some thoughts on minimalism

Some thoughts on Minimalism [TPP#67]

There’s been a lot of talk about “minimalism” recently.

As I’ve learned more about this fancy new buzzword and applied minimal concepts, “minimalism” is having more an more of an impact on my life and how I make decisions.

Now I’m still pretty new to minimalism and you can learn a lot more on The Minimalists blog or by listening to their podcast (this has been my go to source of minimal knowledge). But I wanted to share some of my own thoughts on how minimalism has become an increasingly important aspect of my life.


What is minimalism?

There are lots of definitions, but here’s my understanding:

Minimalism is a way of thinking and making decisions based on the idea that “less is more”. That we derive meaning and value from a few important things.

I almost think of it as a type of philosophy. A framework you can use to live your life. With this in mind, here are some of the ways minimalism has affected me over the previous year or so.

Minimal possessions

When you first hear the word “minimalism”, a lot of people assume this is referring to the idea of owning fewer possessions. And yes, your relationship with material possessions is an important part of minimalism, but it’s just one aspect. In fact, there’s no requirement that you have to own as little as possible in order to be a “minimalist”.

Minimalism, with respect to material things, is about being more conscious and aware of what you choose to own. I genuinely believe that a lot of unhappiness comes from our insatiable need for more stuff. This is a concept William Irvine discusses in his book on stoicism, A Guide to the Good Life:

”We humans are unhappy in large part because we are insatiable; after working hard to get what we want, we routinely lose interest in the object of our desire. Rather than feeling satisfied, we feel a bit bored, and in response to this boredom, we go on to form new, even grander desires.”

I’m sure a lot of people can relate to this. Have you ever wanted something so bad and then when you finally get it, the satisfaction of owning it has worn off in no time at all?

What about the last time you got a pay rise. Did it make a difference? Or did your spending increase to the point where the pay rise was no longer noticeable?

'Minimalism is about living more deliberately and embracing the idea that happiness comes from less'Click To Tweet

So, when it comes to material possessions, a minimal mindset requires us to be more deliberate about what we choose to own. By owning less, we attach more value and meaning to the things we own and as a result, our desire to own more actually diminishes. In other words, by owning less, we are happier with what we already have and don’t need as much.

I think of it like this – imagine you have a limited amount of appreciation. If you have 100 things and appreciate them all equally, you would appreciate each thing just 1%. Now if you whittle this down to just 10 things, you appreciate each thing 10%. You see? By owning less, you value things more. And by valuing things more, you don’t need as much stuff to fill the void.

When we sold our house and minimised our possessions (by either dumping or selling them) we felt a whole lot more organised and way less stressed. It’s weird how your physical surrounds can have such an impact on how you feel. It’s the whole idea that a cluttered environment creates a cluttered mind.

The reason the idea of owning less is so closely tied to minimalism is that it is a symbol for how to live the rest of your life. By owning less, you can apply the same concepts to other areas of your life, like work, relationships, hobbies and projects.

Minimal business

You can apply the concept of minimalism to how you run your business (assuming you're self-employed).

Paul Jarvis recently wrote about this on his blog and a lot of his ideas really resonated with me. Paul discusses how designing a minimal business can help you to create freedom from being “busy”, financial freedom and freedom from big responsibilities that weigh you down.

In the business world, a lot of people talk about “the hustle”. Working long, hard hours and being in a constant state of “busyness”.

I’ve always tried to follow the 4-Hour Work Week model when designing my business. In other words, how can I make a business that requires the least amount of my time as possible while still supporting my lifestyle.

With this in mind, I’m now thinking about:

  • How many products do I need to sell to generate an income?
  • How many hours should I spend consulting?
  • How much content do I need to produce for my audience?
  • How much traffic or how many email subscribers do I need?

As Paul Jarvis puts it, rather than pursuing constant growth, what is my definition “enough”?

Minimal media

We live in an age where we’re now swamped with social media updates, articles, videos, books, ebooks, newsletters, emails and podcasts.

In the past, when I’ve “subscribed” to these different channels, I’ve felt a constant need to “catch up” when I haven’t been able to listen to the latest podcast or when my reading list get’s too long.

Now, I just tell myself – if a book/podcast (or whatever) is really important, I’ll make time for it. Otherwise, I can live without it. There’s no need to consume all this content unless it’s going to be of real use to me.

I remind myself that the reason I often listen to podcasts or read books is to learn. But learning is pointless unless you do something with that knowledge. Therefore, I focus on executing and learning as I go. This is often referred to as “just in time learning”.

Minimal work

Being busy has become a badge of honour. I’ve already talked about how being busy makes us feel important. When someone asks how you’re doing, it’s great to be able to turn around and say: “Oh, I am SO busy”.

In our jobs, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with projects, email and distractions. We want to seem like a team player, so when someone asks you to do something, you say “Sure, why not”.

Tim Ferriss has talked about the idea that being busy is a form of laziness. It implies lazy thinking and a lack of priorities.

Derek Sivers says your decision to do something should be either “Hell YEAH, or no”. In other words, unless you’re not 100% stoked about doing something because you think it’s going to be awesome, then don’t do it.

By applying minimalism to our work and by taking on fewer projects we can actually achieve better results at the end of the day.

Similar to how I talked about limited appreciation. Your effort can only be divided so many ways. So what do you think is best, applying 10% effort to 10 things, or 50% effort to two things (or 100% to one thing for that matter)?

Your thoughts on minimalism

What are your thoughts on minimalism? Have you tried applying these concepts or reducing clutter in your life? What other areas of life have you applied minimal thinking to? Please share your ideas in the comments below!