Friday, February 05, 2010

On minimalism

Over the past several years or so, I've been taking steps toward simplifying my life. Every aspect of it. Not that it was ever really complicated, and this move wasn't born out of stress or frustration. Rather, it was an idea I'd stumbled upon and was really taken with. Less is more. I've been a pack rat my whole life. I used to keep stuff just in case I might need it. I used to have hundreds of pounds of scrap steel in my garage in case I needed it for the next project I took on. Never know when you'll need a small bit of tubing, or some stainless steel sheet metal right? Well no. It was a complete waste and a complete headache.

Moving really brings into light the junk that you have but never use. I would say that in the past 4 years, I've rid over half of my belongings. Yet I still have too much stuff. As of recently I've made some hard cuts. I threw out a cabbage patch kid I got from my grandma when I was about 4. Fairfax Bouris was his name. Why the heck would I keep such a toy? Sentimental reasons. The argument there is in the memory, not the object. Take a photo of it and chuck it out.

My main source of inspiration on minimalism is A great site with some great thoughts. I have been so impressed with how good it feels to let things go. To free myself from the obsessive consumerist model that has been placed on us. To go through the basement and come out with literally 4 pickup truck loads of stuff, even after we’d moved, feels excellent. I’ve given much of my stuff away to people I know would want or need it. The rest has gone to the local recycling yard.

I challenge anyone reading this to give the idea of minimalism a moment to sit on your brain. Think it through a little. It’s not like you have to start drastically and get rid of everything less a blanket. Maybe start by going through your closet and seeing which clothes you haven’t worn in the last year. Any chance you’ll wear them in the next? Hmm. If you can’t bring yourself to actually get rid of stuff, maybe box it up and put it in the basement for a while. You’ll have started the detachment process. If you haven’t missed it in a few weeks or months, maybe you can get rid of it. My sister in law is trying this, and so far she’s impressed.

Without to much of my own babbling on the subject, I’ll turn it to Leo Babuata, who has written the below. It has been copied straight from his mnmlist website and is copyright free, so it is here, in his words, just as it is on his website. Enjoy, and thanks Leo for the great work you’ve done on your site. I will be sharing more minimalist posts from his site here, just to get them out there, but this bit is a good start. Cheers.

mnmlist: the essentials

How to do minimalism in steps
You can become a minimalist overnight, by not only changing your mindset but renouncing all possessions.
Of course, that's not a realistic approach for most of us. We have families, jobs, lives, and unless we're willing to give up those lives, our approach won't be so drastic.
Slow change is best for most people.
And so I recommend you do it in steps, as I've done. Here's what these steps might look like:
1. Stop buying unnecessary things. This step was important for me as I was trying to get out of a mountain of debt (achieved, btw). Only buy the necessities, and always ask yourself: is this truly necessary? Stop the bleeding first.
2. Get rid of the obvious things. Stuff that's getting in your way, that you rarely ever use. You can often fill up a few boxes immediately, put them in your car, and donate them to a thrift shop or to friends and family the next day.
3. Get rid of more obvious things. Now that you've cleared up some of the clutter, you can take a look around and start seeing other things you rarely use. Box these up as well.
4. Clear the clutter on your floors. If your floors are barely visible because you have clothes and boxes and different items all over the place, start clearing your floors.
5. Clear other flat surfaces. Shelves, table tops, counter tops. They don't have to be completely clear, but should only have a few essential objects.
6. Start going into closets and drawers. One place at a time, start clearing out clutter.
7. Cut back another third. At this point, you should have simplified drastically, but you can revisit what you still own and see things you don't really use that often.
8. Start letting go, emotionally. For emotional reasons, there will be things that you "just can't part" with -- clothes or shoes or books or mementoes or gifts, childhood items. This is difficult, but given time, you'll learn that such attachments aren't necessary.
9. Get rid of another third. At this point, you're pretty minimalist, but you can cut back more.
10. Et cetera. The process will never end, until you actually give up everything. I'm not there yet.
These steps are just a rough outline of what I went through, but it's a look into a process that might help.

1 comment:

coastkid said...

does it have to include the garage?..seriously thats a great plan you have there,living on my own i am quite mimninum on stuff and have a quick and easy to clean and keep tidy house but will use your steps to rid more stuff...thanks