More Thoughts On A Journey Of Less

Making the most of minimalism doesn’t strictly mean owning the least you can. Even if it did, I find that it’s taking me years to declutter and minimize. Attaining a simple life — the real goal — isn’t easy. I must be deliberate and mindful.

Maybe above all, I must be persistent because the call of consumerism is constant. And loud. I often want to upgrade my perfectly working devices for the shiny and new. So I buy more things, making my life a little less simple. And my minimalism starts to look like maximalism.1

I should practice gratitude and contentment for what I already own. But that doesn’t seem as easy as simply decluttering. A cultivated virtue seems less concrete than the tangible and visible progress of removing excess stuff.

So sometimes I practice minimalism mainly by purging2 things. It makes my living and working spaces less cluttered. I’m not consistent in this, though, so the way I persist is by returning to the task regularly.

When I last cleared off my shelves and other horizontal planes, months later I felt the familiar temptation to put of few things back on display — not a lot, just two or three choice decorations.3

But I resisted re-cluttering and persisted in decluttering.

A few things I’ve kept are stored away in a drawer, easily accessible but invisible. My personal space is sparse and simple. It seems calm. And it feels like I have more room to relax and breathe. There’s less that grabs my attention. A shelf full of stuff was a constant reminder to look at it, dust it, and keep it neat and tidy.

With the cruft cleared out, I have more headspace to focus on better things.

There’s more to this though. Minimalism is often seen as synonymous with decluttering. So if you just get rid of all your excess, you’ll suddenly have achieved minimalism, like reaching nirvana. But it doesn’t really work that way.

I’m finding that minimalism is a journey, not a destination. It’s a persistent practice4 of a life of simplicity. And it’s more of a set of principles and less of a state of being. Minimalism is a means, not an end.

It’s possible to have zero possessions yet still not have a simple life. Besides possessions, there are experiences. In Minimalism, experiences are often promoted over possessions as having more virtue or value. This is good yet has its caveats.

Don’t replace many possessions with many experiences. You’ll have an overbooked schedule, a complex calendar, and the burden of managing all your time with little left for breathing room.

Instead, minimize the quantity of both experiences and possessions in your life. It helps to maximize the quality of the what remains.5

Experiences are beneficial, but what happens when you have so many things to do? You go from busy to crazy busy. All the events, responsibilities, obligations, and commitments add up. Rather than filling, they drain you. Declutter your calendar, giving it more white space like a wall free of excess decorations.

I’m no expert at any of this, for sure. But I’ll keep trying to practice what I preach. I think that’s all we can ever do is become skilled practitioners. The more you practice minimalism, the less unskilled at it you’ll be.

What do you think?

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  1. In this sense, maximalism is synonymous with materialism. ↩︎

  2. Purge more; purchase less. ↩︎

  3. That’s how it starts. Just a few things gradually turns into many more. Clutter attracts clutter! ↩︎

  4. I’ll probably never get it right. It’s fine to get as close as possible. ↩︎

  5. Less, but better. ↩︎