Some people meet me and when we talk about minimalism they think I live a radical lifestyle. They say things like “I could never be a minimalist.”
But the truth is that my lifestyle is not radical. I don’t consider myself a radical person. If you met me today and we didn’t talk about minimalism (which we probably wouldn’t), you wouldn’t think my lifestyle is much different from yours:
I don’t count my stuff, but I have hundreds of things, even after I got rid of 90% of my stuff. I own a car. I own pots and pans and kitchen utensils. I own a queen-size bed. I own a smartphone. I own a laptop computer. I own a desk. I own a guitar. I own some furniture. I own some books. I own a clothes dresser. I own a washer and dryer. I own more than a few days worth of clothes.
But there are three key distinctions
1. I don’t own excess stuff. I have only the things I use frequently, things that add value to my life; but I don’t have extra stuff, I don’t have just-in-case items. If I wanted to change my lifestyle, then my definition of “excess” would change as well. For example, if I wanted to become a peripatetic writer, traveling the world like my friend Colin, then I would need to drastically reduce my possessions. But, at this point in my life, I’m happy with where I live, and I don’t desire to travel extensively. If that changes, then I will change.
2. I constantly question my possessions. Do I still need this? When is the last time I used this? What would happen if I got rid of this? Could someone use this more than me? These are questions I consistently ask myself. Because I constantly question my possessions, I am in a perpetual state of paring down, which feels good. There is no endgame, I will never arrive—I will continue the journey the rest of my life.
3. I don’t give meaning to my possessions. Most importantly, I understand that my possessions can be replaced. Someone recently asked me what I would grab if my apartment caught fire. “Nothing,” I responded. “Everything I own is replaceable.”
Minimalism is not a radical lifestyle. Minimalism is a tool I use to get rid of unnecessary stuff and live a meaningful life—a life filled with happiness, freedom, and conscious awareness. Because I strip away life’s excess, I’m able to focus on the important parts of life: health, relationships, passions, growth, and contribution. That’s what living a meaningful life is about for me.
How about you—what could you strip away from your life that would allow you to focus on the important aspects of your life?
Sharing is radical.