Is Minimalism Realistic, or the Impossible Dream?, pt. 1 – Physical Clutter

Between “minimalism,” “sparking joy,” and “the magic of tidying up,” the organizing and productivity world is full of buzzwords these days. Of all of them, I think minimalism is the victim of many negative misperceptions. When folks conjure up minimalistic spaces, they see sterile and impersonal homes and offices. The process evokes feelings of extreme sacrifice and self-denial. For those who really enjoy their possessions and the comfort they can bring, it seems like a grim, joyless existence.

I’d like to challenge those stereotypes, because I’ve found they’re inaccurate and limiting. Living a happy, healthy life is not dependent on how much stuff you have. Paring down is great. Owning less stuff gives you more time (because you’re not spending time dealing with it,) and more money (because you’re not spending more to acquire it.) But people can have a happy life without necessarily getting rid of all their stuff. It’s the ATTITUDE towards your stuff that makes a difference. If having and acquiring more and more is what’s driving you, that’s when it becomes a problem. If you take joy from what you have and don’t need to own more stuff to feel value or compete with others, it doesn’t matter how much you own.

I had the privilege of hearing Joshua Becker, an author and speaker who writes about minimalism at becomingminimalist.com speak on this topic. Some of what he said really struck a chord with me. Some of the questions he suggests we ask ourselves when it comes to our physical possessions are:

  • Does this item help me fulfill my purpose in life?
  • Does it help me to live the life I want to be living?
  • What is it that owning less of would allow me to do more of?

So really, again, it’s not about the stuff. It’s about how we feel about our stuff, and how having it and acquiring it makes us feel. Some of us prefer clean surfaces, empty drawers and cabinets, and spare décor. Others of us need more. But, as Becker says, minimalism is about defining your passions and freeing up your resources to pursue them. To me, that’s not scary or sacrificial at all. Taking away the power that our stuff can hold over us is indeed freeing. Realizing that our possessions are there to serve us, and not the other way around is the key to getting more of what we want out of our life. It’s the ultimate in empowerment!

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