What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word minimalism?
Maybe it’s the image of a clean room without many objects in it? Or Marie Kondo and her tidying advice crossed your mind.
But minimalism can take on very different forms. It depends on the circumstances and the personality of the minimalist.
That’s why I’m starting this guide with my definition of minimalism. I will also explain the benefits of incorporating minimalism into your life. And of course you will also get the best Tipps & Tricks I learned from my years of living this rewarding lifestyle.
What is minimalism?
Depending on who you ask, you might get very different answers to that question.
Sometimes minimalism is defined as owning very few things. This can even become a contest among advocates of minimalist lifestyles. Depending on what your goals are, substantially reducing the amount of things you own can be a rewarding experience or a frustrating one.
My personal definition of minimalism is different. It goes like this:
Minimalists know what is essential for them. They consciously reduce their possessions and avoid distractions to focus on what is important to them.
Everyone has different goals in their lives. Minimalism can look different depending on what you want to accomplish. Reducing the number of your possessions is not everything though. You can also minimize unnecessary actions in your daily life.
For example, let’s say you want to become a martial artist. You practice the same movements again and again. And over time, your movements become more efficient. A great martial artist minimizes the amount of unnecessary movement in their actions. In removing the unnecessary, you attain mastery.
I consider this also a form of minimalism.
To me, minimalism is not a goal. It lets you reach your goal with a minimal amount of distractions.
If you get distracted a lot than your life gets out of control. Or how Tyler Durden would say:
“The things you own end up owning you.”Tyler Durden
Why become a minimalist?
Minimalism has a couple of benefits. Some of them probably don’t apply to you. And others apply to you, but are less important to other minimalists.
I noticed the following changes after living a fairly minimalistic lifestyle for years:
- I don’t have to search long if I lost something.
- Cleaning my apartment has become a lot less time consuming.
- I worry less about things and overall become a happier person. Do you know that 80% of all human thoughts are said to be negative?
- Instead of buying products, I pay for experiences. Fewer things don’t mean less satisfaction. I just treasure the remaining things I own more.
That’s why I don’t regret living this lifestyle. But to be honest: I don’t actually save a lot of money. I just spend it on interesting life experiences instead of products.
I think people are drawn to minimalism because:
- Their life spiraled out of control because of their belongings
- They are rich and realized that owning lots of stuff doesn’t make them happier. Often you need changes to recognize what is wrong with your life.
- Some just got rid of their possessions little by little.
- They parted with their belongings to start a new life. This could happen after getting fired or because they want to break out of a depression.
- A natural disaster destroyed their belongings. It could be a hurricane or the Great East Japan Earthquake, for example.
But no matter what your reason is, you want to know how to apply minimalism to your life.
About Marie Kondo
Why do you think “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo has become such a huge success? I think there are a couple of reasons:
- We live in a time of informational overload. Minimalism is almost a necessity to get anything done in the age of social media. A person living today can probably receive more information in a day than a person living 500 years ago received in a year. Unfortunately, our brain still runs on ancient hardware.
- Technological development makes it possible to do lots of things while owning fewer products.
- The book was published after Japan got hit by a big natural disaster. There’s even a comic called “There’s Nothing in My House” by Mai Yururi. It became a big hit in Japan after the earthquake.
Don’t get me wrong: She’s also a very passionate person and put in a lot of work to reach this level of success. But I think her timing also played a role in this.
Tips & Tricks
What should you discard?
Whenever you’re not sure if you want to part with a particular item, ask yourself a few questions:
- Do I own this just to impress someone?
- How often do I use this in my daily life? Did I use this even once a year?
- Do I feel good if I use this item?
Just like me, you will realize that you barely use many things you own. I don’t know how many things I discarded until now, but so far I don’t regret discarding any of them. Just be brutally honest with yourself when you ask yourself the questions above.
Do you remember the following quote from Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon:
“Don’t think. Feel”Bruce Lee
The motto of a minimalist could be: “Don’t think. Discard.”
When in doubt, trust your intuition.
