This is a post from guest contributor Vanessa Salas of Shed Mom. Enjoy, and learn more about Van at the end of this post.
“That’s the thing about needs. Sometimes when you get them met, you don’t need them anymore.”
— Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City
When I first heard about minimalism, I immediately rejected it. The root word is partly to blame: minimal. It gives the impression of having to endure scarcity to the point of deprivation.
Nobody likes feeling deprived. I know I don’t. And it’s certainly not the reason why I’ve become a minimalist.
If it were only all about organizing, spending less money, de-cluttering, or removing objects for the sake of simply owning less stuff, I would never have considered adopting this lifestyle
What made me take a second look is a shift in focus that has allowed me to take pleasure in the things I already have or want to buy.
In an alternate universe, I’d be a proud owner of a $10,000.00 Hermes Birkin bag. Applying a minimalistic view point means that I’d allow myself to be awed by its exquisite craftsmanship, and appreciate the painstaking hours it took to hand-stitch such an magnificent object. If I’ve had to be on the waiting list for years before acquiring this thing of beauty, I’d treat my eagerly-awaited acquisition as a reward for my patience. It is a tangible reminder of how far I would’ve arrived in the eyes of the world.
Imagine yourself in my make-believe Louboutins. If you have a bunch of other stuff lying around, filling up your home, adding to the clutter, how can you value your Birkin when it is surrounded by other things that are vying for your attention, removing your awareness from this object that you adore so much?
The point is to remove all the extraneous stuff so that you can have the space – literally and figuratively – to focus all of your energy on the things that you value the most.
There’s nothing minimal about this shift. It’s simple, it’s small, but it makes a world of difference. It has the capacity to encourage an expansion, not a contraction, of how you view your surroundings.
This ‘expansion’ inspires you to become more mindful of your acquisitions. You stop moving on auto pilot. You begin to question the endless cycle of consumerism and the value of acquiring more. Are you buying this because it’s what everyone else says you should buy, to fit a certain image? Or are you buying it because it is something you genuinely like, for reasons you’ve figured out for yourself?
After the initial rush of acquiring a much-coveted object fades, being mindful gives you a sense of clarity that will change your perception about stuff. It has a domino effect that extends to other areas of your life. You may find yourself moving on to other things. Things that probably matter more.
Like family. Or relationships. Leaving a legacy. Creating instead of consuming. Staying healthy and alert. Volunteering your time to worthy causes. Or other decidedly less materialistic things.
At some point you might feel the need to voluntarily give up all your other stuff. Even the Hermes Birkin bag / flat-screen TV / whatever item you initially thought you couldn’t live without.
The aim of minimalism is not to leave you wanting, but to remove the clutter that serve as distractions. By doing so, you take stock of what your real priorities are and focus on it to the exclusion of everything else. It allows for a singularity of purpose that frees you from the mindless cycle of consumerism you’ve either knowingly or unconsciously become accustomed to.
You can call yourself a minimalist and still derive pleasure from your most prized possessions. You’re actually encouraged to do so. That doesn’t mean you can’t lead a simpler, more mindful life. The key is in really enjoying and making the most of what you already have without succumbing to the pitfalls of needless excess.