LESS IS THE NEW MORE
By Jessica Araus
What is minimalism?
Minimalism is the idea of detaching from material things, not being owned by bills or debts, letting go of things we don’t really need, and people or situations that give us stress. It’s about having freedom, living in the moment, and being more productive in our daily lives.
Minimalism does not mean you cannot have certain possessions. Sure, you can have some luxuries here and there, as long as it adds value to your life. Minimalism is not against being successful either. Actually, the use of it is a great way to help you succeed and reach your goals. If you do it right, you can have a house, buy a car, and travel the world. By eliminating all kinds of distractions, you can start focusing on your goals and projects while building the life of your dreams.
So how can we start minimizing?
I have lived on my own for 11 years now, moving from place to place, from one country to another, sometimes sharing a flat or a bedroom. And through this, I have learned that the less stuff you own, the easier it is to make big changes. Two years ago, when I moved to the Netherlands, I only owned two pairs of shoes, (one for cold weather and one for hot weather), a few articles of clothing, and two books. Everything fit into a suitcase. I felt so light and so free because I wasn’t attached to anything. I had never really been attached to material things anyway.
Over time, I have accumulated things, fortunately things I like. I have now settled in this country, I share a flat with my boyfriend and we are immensely happy. We have a rule though, we do not have (and we don’t want) decorations in our house that say home, welcome, or love. Instead, we make our house feel like home, we make people feel welcome, and we give love. We do not buy things we don’t need to prevent our house from cluttering. We keep it simple and try to spend money wisely. Our house has what every basic house has – a bed, a couch, a desk, a dining table, some cutlery, and that is how we want to keep it.
Sure, we have a few decorations, like paintings from the places we have traveled to together, but that is something we consider special to us. When we are traveling, if something feels bulky or too heavy, we leave it on the road or give it away.
Applying minimalism when it comes to clothes can be a daunting task. The fact is, most of the time we use a third of the things we keep in our closet. Has it ever happened to you that you are ready to start your day with a productive morning, but when you open your closet doors you find yourself lost wondering what you should wear that day? You go from trying the black skirt with the peach blouse to the denim jacket with the old-fashioned jeans, and this goes on from one outfit to another. Before you realize, twenty minutes have passed and you haven’t even had breakfast yet.
What has helped me a lot is to instantly get rid of any piece of clothing that doesn’t feel good when wearing it. When you stick to your true taste and only keep clothes you are in love with, it will not only save you time in the morning, but it will make you feel confident that any piece you take from your closet will make you look fabulous.
That being said, you don’t need to throw all your ugly pieces away. What is not pretty in your eyes might be beautiful in someone else’s eyes. Donate them or give them away. Or, if you think all the clothes from your closet are valuable pieces, try to combine them in a different way so you prevent yourself from buying new pieces and cluttering your wardrobe. Before buying something, ask yourself if you really need that piece. Remember to only buy clothes you are in love with and feel fantastic in. The same applies to shoes.
Clutter isn’t just in our closets, basements, or living rooms. In this new media age, information is one of the most overwhelming forms of clutter we deal with on a daily basis – a bunch of newsletters in our email, videos you “have to watch”, social media feeds, and more. We get distracted from our goals and sometimes we abandon our dreams because we decide we don’t have time to work on them. We give priority to other activities over our personal projects.
It’s OK to get informed. It’s OK to watch a funny video, but do not let media fill all your precious time. Make time for friends, family, and your own projects. In the end, what we read, who we follow, and what we watch is our choice. But ask yourself, is it helpful? Does it make me feel happy/relaxed/great?
I used to collect cooking magazines because I thought these would inspire me to cook a new recipe one day. But the truth is, they piled up and I never really read them. Now, if I really want to cook a recipe from a magazine, I cut it out, put it in a folder or glue it in a notebook. By getting rid of a bunch of magazines I have more space on my desk now.
Throw away old receipts and give away books you will never read or you are not interested in reading. Get rid of the obsolete travel guides. You can find pretty much any information on the internet. We like to accumulate things thinking “we will use them one day”, but the truth is that they are just accumulating dust and occupying space. Of course if collecting books is your passion, go for it. If collecting certain things make you happy, or your work depends on that, you should definitely keep them. The thing is, you should know how to distinguish between a true collection and just pure hoarding.
Nowadays people take pictures of everything. They photograph the same thing 100 times. The bad news is that when we take too many pictures, we forget about living in the present moment. We focus more on the picture than the actual place where we are. This is a bad habit. Unless you have a photo shoot and you need to select the best pictures for a catalogue or wedding, you don’t need to photograph everything.
If you are traveling, only take a picture of special moments, things that inspire you. Make use of your senses. Look at the colors, smell the flowers, feel the air touching your face, taste new flavors. Be mindful. Be present. Facebook and Instagram can wait. You can instagram your adventure when you get to your hotel room or even the next day. Besides, if you take fewer pictures, it will be a more enjoyable experience when you actually go through your holiday albums. You’ll only have the most inspiring shots, and not a bunch of nonsense pictures.
Some people like having many friends, being social, and showing up at every party while other people like keeping a small circle.
How can we apply minimalism when it comes to people? You don’t have to say yes to everybody. You don’t have to show up all the time. There will be people who want to keep your attention and steal your energy without them even noticing. Prioritize the people you want to have contact with. Surround yourself with people who inspire you or motivate you to be a better person. When you detach from people, you learn to be more independent, and you develop greater inner peace. Besides, you teach others not to depend on you either.
By cutting off shallow relationships, your life becomes less stressful. When you are surrounded by many people, it can be hard to focus on your personal projects. Decide the amount of contact you want to have with people. It does not make you a bad person if you shut down your phone for a day or if you disconnect for a few days. It is your life, your time. Go make something beautiful.
Less is More
In conclusion, I am not here to tell you to get rid of all your stuff, if it has a special meaning or adds value to your life, then you should definitely keep it. If it is beautiful and it makes you happy, then make a special place for it in your house. The core message of this post is to make you aware that sometimes less is more and you can reclaim your time (and money) just by minimizing every aspect of your life.
If you want to dive deeper into the minimalist concept, make sure to read Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life, and watch the documentary on Netflix as well!