I once owned a lot of books. But I almost never read any of them again. They were just collecting dust. Why didn’t I just sold them or gave them someone else? Because I thought if I own lots of books it makes me seem like a smart person. It takes honesty and willpower to sell them, but eventually I did it. My bank account thanked me.
More extreme minimalists rip the pages they like out of a book. I never did this but if you don’t mind it’s an option too. But be careful. This shouldn’t be an excuse to collect a ridiculous amount of pages. Be honest with yourself.
Fewer books increases the impact of information.
Do you have a uniform?
This tip might seem a little extreme and is thus not for everyone.
Do you know why Steve Jobs always wore the same clothes? Many famous people do this. Also not always to the same extent that Steve Jobs did. Mark Zuckerberg often wears a gray shirt, for example. And Einstein often wore the same jacket.
They do this because they don’t want to waste their energy deciding what to wear every morning. You might think this is ridiculous, but if you are an extremely busy person, you need all the energy you can get.
But if you want to do this, use a timeless style. You don’t want to wear the newest trend, because it will soon be out of fashion. When in doubt, black and white are always timeless.
Don’t worry about losing your individuality. Experience builds our unique characteristics – not clothes. And that’s great because you can’t lose your experiences.
Don’t compare yourself
Do you know how to instantly become unhappy?
Just be on a social media platform like Instagram or Facebook and constantly compare yourself to everyone else. This can become a source for tremendous unhappiness. Because someone always has a better life than you do.
The same is true for advertisements. Most advertisements tell you this message: “You are not good as you are.”
Why do you think women are bombarded with images of perfect looking models? Because if they didn’t bombard women with those messages, they would buy less of their products.
I know what you might think: “But I never clicked on any ads. I don’t buy anything from them!”. Why do you think companies are paying billions each year for ads? Because they work. Few people buy products immediately after seeing an ad. Unless their apple fans 😛
Ads work on a subconscious level. They create desire. If you are exposed to fewer ads, you might notice that you spend less money just because of that.
By the way: Experiences are more difficult to compare than possessions. How much is one yoga class worth if you compare it to a martial arts class? Comparing experiences rarely makes sense. That’s another good reason to focus more on them.
Why you should be bored
We are constantly bombarded with information every day. But do you know how most inventions got invented?
Because people were bored. They started daydreaming about a better life. Certain areas in our brain are only active while we are daydreaming or when our minds wander. We can use these moments for self-reflection. And self-reflection leads to self-improvement.
That’s why I think every person should set aside some Me-time. Your Me-time is not only useful for your own self-improvement. Your relationships with other people will also benefit from this. Happiness is contagious after all.
Do you know what happy couples do differently than unhappy ones?
They spent more time with each other. They talk five hours more with each other per week than unhappy couples. When you go through your daily life, try observing a few couples. Do they talk and listen to each other when they sit in a cafeteria? Or is one of them playing around with their smartphone?
Sometimes I even notice both of them just staring at their smartphones. Give people in your life honest attention – both of you will benefit from this.
Do you know what the essence of a Japanese tea ceremony is?
Part of it is preparing the tea and pouring all of your attention into it.
But it’s also for the person who drinks the tea and the person who serves it to think about each other. All you can do is to drink your tea and talk about the thoughts that are going through your mind right now. Having a room with few distractions makes you focus on the person sitting in front of you. It’s good that tea ceremony rooms don’t have TVs in them.
Become more productive
I used to think of myself as a lazy person. You know why? Because I neglected cleaning my room. Nowadays this is not the case anymore. Did my personality change?
No, I just don’t have many things to clean. I don’t have to move lots of objects around to clean my desk or my floor.
If you want to be more productive, you need a habit not determination. Even Aristotle knew this:
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”Aristotle
For example, imagine your desk is always messy. Maybe you don’t even need to imagine that and you’re sitting in front of a messy desk right now. A messy desk is like a silent to-do list. When you work on this desk all the text and images will be picked up through your peripheral vision while you’re working.
Remove unnecessary visual noise when possible. This alone can make you more productive.
That’s why my writing app looks like this:
No distracting menus and the text is always in the middle of the screen, reducing unnecessary eye movement.