Before we begin breaking down the concept of minimalism I have a couple of questions.
- How many of us live in a cramped living spaces?
- How many of us are renters who have to move when the landlord desires or we find a new job or a better place?
If you identified to either one or both questions, minimalism is a concept that will help in streamlining and living a richer life.
Living in limited apartments in a bustling city with a fast pace of life has been a contributor to this hoarding. We buy for our need or desire and keep adding. One can blame consumerism and the consumerist outlook in life but I would say this is an excuse.
If one looks at the current social structure there are far more people who are entrepreneurs and want to live a life unencumbered or tied down. This has seen an increase in remote workers renters (not rent seekers) and people investing into experiences than physical things.
The concept of minimalism is only being rediscovered. It is a concept that is finding its roots again.
I say its finding its roots again because if you look at human history then minimalism was a way of life for our ancestors. It changed over time and we went about hoarding things in the name of security and future consumption.
This scenario is so bad today that we hoard for years together only to discover that many of the things we bought or kept around, have never been used even once. We need to question ourselves as a society because we now have classified some of these behaviours as a psychological disorder.
I discovered this behaviour of hoarding in my own home. The exercise in minimalistic living is not easy though. Taking a step back from the maddening pace of collecting things with brazen in-your-face consumerism is a task in itself.
A step wise approach is the most important when you decide to make minimalism as apart of your living process. A ‘measure twice cut once’ approach is extremely beneficial here.
One thing that needs to be cleared is that minimalism is not a blind reduction of required things in ones life. It is de-cluttering with the aim to reduce, reuse and multi-use.
It is highly probable that minimalism might also become an expensive proposition. When one decides to go for a higher end smartphone to help deal with needs that was earlier sorted out by a laptop is one of the examples that we have all faced.
One of the things I began my minimalism exercise was with books. I moved to the electronic medium of Kindle or tabs for reading books which may not be liked or preferred by all but it has worked for me. Giving away physical books to a library helped empty a small space but it also took away a huge guilt that I was not able to care for the books and they had gone yellow or dusty.
Next I dealt with clothes and gave away clothes that I no longer wear.
Interestingly the kitchen is one place where we hoard quite a bit in the form of frozen foods or the numerous vessels.
Streamlining it all made me realise that we all are hoarders to some extent.
The books and clothes are individualistic approaches but the kitchen was a community project of sorts where I had to work with my mother and many of her answers were a mirror to where we are going as a society.
One of things that turned up was sets of tea cups or drinking glasses which were kept around to entertain guests. Though we rarely have guests, this got me questioning if I am keeping those tea cups as a real use or is it to project an image in the rare event that we do have guests. Minimalism did in fact help me realize that I did not have to be a pretender. It taught me to be calm and collected if I have to serve tea to visitor in whatever cups I had.
Minimalism is not a blind throwing away of old stuff only to buy new stuff to clutter the same space but a planned activity that looks at reducing needs and wants through proper reasoning and planning.
There were visible benefits to this exercise such as a lot of time spent cleaning and maintain unused stuff was reduced.
A corollary to de-cluttering and minimalism was healthy eating where the food became a health option. Snacking was reduced and this in turn made me look at the positive changes that it brought to my health.
Minimalism as a concept is closer to the idea of meditation or yoga where we try to reduce our thoughts to be able to get back a measure of control in our lives and to enrich it in by collecting experiences.
The conceptual and practical applications are varied. This exercise of de-cluttering my house got me thinking on how we can apply minimalism to how we communicate, work and take decisions.
One of the easiest place to begin practising minimalism at work was emails. I began to write concise emails that cut out all the frills and stuck to a problem-solution outlook. Twitter is probably the place to practise this effectively given it has a restriction on number of characters and being able to make sense in that limitation is probably the easiest way to minimalistic conversation.
Minimalism at work is driven by decisions. One of the realizations is that a decision taken to impact a specific current requirement invariably leads to future efforts being replicated along with wastage of time. The idea is to address requirements in a manner that reduce or do away with the need for replication.
As the reduced stuff in my house freed my time and gave me a sense of control, concise emails made life easier, improved response time and increased my ability to remember without the need for detailed list building activities. I do depend on lists but the amount of detail has been reduced drastically.
Minimalism is not merely about reducing stuff but investing in things and experiences that makes ones life easier and richer. This behaviour, as highlighted earlier, may have an immediate cost but an exponential long term saving.