With our recent downsizing from a house to an apartment, I’ve been thinking a lot about what minimalism means to me. Does this mean our lifestyle is minimalist? What does that even mean to have a “minimalist life”? I don’t think downsizing makes our lives more minimalist – it just means we have less stuff. Having less stuff means our days are more open. This brings me back to the core idea of what minimalism means to me: making room for other things.
Minimalism means making space for what matters.
Space in this context can mean quite a few things. If you were to take “minimalism” to the extreme and get rid of all of your possessions and become a nomad, that to me is still not a “minimalist life”. That’s a life with few possessions.
Even with that small a physical footprint, your time footprint will be exactly the same. You might require less time to maintain possessions, but now you’re going to visit a laundromat whenever you do laundry. You’ll have less work to clean your non-existent house, but you’ll spend time figuring out where you’ll sleep tomorrow.
Space for What Matters
The idea of being a nomad still does sound exciting, but that is not my personal idea of minimalism. If what matters for you is “new experiences” then perhaps – this could be spot on for what you’re looking for.
Your what matters may even involve not doing things – like working. If that’s the case, what are you making space for?
My “what matters” would involve a few different dimensions.
Space for More Time
Becoming mindful of what things you let into your life allows for more time to focus on what you want. This is my main motivator when I’m deciding if I want something in my life – will having this grant me more intentional time? In many cases, the answer is yes! The hard part is removing things that no longer meet these criteria.
The reason for more time to me is to slow down more and enjoy the moment. I often look past moments into the next because I’m planning too far ahead. When I have more time I tend to do this less.
Giving up my yard in our recent move brought me a lot more time. Relying on an apartment complex to handle all maintenance and repairs on our apartment brought in more time. Living close to work brought in more time. We could go a step further and order all food in, hire a cleaning service, have someone walk our dog – but these aren’t areas we currently feel the need to optimize.
Just this morning I was taking my Utah Drivers license written test (I passed by the way!). There is no time limit for it, and I wasn’t feeling rushed, so I took my time and looked up every answer. It got me thinking about the people around me. They could be pressured to go fast for countless reasons – job, family, public transportation home, daycare, other people waiting on them, etc. This negatively impacts the test with added stress. Just the act of having that time is a privilege that not all possess.
Space for More Opportunities
On weeks when we have a jam-packed schedule, it’s hard to adapt to new opportunities. The same is true when our house is jam-packed. The less time we spend maintaining, cleaning and looking after things, the more opportunities we let into our lives.
It’s easy for me to get overwhelmed and say “yes” to too many engagements. Just letting people know that you’re a “no for now” helps free space for more self-care time and other opportunities.
Space for More Relationships
Having a full social calendar can feel like we’re spending a lot of time with people – but how deep do those relationships go? When I tend to jump around between social groups, I feel less connected to people than when I’m able to devote more time to a small group of people. I prefer less time with smaller groups than more time with larger groups.
Space for More Productivity
What you define as productive doesn’t need to be something that’ll improve tomorrow you. It could be something that helps you unwind and refresh or something that hits both.
Some of the most productive time I have is sitting in front of the TV while programming. That’s how most of this site was built (and many others for that matter). Sometimes I try to maximize productivity with a deeper focus, but other times productivity might just be Mrs. Minafi and I chatting about our days while making dinner.
There is no mold for what productivity looks like, but afterward, I tend to feel it.
Minimalism Isn’t About Less Stuff
The takeaway here is that even if you eliminated every possession you own, you’d still have to do something. Unless you’re planning on becoming a Buddhist Monk (I’m looking at you Joe), then you’ll likely need actions and things to fill your days.
For me, minimalism is a tool (one of many) to maximize my time for everything else. In that same way, mindfulness and investing are other tools to maximize my time. Reducing possessions is a means to end in order to be able to enjoy life more in other avenues.
How do you define minimalism? Can you live a minimalist life? Or is it a tool and a lifestyle choice?