“Simplicity, clarity, singleness: These are the attributes that give our lives power and vividness and joy as they are also the marks of great art.” —Richard Holloway
I am often asked the question, “So what is minimalism anyway?” It is a question that is received from all different angles – from people I have just met and from people I have known for many years. I typically answer with a short, simple explanation: “I am intentionally trying to live with only the things I really need.” But I always desire to answer more in-depth. I always hope they will ask follow-up questions that allow me to explain the lifestyle further.
And when they do, I like to add:
MINIMALISM IS INTENTIONALITY.
It is marked by clarity, purpose, and intentionality. At its core, minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it. It is a life that forces intentionality. And as a result, it forces improvements in almost all aspects of your life.
MINIMALISM IS FREEDOM FROM THE PASSION TO POSSESS.
Modern culture has bought into the lie that the good life is found in accumulating things—in possessing as much as possible. They believe that more is better and have inadvertently subscribed to the idea that happiness can be purchased at a department store.
But they are wrong. Minimalism brings freedom from the all-consuming passion to possess. It steps off the treadmill of consumerism and dares to seek happiness elsewhere. It values relationships, experiences, and soul-care. And in doing so, it finds life.
MINIMALISM IS FREEDOM FROM MODERN MANIA.
Our world lives at a feverish pace. We are too hurried, too rushed, and too stressed. We work long, passionate hours to pay the bills, but fall deeper into debt. We rush from one activity to another—even multitasking along the way—but never seem to get everything done. We remain in constant connection with others through our cell phones, but true life-changing relationships continue to elude us.
Minimalism slows down life and frees us from this modern hysteria to live faster. It finds freedom to disengage. It seeks to keep only the essentials. It seeks to remove the frivolous and keep the significant. And in doing so, it values the intentional endeavors that add value to life.
MINIMALISM IS FREEDOM FROM DUPLICITY.
Although nobody intentionally chooses it, most people live in duplicity. They live one life around their family, one life around their co-workers, and another life around their neighbors. The lifestyle they have chosen requires them to portray a certain external image dependent upon their circumstances. They are tossed and turned by the most recent advertising campaign or the demands of their employer.
On the other hand, a simple life is united and consistent. It has learned a lifestyle that is completely transferable no matter the situation. It is the same life on Friday evening as it is on Sunday morning… as it is on Monday morning. It is reliable, dependable and unfluctuating. It works in all circumstances.
MINIMALISM IS COUNTER-CULTURAL.
We live in a world that idolizes celebrities. They are photographed for magazines, interviewed on the radio, and recorded for television. Their lives are held up as the golden standard and are envied by many. People who live minimalist lives are not championed by the media in the same way. They don‘t fit into the consumerist culture that is promoted by corporations and politicians. Yet, they live a life that is attractive and inviting.
While most people are chasing after success, glamour, and fame, minimalism calls out to us with a smaller, quieter, calmer voice. It invites us to slow down, consume less, but enjoy more. And when we meet someone living a simplified life, we often recognize that we have been chasing after the wrong things all along.
MINIMALISM IS NOT EXTERNAL, BUT INTERNAL.
In our first book, Simplify, we outline 7 guiding principles to help anyone declutter their home and life. The principles outlined in the book have helped thousands find freedom by removing much of the physical clutter in their home. The book concentrates almost exclusively on the externals of life. And while it helps people find freedom from external clutter, it does not take the next step of helping people find freedom and unity in their heart and soul.
I have learned minimalism is always a matter of the heart. After the external clutter has been removed, minimalism has the space to address the deepest heart issues that impact our relationships and life.
MINIMALISM IS COMPLETELY ACHIEVABLE.
A minimalist life is completely achievable. My family stands as living proof. We were just your typical family of four living in the suburbs accumulating as much stuff as our income and credit cards would allow. Then, we found minimalism. We have embraced an intentional lifestyle of living with less and will never go back to the way life was before. And we stand as living proof that minimalism is completely achievable (and unique) to anyone who seeks it.
Typically, I find that those who are generally interested in knowing “what minimalism is anyway” and take the time to ask the follow-up questions are drawn to the principles of the lifestyle. After all, it offers almost everything our heart has been asking for all along.