Monday, December 22, 2014

What I'm Talking About When I Talk About Minimalism

For me, staying motivated means being constantly reminded about my goals. I'm very, very bad about letting distractions derail me. So I downloaded several podcasts related to budgeting and minimalism, podcasts I can listen to easily while I'm in the car, in the kitchen, or on a walk.

One of these podcasts had a wonderfully synchronistic episode. The show itself is MoneyPlan SOS, which provides great financial advice about debt, wealth, and everything in between. There's an archived episode from September 2012 with Untitled Minimalist's Robert Wall, wherein Robert explains that minimalism is different for each person. Sure, you have 20 and 30 somethings out there who live in a car and own about 10 things. But that's not really sustainable, especially when you talk about starting a family. For everyone else, minimalism is simply not owning more than you need to live your life. Well, I mean if that's your definition...

I did say that I'm not a minimalist, and I'm not sure that I want to be. But c'mon. Owning nothing more than what you need to live your life? That sounds pretty flexible and achievable. That leaves room for hobbies and activities that bring me joy.

Things that bring me joy. I keep bringing it up, because it's such a profound and yet perfectly simple way to look at things. As I sit in my living room right now, I look around and see a Christmas tree, a TV and stereo, a print from my favorite artist, two photos that I took myself, a few blankets, some pillows, a couch, a chair, rug...

90% of what I see is useful or makes me smile. My goal is to get ride of the other 10%. Getting rid of that 10% (broken game controllers, old receipts, etc) would mean that I was surrounded 100% by things I use and things I enjoy. How cool is that?

And the 10% right now that's cluttering up my house, well it's something I have to clean. It's something I need to spend time dealing with. Why would I waste my time dealing with joyless things? Joyless things that have no use?

Having fewer things means having less clutter. And having less clutter means I spend less time cleaning. If I spend less time cleaning, then I have more time - to write! I have more time to play with my dog! I have more time to spend with my friends!

True story - when E and I lived in the apartment, I dreaded having people over. I LOVE to host. I love cooking for friends, providing a warm and inviting place for them, but our place was a MESS. And I think in 3 years, the entirety of the apartment was clean maybe twice, including the day we moved in. Every time we cleaned, we'd focus on the living areas first - makes sense, right? That's what people would see. And we would just move stuff around. Move laundry from the couch to the bed. Move old mail from the table to the counter. Move this to that room. Move that to the other room. So we'd have a presentable living room, kitchen, bathroom (MAAAYYYYBE, if we got to it), and our office and bedroom would be absolute wrecks. So then I'd spend time cleaning those, just to let crap pile up back in the living room.

I spent so much time cleaning, when I could have been cooking. Or decorating. Or relaxing.

This is my favorite part of minimalism. The idea that once you remove some physical things from your home or your life, you've made room (physical, mental or emotional) for things that bring you joy.

Like I've said before, I'm not anywhere near done, but I've already started to notice changes in my life. If E wants to have an impromptu shindig, I don't have a minor panic attack for 2 hours. I just do a quick sweep of the house and clean the toilet. Voila!

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