I’ve been on a minimalist journey for a few years now. Changing my relationship toward the things I own was life-altering in itself but along the way, I discovered an entirely new person within me.
Making the change and getting rid of my excess stuff was just the first step. The more I donated items, the lighter I felt… and it wasn’t just because I could finally see my apartment floor.
Minimalism helped me uncover and cultivate my true passion and purpose in life by teaching me five lessons that I still incorporate today. These things changed my life beyond my physical clutter.Intentionality
Intentionality means paying attention: It means doing things on purpose — not passively, not reflexively, not because we have to. Doing something with the intention of getting as much out of it as possible, whatever that happens to mean in context. — Colin Wright
At first, it started with bringing things in and letting go with intention. I reassessed my closet, my stuff, my notebooks (as a writer, this was really hard), my mementos, and more. I was careful about what I purchased and brought home. This all revolved around physical possessions.
Soon, it translated into my wellness schedule. I started looking at my meals with more intentionality — bringing things into my body that would give me the most benefit. My workouts became more dedicated and I focused on healing over what everyone else was doing (as a retired athlete with severe injuries and surgeries to repair these injuries, I can’t join in on the CrossFit craze or do much weightlifting). These were the things that I could benefit from.
Even more important was the translation into my social life. I found that I was clinging to a lot of toxic relationships that were based on proximity. I was able to do a massive overhaul, minimize the amount of negativity I experienced, and found my days to be spent with a lot more joy than before.Personalization and Standards
When I first saw minimalism, I was actually turned off by the idea. It looked like a bunch of stuck up people who flaunted they could live with just 50 things and thrive with nothing.
The more I looked into it, the more I realized how personalized minimalism could be. It’s not a one-size-fits-all model where you are given the title ‘Minimalist’ once you only own 50 things.
Minimalism is fluid with your lifestyle and your personality. You can own more shirts than another minimalist and still call yourself one. You can put art up on your walls and own furniture and have things and still be a minimalist.
The flaw that many people fail to see is that we are holding other people to the standards we establish for ourselves. We believe other people are failures as minimalists because they own more than we do… or we see that we are failures because we don’t live up to the standard of someone else.
Everyone has their own personal definition of success, or a standard they want to reach. It isn’t fair to hold ourselves to a standard that isn’t ours, or vice versa. Be content within yourself and what you’ve made of your life.Beyond Physical
On the surface, minimalism looks like it’s just about getting rid of your physical clutter. While that is the first and easiest step, minimalism goes beyond the physical mess.
Once I was able to clear my physical clutter, I moved into the digital space. Yes, that meant I cleaned out my desktop files and documents, but I also made some intentional decisions about my social media usage. I practiced eliminating social media, unfollowing accounts that no longer served purpose, and even unfriended people who no longer brought me a meaningful relationship.
Removing all of that clutter also alleviated some of the emotional clutter. I never knew how much some old relationships were weighing on me. Removing those people opened up space for me to feel more comfortable with my decisions and my life choices. And with the physical mess being gone, I could focus on more things that brought me happiness.Reconnect with Values
One of the best exercises I’ve done is reviewing my list of values every few months. Each time I do this, I sit down and take a look at how I’ve lived those values over the previous time period. I honestly assess my abilities, question whether these were the right goals, and then refine my list again.
With that new list, I write down specific actions that give me practice into that value. That way I know for the next few months I will be doing that action once a week to ensure I’m still living those values.
For example, one of my values is creativity. Each week, I dedicate at least one day to learning or reading, one day to create something, and one day to publish something. Those projects vary (such as writing, podcasting, or editing) so I don’t get burned out on a certain exercise but are set in my schedule so I make time for them.Patience
I am potentially the most impatient person out there. I get an idea and in an instant, I’ve thought of every possible way to make that idea a reality. I’ve gone through risk assessments, plotted the platform and tools I’ll need to get it running, and thought about how quickly I can get it up and running all before I’ve taken another breath.
While this is a great way to fuel my creativity, many of these ideas can be forced into the world when they really shouldn’t have made it out of my head.
Intentionality through minimalism has also helped me learn patience. Instead of jumping at an idea, a product, or a plan, I have learned to sit back and let it build in the back of my head. Often I see a way to make it work but sometimes I find a plot hole (pardon the fiction writing pun) that just isn’t in my control to fix.
Patience has been useful in a lot of things. While it’s still a challenge every day for me, it is something that I practice every day in most of my activities and relationships.
Physical clutter is definitely the first step to uncovering some of the life-changing benefits of minimalism but beyond that, you can really make an impact on yourself when you focus on some of the added experiences you get.
Think about what you could get from removing some of your physical clutter. Consider the additional benefits you could have by focusing on your values and cultivating your passion. Build time back into your life so you can focus on what is most important to you.
I used minimalism to help me uncover my passion and purpose — writing. It has led me to two published novels and a third now available on pre-order. I’m giving some of that love back by releasing my first novel for free on Patreon. You can also join my community and get fun looks at my WIP and even get free books as I release them.