We live in a complex world full of complex issues. It’s a place where we need to have a clear mind and open heart to navigate.
The last thing we need is a cluttered life.
The minimalist movement has been gaining momentum. It’s a direct rejection of the consumerist culture that we’ve immersed ourselves in.
Minimalism is a concept that used to be reserved for art and design, and maybe a select few people involved in a fringe counter-culture.
But it’s becoming more popular due to people like the consultant and author, Marie Kondo, and her Netflix show, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, where she shows people how to tidy up and find more joy — even though she doesn’t specifically call it minimalism, her method follows minimalistic principles.
But why minimalism?
We have a clutter problem.
With the advent of the internet, smartphones, and the always on culture, we’ve gone into overload mode.
We’re burnt out.
We’re ready for a break.
We’re ready to simplify.
Even though minimalism started out as an art movement, the same principles paired with the desire to simplify transcended into virtually every aspect of life — and the modern minimalist movement was born.
We have two choices:
One, we can continue letting our lives run on auto-pilot.
Two, we can deliberately embrace simplicity.
You can simplify your life without becoming an ultra-minimalist who only owns two shirts.
There’s a misconception that minimalism has to look like a sparsely furnished room or a black and white capsule wardrobe. The principles of minimalism can be applied to any lifestyle.
The point is to simplify, not to join a sub-culture.
If you want to become a minimalist, great! If not, that’s absolutely ok. You can still enjoy a simplified life without associating as minimalist.
Why should you choose simplicity?
Your life doesn’t have to be complicated and crazy, even if the world around you is. Just because everyone else is busy and stressed doesn’t mean you have to be.
Here’s five reasons why we need simplicity in our lives:
1. Simplifying brings clarity.
It’s like having a flight on a rainy day, and during your ascent, you are looking out the window into the grey bleakness of the clouds — then all the sudden the plane pops out of the clouds and you can see the endless ocean of sky.
When you simplify, you allow yourself to see clearly. And you might be surprised by what you find — there might be a world you never knew hiding above the fog.
Clarity is important.
There’s so much noise constantly surrounding us. Notifications, advertisements, news — all of it can cause us to be distracted and subsequently, the vision for our life can become hazy.
What if you could set aside everything in your life and take an honest look at where you are right now, and then cast the vision for where you want to be?
That’s where clarity comes in. It allows us to see what’s really going on so we can address it and move forward.
If you can’t see clearly you have to get corrective lenses before you can drive. In the same way, if we can’t see our lives or our futures clearly we should take some time to find clarity before moving forward on the road of life.
Clarity is a corrective lens for our lives.
Once you know where you are, you can find out how to get where you want to be.
With clarity, we can be more purposeful and deliberate in the things we do. We can see who we really are and do what’s necessary to become the person we were meant to be.
2. We become more focused.
We live in an era of distraction and disruption. Companies are spending massive amounts of money on marketing and advertising just to disrupt your focus.
Focus is valuable. Our most productive moments are a result of focus, and some of the most meaningful time we spend with those closest to us requires our full attention.
When our lives aren’t cluttered with distractions we can focus on what actually matters to us.
We need more focus.
Have you ever met up with someone for coffee and in the middle of the conversation they suddenly pull out their phone and start replying to messages? Or even worse, they start responding to Instagram notifications. It’s rude, and it shows a lack of focus.
It’s easy to get distracted. It has not only become normal but for the most part acceptable. That doesn’t mean it’s a good thing.
It’s hard to engage with someone who’s distracted.
Focus is part of the foundation for meaningful relationships.
The things we give our attention to are the things that grow.
If we want our relationships to grow, we need to give them our attention, and our attention requires our focus.
Focus is more valuable than extra time.
Five minutes of being focused are more valuable than five hours of being unfocused. When we’re unfocused we’re unproductive and unengaged.
When we’re focused we’re productive and engaged. We can do more meaningful work, get more done, and have better conversations.
3. It opens up possibilities and gives us room to breathe.
Clutter kills spontaneity; simplicity welcomes it.
