The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.
Attributed to Socrates.
There is a lot of chatter on the internet about what it is to be a minimalist and what constitutes a “genuine” minimalist lifestyle.
Some of the posts and tweets seem to have missed the point completely – “I tried minimalism for a week…” while others have provided answers to these questions that are clearly thought out and compelling in the challenge they lay down, and the demand that we rethink our priorities.
When I read that decluttering your house makes you a minimalist, I don’t quite get it. I do not see the correlation here. The minimalists who post on-line seem to live in varying degrees of clutter, while a lot of other people, who live in a clutter free environment, are far from minimalist.
Minimalist lives tend to be lived in a clutter free environment, yet not all of those who live without clutter are minimalists. The various guides to decluttering and tidying that have been published in the last year or so, seem to have confused the issue for many people.
For me minimalism is a state of mind.
A mental process, one in which we act out of a belief that the “best” way to live is to use only what is essential for living a good, happy and satisfying life. To live a life that sees through the superficial emblems of a succesful life, and aims to clear away the things that prevent us from seeing what is real.
It is a dual process, with mental and physical components, in which we peel back the things that get in the way of our lives, putting them aside, only retaining the things which are essential for us to live our life.
There are many who seem to think that minimalism is a thing, a behaviour. That minimalists are defined by their possessions and what they do, than by who they are and what they believe.
Does owning fifty things make you a better minimalist than someone who owns one hundred things?
There are many countries in the world that are not “blessed” with economies that are based on the western compulsory consumerism model. Their populations are often very poor and have had a form of minimalism forced upon them. It is interesting to listen to friends who have returned from one of these places, as they discuss with amazement how happy, and cheerful most of the people they saw were, “and they had so little.”
When we meet a genuinely happy person, it is often striking how pared back their lives are compared to those lived by many others. Their lives contain what is essential for them to be at peace with themselves, and little else.
Being minimalist tends to mean avoiding anything that does not directly add value to the life we live. We tend to include those people, places and objects that add directly to the physical, mental or aesthetic quality of our lives. The contents of a minimalist’s life are chosen deliberately to enhance their lives. They may own a car but will be more concerned with what its practical contribution to their quality of life, rather than the badge on its bonnet.
The things, people and activities that are essential for our lives.
Minimalists are more likely to be interested in who their friends are, and much less concerned with what they do to earn a living. It is more important to have good friends who add to our lives, rather than trying to impress someone else because we know a doctor.
Minimalism is about focus. Making a deliberate choice of where to apply our focus to enhance our lives.
Where do we wish to focus our attention and energy? Often we concentrate on the things, both material and non-material that bring extra value to the life we want.
Minimalism concentrates on developing a pared down life, one that is focussed on those things, people and activities that are essential components of what makes their life good. The mix will be different for each of us.