ABUNDANT = more space, money, time, freedom & focus
MINIMALISM = less clutter, no debt, fewer complications, obligations & distractions

Minimalism is Not a Contest

Myrtle Cook of Canada (left) winning a preliminary heat in the women's 100 metres race at the VIIIth Summer Olympic Games
Image by BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives

Reducing Clutter Isn’t a Competition

Some people have counted all of their possessions and shared this total with the world. I checked out a few articles and youtube videos about it and I admit I found it intriguing. I imagined what life would be like if I only kept one bag of things. It might work for me if I only lived nomadically. I love the intention. It’s very drastic; and sometimes the correct path is to get extreme, but that’s not the way most of us would actually enjoy living. Being minimalist doesn’t mean deprivation.

If Making it a Game Helps, then go for it!

Luckily we are not all the same, as the differences make the world the wonderfully interesting place it is. So, I’m not saying counting our possessions is entirely a bad idea. It can inspire us to think about our stuff in a different way. If it gets us to reassess our priorities and true values then I’m a supporter. Making a bet with a buddy to reduce your stuff a bit at a time over a month could be the exact push needed to become more minimalist. Reducing to a certain number could also be a fun and useful way to clear some space in your home and your life.

Keep the Meaningful & Reduce Distractions

Although counting could be fun to do, remember that it’s not a contest to reduce your possessions below a certain number, and there is no magic number that would work for everyone. If you deprive yourself of the things that make you smile, or those that make your life meaningful, or things you need every day, then that is extreme asceticism, not minimalism.

The whole point of minimalism is to reduce distractions and things that detract from your happiness, so as to reveal what is important and make space for appreciating the things you find most beautiful. It’s also about making space and time for the activities you most want to do.

Disposable or Everlasting?

The counting itself can create a huge distraction. I noticed that there is plenty of ‘creative’ counting going on. Items such as cosmetics, or prescription contact lenses, as well as socks and undergarments are being deemed ‘disposable’ and not counted. It’s a waste of time to try to fool yourself. It’s like cheating at solitaire. Since you are the only one playing, you might as well be honest with yourself. Personally, I use those things, (cosmetics, socks, etc) for a year or more at a time, so saying they are disposable and not counting them seems wrong to me.

Think about the word ‘disposable’ for a minute. The dictionary says it’s an item to be thrown out when no longer useful. When it comes right down to it, what object do you own that doesn’t qualify? Nothing truly lasts forever… except maybe gold. OK, so what do you own today that is valuable enough that it would be passed on to the next several generations? Besides a rare heirloom, basically everything we own is ‘disposable’ in the long run, because things break, wear out, decompose, rust, get lost, stolen, go out of style, or a newer technology is invented to replace it.

Find a Minimalism that Fits Your Life

From my point of view, I have already given away almost everything I own many times. I enjoy being nomadic. I moved across the country 4 times over 19 years, plus bought and sold 3 houses, and lived in Mexico for a year during that time. Since I love to move, staying light is extremely beneficial to maintain my freedom. Having reduced my possessions radically multiple times, I can tell you that stuff has always crept slowly back in. Some of it is gifts, and the rest is a natural result of our needs and interests changing over time.

Do What Feels Right for Your Situation

The number of items we own is not the important thing. The important thing is how we FEEL. Do we feel spacious and light, or cramped and crowded? Do we feel like our space is chaotic and cluttered? Or do we feel like we can find, or easily access what we need? Do we feel we can relax and focus? Seeking a minimalist lifestyle is about finding what feels right for our specific situation.

Living with Less – but not Going Without

Whether we can fit all of our stuff into a backpack, or have 5 kids but keep only the stuff we love and use, these extremes both qualify as minimalism. It’s really about being mindful of living with less but not going without. The point of a minimalist lifestyle is to keep what adds real value to our lives and get rid of what doesn’t, and that differs for each of us.

I hope you enjoyed this post! Let me know what you think.