I absolutely love randomly running into people I know and having a good conversation — even if it’s only for a few minutes. That was one of my favorite things about college, I ran into people all the time, and I welcomed the temporary disruption. I didn’t see it as an inconvenience, I saw it as an opportunity for connection.
Constantly feeling behind on work, crunched for time, or stressed out prevents us from engaging in pleasant disruptions like running into an old friend.
What does room to breathe look like?
Margins. They are essential in typography, publishing, and design.
Trying to read a block of text without any sort of formatting or margins would be painful. If you look away for even a few seconds it’d be difficult to find where you left off — and you can forget about trying to reference specific information in the future.
Having room to breathe is like having margins in life.
It breaks things up enough so we don’t have to feel rushed and stressed all the time.
It’s like the feeling of being outside. Open. Limitless. Free.
Room to breathe might look like a more flexible schedule, or a less cluttered room — whatever the case, the more our environments look and feel like being outside, the freer we’ll feel.
One simple way to accomplish this is to open up the spaces we inhabit. Minimizing the stuff in a room changes the way we interact with space.
Sometimes minimizing feels limiting because we have less, but it’s actually freeing because it opens up new possibilities.
4. We have more time.
The less stuff you have the less time you need to spend finding, organizing, and maintaining it. Each item that we own has ownership over us to some degree. Our stuff demands our time and effort.
If you own fewer clothes you will spend less time choosing what to wear, and also less time washing, folding, and putting them away.
Less stuff means more time.
Time is life.
In her book, The Writing Life, Annie Dillard talks about the relationship between time and life.
“The way we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives,” she said.
When phrased that way, the perspective of time changes. The things we choose to do with our time becomes what we do with our lives.
Time isn’t just a commodity; time is our life.
Spending time watching a TV show might feel like a justified use of time at the moment because it feels good, but do we really want to spend our whole lives watching TV shows?
Even though the notion of time itself is debated — some psychologists and anthropologists believe it’s a social construct — nonetheless, there is something that we can all grasp about our perception of time and the nature of its tangibility, even if the reality of time is something we can’t fully understand yet.
What to do with the extra time.
Have you ever noticed that when life is especially busy we start to place extra value on every bit of free time we can find? We might manage our time in a way to maximize our schedule and squeeze every ounce of productivity from the day.
On the other hand, when life is at a lull, time all the sudden isn’t as valuable — it’s like we starve ourselves for time so much that when we finally get a break and actually have free time we don’t know what to do with it.
Do what you love.
The things that fill you with joy are always worth doing more of. When you gain extra time as a byproduct of simplifying your life, you’ll have more time to do the things you really want to do.
Why spend time unnecessarily on things you dislike?
The very nature of simplifying gives us the opportunity to spend more of our time doing what we love instead of being busy with managing our clutter.
There are certain things that make you feel alive, do more of those things.
5. It just feels good.
One of my favorite feelings in the whole entire world is laying in the snow on the top of a mountain and breathing the crisp alpine air. It’s a magical experience. Every time I go snowboarding I try to find a moment to do this.
Just like how an open space feels good, an open life feels good. There’s less to worry about, and more to enjoy.
When we simplify our lives, we learn how to enjoy and appreciate the simple things. And some of the simplest things in life are the most beautiful and rewarding.
It’s a more natural state to live in.
Our lives were never meant to be as crazy as they’ve become.
There’s something we can learn from trees: they know how to just be.
Deep in the middle of a secluded forest, a sturdy tree stands tall — nestled between a stream and a cliff. It’s not trying to be someone else or prove anything. It’s content being itself. Swaying in the wind, and changing colors ever autumn.
It’s here that we find the origin of the concept: simplicity.
We should all be a little more like trees.
So why do we need to simplify our lives?
Because we will find more clarity.
We will be more focused.
New possibilities will open up, and we’ll have room to breathe.
We’ll have more time to do what we love.
And we’ll feel good about it.
Simplifying is an ongoing process. It takes effort and dedication, but the reward is always worth it.
The more we simplify our lives, the freer we become.
Will you choose simplicity today?