Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
Minimalism; it is not what you own, it is why you own it.
Whether you possess several thousand objects or just a few, the idea behind minimalism is that they should all have a reason for being in your home. While I don't subscribe to the idea of asking yourself if items 'spark joy,' I do think it is all about their purpose. There are numerous items which do not make anyone excited and are still practical - sellotape, toothbrushes, socks, brooms, and so on. If you have spent any time reading blogs about minimalism, you may have noticed that almost every comment section or q&a post is peppered with queries along the lines of 'can I be a minimalist if I own ___ ?' (Insert category of belongings e.g. cooking equipment, art supplies, kids toys etc.) It is as if the asker expects them to whip out some kind of top secret minimalist handbook and consult a list of acceptable possesions. Naturally, no such thing exists.
At the moment, my goal is to own nothing which fails to add something to my life and as few sentimental items as possible. I never want my possessions to tie me down and I would rather not be stuck in the mindset of seeing them as irreplaceable.
The truth it, most of what we all own is replaceable.
I am no longer shackled by it. There is little to nothing which I would go out of my way to transport with me, should I decide to travel for example. The old sentimentality and urge to retain every last cinema ticket, picture or t-shirt is gone.
Now when I look at my items I appreciate their use first, aesthetics second. Sure, there are things I keep just as decoration yet none of them have any emotional resonance or cost me money- recycled glass bottles full of flowers, a tree branch, some wooden blocks etc. As nice as they look, I would not be paying money to ship them if I moved. I do not see this as a sad way to be, I see it as freeing.
That is why counting how many objects you own to prove your minimalist credentials is pointless. It is all about intentionality and assessing utility, not numbers.
I cannot tell you how many things I own, only that I know why I own all of them. Each time I eradicate something I feel a little bit lighter and less weighed down.
Minimalism is not at all about discarding everything and living out of a backpack (unless that is what you want to do) and it strikes me as the least extreme lifestyle possible. On reflection, the reverse seems far more radical and strange- why be surrounded by meaningless objects? It is about educating your mind to overcome a lifetime of socialisation, learning to block out advertising, living with intention while reassessing what makes you happy.
I am not an expert, nor am I veteran minimalist. All I know is that making this change was one of the most significant actions I have taken, not because of the physical act of decluttering, because of how it shifted the way I see possessions.
If your house were burning down, would the items you grab matter? It is not the possessions which are important, it is their potential to shape your days.
Want this (and dozens of other essays on minimalism) in PDF or Kindle format to read at your leisure? Take a look here.