lessons from half a year of minimalism

Six months ago, I made the decision to get rid of 90% of my belongings and start living free from physical and mental clutter.

After half a year of living this way, I have learned quite a bit.

Here are six insights from six months of minimalism.

1 - It is easier to be extreme than to be balanced. 

It is easy to live with just what you can carry. It is easy to disconnect from the internet and live offline. It is easy to discard all commitments and focus on a single passion. It is easy to cut all the toxic people out of your life and spend time with only a handful. It is easy to be a raw vegan. It is straight forward to reject, to eradicate, to jettison, to shrink everything to the bare bones.

Or rather, it is easy in the short term. Before long, the motivation runs out and it becomes unsustainable. Trust me- I have tested out many different extremes.

I lived out of a backpack with less than 50 items for 5 weeks. I disconnected from the internet for half of 2015. I ate a 100% plant based diet for half of 2016. I experimented with doing nothing each day except writing and reading for quite some time. I have been to the far ends of many spectrums and always enjoyed the craziness of it. Finding the middle ground between polar opposites takes work. How much can be owned without swinging towards excess or deprivation? How much time needs to be spent online for productivity, without wasting my life? How can a diet be balanced without being unhealthy or unethical? How is it possible to have a rich range of interests and commitments, without becoming overloaded or underwhelmed?

Balance is complex. It takes focused effort to maintain a realistic baseline, but it is worth it. This lifestyle is not a goal, it is a process.

2 - Stripping away pacifiers forces you to become tougher.

Cocooning yourself in new purchases is a good way to deal with self-doubt for a few moments. Creating an internal locus of happiness, a reliable foundation for happiness bereft of that is very different. I used to handle insecurity through external validation and now I am learning to avoid that.

3 - Simple does not = effortless.

Deceptive, isn't it? Living in a pared back way brings a new set of challenges and complexities. Take running, for example. It's an incomplex form of exercise, yet one that I find impossible. I try every so often and always hate it. Lots of things are like that. 

4 - When you want less, you have room to dream more.  

Even the most ambitious person only has a finite amount of drive. As deep as my hunger for self-actualisation is, I know not to waste a single bit of it on drooling over shop windows. Ask me what I want from life, and I won't mention the big house, fancy car, or plethora of gadgets. I would tell you what I am chasing dreams of travel, being an impactful writer and living in a meaningful way. Don't get me wrong, I like nice things. Good design is something I have heaps of appreciation for. I just admire things for their capacity to make my days easier or more practical, not for the intrinsic value of owning them. I buy items if their design and function suit me, not for a brand name or because they are expensive.

5 - Change should be about growth, not coping.

Drastic lifestyle changes are a popular way to handle uncertainty. Many people adopt minimalism as a result of stress or confusion. I did the same. Things felt out of my control and I craved change. Over the last six months, I learned to view minimalism as a way to grow in other areas, not to just deal with the complexities of day to day living.

6 - Decisions are dangerous.

Ego depletion is a real problem. I see this in myself every single day. The morning begins with bountiful willpower and energy. I wake up excited for the day. By 3pm I am ready for a nap, by 6pm I drift towards Youtube and my productivity is pretty much gone. Making choices drains your time and energy. So, I try to cut them out wherever possible. I keep things simple and don’t worry about minutiae.  

I'm curious to hear about what you have learned over the last six months, be it related to minimalism or not. Let me know in the comments and lets talk.

// Rosie

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