable. But this one does work.
My living room. I would like to replace this chair with one perhaps a little more comfortable. But this one does work.

You never really know how much stuff you have until you have to move it. I’ve experienced this a lot in my life. In my 43 years of life, I’ve lived in 20 different places. That’s 20 times I’ve moved all of my stuff from one place to another. Geez, no wonder I’m so exhausted. But I must say that over the years and different times of moving, I’ve moved with less and less. The difference in possessions from the very first time I moved to my last move at my current location is huge. I used a large Uhaul truck for my first move and only my own pickup truck for my last move. That’s because I have carted around so much stuff that I truly am exhausted with it and have learned to become a minimalist. And I must say, it feels good.

The most important thing to consider when becoming a minimalist is what is necessary to you. Do you need a certain item or do you just want it? Is it functional or is it a trinket? Does it work for you or does it sit on a shelf and look at you? Minimalists don’t have to give up the items that do nothing but make them feel good because in making them feel good the item is serving a purpose. Minimalists give up the items that do absolutely nothing for them. That in turn creates a home space that is free of clutter. Clutter is known to make most people feel heavy and unhappy.

I enjoy living minimally because it does make me feel light and unencumbered. I enjoy knowing that what is in my possession, what I am surrounding myself with has a specific purpose. Therefore, the items I have are mostly tools. Tools that are not strictly limited to a hammer and a nail but a computer for which I am using to write this article, a chair for which I am using to keep myself off of the floor and support my back, so on and so forth. That’s just the kind of minimalist I am.

I’ve never understood why people hire decorators to decorate their houses with items that mean nothing to them or buy items to decorate with that don’t even make them feel good. They just buy it because they feel like they have to put something on that shelf. What will the neighbors think if there is nothing on that shelf? If I have anything in my home that is considered a decoration, it is typically something of meaning to me such as a turkey feather I found while on a memorable hike or some pine cones that give the house a nice smell and are decomposable. If there are pictures on the wall, they are pictures I took or created in some way.

Other things I typically have around my home are items that I sell and I do it diligently so that they do not linger. But that will usually be a reason for me to have something in my home that is of no use to me other than to make money for me which gives the item a purpose.

So how do you determine what is necessary to keep and what is meaningless clutter? After all, you may wear that Santa Claus sweater some day. A general rule would be to ask yourself honestly if you are really ever going to wear that sweater and when was the last time you wore it? Also in the case of the sweater, Christmas time is the only time you would wear that sweater so that’s not very efficient. You should be able to wear a sweater for 4 or 5 months a year, not for just 1 month or 1 day. See how this goes? And when you do decide to get rid of items, either sell it or donate it but please don’t through it in the trash to plug up a landfill. Perfectly good items should never end up in the trash. That’s just wasteful and environmentally irresponsible. Just because you aren’t using it doesn’t mean someone else can’t.

Now let’s not make living minimally to mean that you necessarily have to have very few possessions. It’s just that these possessions must have a purpose. So if you are an emergency preparedness or survival type of person and you hoard food and supplies it does not mean you are surrounded by clutter as long as you literally are not sleeping in a pile of boxed macaroni and cheese. Careful organization of a stock pile can feel perfectly light despite being so massive. I call this gear management. Whatever you have, manage it in a way that is efficient and most productive and you are a minimalist.

Some people are very strict minimalists. They own basically nothing. It’s inspiring but I would imagine somewhat difficult. After all, it’s hard to cut up vegetables with a spoon. I say that just to make a point. I’m sure they own a knife and a spoon and maybe even a fork. I believe they are just one type of minimalist. I believe there are varying degrees of being a minimalist but the key idea is the purpose of the item you own. The word "minimalist" doesn’t have to be taken literally.

Some people are extreme hoarders and couldn’t get rid of something if you paid them. They probably have 45 knives, 83 spoons, and 114 forks. They will tell you that everything they own has a purpose to them or that they are keeping 114 forks in case they need them someday. So are they minimalists? Probably not. They are people with a real medical and /or mental condition that makes it difficult for them to part with their possessions and compels them to acquire as much as they can. It gives them a feeling they can not get from anything else whether it’s a feeling of love, belonging, or satisfaction. And they many times live in filth which totally defies the laws of being a minimalist if we can assign laws. Not that some minimalist aren’t so minimal that they do not want to use much water to do the few dishes they have. But you should get the idea.

I am a minimalist because I enjoy the feeling I get from it. It makes me feel free of objects and of the maintenance of the objects. As I said, it makes me feel light. I feel like I can easily and cheaply get up from my one chair, load up my truck, and move to my 21st place. And it makes me feel like I am living in a purposeful way. That everything I surround myself with has a meaning. I think it’s a pure way to live and supports good mental health. If you find yourself feeling heavy and bogged down, consider whether it’s what you surround yourself with and give the life of a minimalist a try.


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