Less: A Minimalist Manifesto
I believe in the power of less. Less stuff. Less commitments. Less distractions. Less worrying. Less wasted time. Less wanting. Less information.
Because less can mean more. More freedom. More focus. More calm. More time. More action. Choosing less lead to a radical change in my life. I owe my current life trajectory and the changes I have made to minimalism.
I'm writing this as a reminder for myself. Lately, I've been getting sidetracked by thinking about more. It's time to reclarify what less means to me and why I chose it in the first place.
I discovered minimalism at 18 while staying in a flat in Tel Aviv for a few days. Throughout the trip, I noticed an inexplicable sense of calm pervading my days. It wasn't just the sunshine, beautiful scenery and hummus. Being away from my cluttered, messy life at home felt wonderful. Even though I had brought with me about 1% of my possessions, I didn't miss a single item. When I thought of my room at home, piled full of clothes, books, makeup, cameras and other things I didn't need, I baulked. That was when it hit me that my obsession with more was making me miserable.
At 14, I had started an online business which unexpectedly took off. As I had no living expenses, the money I earnt was 100% disposable income. I became obsessed with the idea of more and shopped non-stop. I bought designer clothing, like jeans covered in metallic paint which were so stiff I couldn't bend my legs. And shoes I couldn't walk in. I brought clothes which had belonged to famous models online - as if it would make me like them. When each new purchase failed to lessen the depression I suffered from, I kept looking for more.
Before long, it became a habit. Bored? More. Lonely? More. Depressed? More. Procrastinating? More. And so on. Until that trip when I realized all I actually wanted was less.
Sat on a balcony in Tel Aviv as the sun rose, I made a list of everything I knew I wanted to keep. Upon arriving home, the decluttering process began. It was long and exhausting. But I kept pushing. Throw, donate, give away, repeat. In the meantime, I educated myself as much as possible on minimalism and the value of simple living. The more I learned, the more I knew I needed less.
Simplicity can be intoxicating. I can't even explain how good it felt to move from a cluttered life to a simple one. To let go of the piles of crap I had hoarded throughout my 18 years of living, piece by piece.
In the last year, I have applied minimalism to every relevant area of my life. I deleted most of my social media accounts, stopped watching TV and went vegan for a while. I removed all of my 14 piercings, stopped dying my hair, shaved much of my head and worked on becoming more focused. I systematically applied the 80/20 rule to every part of my life.
When you get rid of most of your stuff and only keep what matters, a strange shift happens. You start to greatly appreciate everything which remains. Everything is important and functional. I find that I truly love everything I own. Not because an advertisement told me to, or because I think it makes me look cool. Not because it's a status symbol or because it was expensive. Because it all serves a key purpose.
In the past, I would often be cleaning my room and find myself asking, where did this come from? I would be faced with an item of unknown origin, bemused by why I had it. I had a lot and wanted even more. Stuff would get lost or broken and I barely noticed. There was always a new item to covet. A thing I imagined would tie everything else together.
Once there was my stuff, and my favourite stuff. Now just the latter category remains. The stuff I wear and use every day. The things I actually need. I don't think I could cut anything else out now without being majorly inconvenient.
I have a policy I describe as 'if it's broken, don't fix it.' When something breaks, wears out or gets lost, I go as long as possible without fixing or replacing it. This helps me to assess if I truly need it.
Millennials like me have been raised to value more above all else. More qualifications, more Facebook friends, more hours worked, more drinks on a night out, more income whatever the costs, more expensive outfits. To step away from that feels bizarre. Isn’t more what should make us happy?
But I barely have the words to explain how worthwhile it is. Minimalism is not just for those with houses, children, partners or those who have been working a job they hate for years.
It is also an ideal lifestyle for those of us emerging from the cocoon of childhood, finding ourselves with the power to make decisions for the first time, faced with the need to make the big choices. We get to decide to embrace the lifestyle now before we trap ourselves into a despised life for a few decades.
If we pay attention to the regrets of other people, we can avoid one day facing them ourselves. Psychologist Daniel Gilbert writes that the best way to predict how we will feel in a situation is to simply ask others who have experienced it. Assuming we will feel different is a logical fallacy. I have yet to encounter anyone who can say with any honesty that chasing more improved anything.
Less has yet to become anywhere near mainstream. Yet I see it seeping into many areas and becoming a viable response to the pressures we face. It makes sense. So this is a reminder to myself to keep ignoring the siren song of more, keep focusing on simplicity, keep preserving flexibility.
As economists say, the cost of anything is what we give up for it. Choosing less in some areas means more in others. And whenever we chose more in one area, we give up something else. Minimalism is about deciding when less makes sense - and when it doesn't.