What Minimalism Means to Me

What I’ve wanted most in life is freedom. Freedom is so important to me because it is me. Freedom is the ability to be who I am, do what I want, and experience life through my values. I know that no matter what happens, the one thing I will always have is me. Everything else is ancillary. I must be able to depend on myself, continue growing, and become stronger and more resilient.

I see each item, each system, each decision, and each relationship as either a pathway toward freedom, or an obstruction to it. Money is a source of freedom, to an extent, so I focus on responsible money management. If I want to pick up and go to a show, take a class, or take a trip, money will be the thing to get me there. With the money I have at any given time, I highly prioritize the ability to do what I want, instead of to buy something that perks my interest. I know that the purchase, maintenance, and eventual discarding of an item hampers freedom. From this vantage point, stuff can so easily be a hindrance. Some items, of course, promote a certain level of freedom and ability to do something (ex. a camping tent or a suitcase) so I prioritize these types of items. But if I know I will use them infrequently, I investigate ways to borrow, rent, or substitute.

Sustainability is one of the values I have the freedom to include in my life and it, fortunately, is well supported by a minimalist lifestyle. To live lightly on the planet, I try to use just the resources I need. Buying green products and fixing items rather than discarding is a more environmentally friendly approach than the status quo but still involves the responsibility of owning items and still has environmental consequences. When I do without, or use objects for multi-uses, I’m side stepping many environmentally negative outcomes.

Minimalism is also my way to focus on what is most meaningful in my life. With that focus, I keep myself away from useless distractions, become more centered, and my heart becomes fuller. Highlighting meaning as central to my daily decision-making process is paramount to authenticity.

I like to remind myself and others that minimalism is not a dogma; just a convenient word to describe doing the most with the least. It can be called voluntary simplicity, essentialism, simple living, living a downsized life or whatever. I don’t care much for labels or trendy credos. To me, it’s about finding what is most meaningful in my life, only incorporating material goods that best support it, with a focus on financial and environmental sustainability, and most of all, freedom.

My purpose in describing my minimalism motivations is not convince you of a particular definition. In fact, it is quite the opposite. I encourage you not to accept the definition you think you should follow or assume there is only one path. I don’t believe minimalism an ideal to be achieved. It is not something seek outside of yourself. It is a mindset change that rests in the depths of who you are. 

Perhaps minimalism isn’t right for you, but you want to adopt a simpler lifestyle than you currently maintain. It may concentrate on one or many attributes: freedom, meaning, organization, sustainability, saving money, better habits, efficiency, peace, aesthetics. Whatever your approach and your reasons behind it, I encourage you to discover what works best and continue to iterate until you find the balance that is most “you.”