When some people meet me, and they feel compelled to 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, and I’m not 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. I own a desk. I own a guitar. I own some furniture. I own a shelf full of books. I own a dresser and a washer and dryer and more than a few days’ worth of clothes.
But there are three key distinctions:
1. I don’t own excess. 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 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 possessions. Most important, 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 that would allow you to focus on the important aspects of your life?
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