The media loves to latch onto “trends.” Lately, minimalism is one of those trends that the media seems particularly interested in, and I’m okay with that. Media attention—positive, negative, condescending, or otherwise—is a type of attention. And despite how the media sometimes portrays the situation, everyone is not a minimalist.
So I’m not here to defend minimalism as an underground, cool, cult-like sort of vibe. No, that’s not what I want. I want minimalism and the discussion of minimalism to be above ground, open, honest, and useful. I don’t want to hoard it for myself and then bail when it “hits it big” because its popularity makes in instantly “uncool.” That’s so not what this is about.
With this in mind, I thought I’d write up an honest post about why I am a minimalist. Or more accurately, as I’ve dubbed myself, a minimalist-in-training. Reasons I’m a minimalist-in-training:
1. I suffer from anxiety and depression.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: how does this connect at all? Well, it really does. I am a walking entity of anxious. Most days, those quivering nerves are just hyperventilating under the surface, and when I am going through a serious bout of depression, everything is ramped up even further. As a minimalist, I’ve been working toward committing myself to a life of value, and the side effects of that commitment include pursing passions over money, purchasing less and taking on less debt, focusing on my core family and friends, and learning to say “no.” While it’s nowhere near a cure-all for anxiety, it is certainly a tool in knocking my anxiety levels down about twenty-five notches.
2. I like my family. They’re kind of a big deal.
Three years ago, I was working sixty hours a week. Even worse, most of the time I didn’t care and willingly volunteered to work that many hours a week. When I stopped simply thinking minimalism was interesting and started dabbling in it a little bit, I finally took a step back. A step back to forty to forty-five hours a week. Even then, I was justifying the hours because I had the bills to match the hours. I needed that full weekly paycheck. As a minimalist, I buy a lot less and try to recognize when “wants” start to disguise themselves as “needs.” This creates breathing room. I noticed I didn’t need to work so many hours a week anymore. So I didn’t. I still don’t. I maintain a part-time working life now, spending the extra time with my wife and daughter instead.
3. I hate cleaning, but I can’t stand a dirty home.
One of my least favorite tasks is cleaning my home, but one of my greatest pet peeves is a dirty home. Plus, I tend to get anxious when the house is dirty because you just never know when someone might pay an unexpected visit. As a minimalist, I am constantly trying to pare down my physical possessions. I am also constantly forcing myself to be intentional about new physical possessions I bring into my home. Simply put, it takes so much longer to clean a home that has 10,000 items than a home that has 5,000 items. I’m nowhere near where I’d like to be when it comes to clutter in my home. However, I keep myself intentional, and as a result, there is a lot less junk to clean. Where cleaning the house may have taken an entire day before, it takes a half hour to an hour now, depending on exactly how much havoc our daughter has caused over the last week or so.
4. I want to be as happy as I can possibly be.
I’m not making this up—I’m happier as a minimalist. “Happy” is a tough word for someone who suffers from depression, but there is a noticeable difference, and it’s not just a little one. As I focus on getting rid of excess junk, I feel like I have more space to breathe—this makes me happier. As I focus on giving more of my time to my family and less to a job, I create awesome memories and experience a lot of joy—this makes me happier. As I pay down debt and reduce my urge to consume, consume, consume, I dump a lot of the financial worry that burdens people day-to-day—this makes me happier.
5. I care about others more.
Again, it might initially seem like there isn’t a strong connection here, but there is. As I’ve gotten rid of distractions and stuff and relationships that don’t positively impact my life, I’ve made a lot of time for thinking. I’ve opened up a lot of energy for figuring out who I really am and what I am passionate about. I realized that I want to be honest and open about my personal struggles. Then I realized I want to take my talents and my passions and connect them to that honesty. And when I realized all that, I suddenly realized I want to contribute to people in a positive way. I was no longer distracted by the constant consumption and me, me, me attitude. I had long enough to realize that people have particular struggles I’d love to help with. I decided to use my newly available energy to become a less judgmental, more loving person who tries to genuinely consider other people. I care about others more, and I believe I do because minimalism has freed some of my energy up to do so.
So, is the media right—is minimalism a “trend” and perhaps, a trend that’s destined to fade away as trends do? Maybe. For me, though, minimalism has real benefits that I would never sacrifice. Minimalism is here to stay for me, and I hope that this particular trend sticks. Minimalism doesn’t have to be the same for everyone, anyway. What could minimalism do in your life? What would your list of reasons look like after a month, three months, six months, or a year of using minimalism to improve your life?