A Primer On Minimalism

minimalism
/ˈmɪnɪməˌlɪz(ə)m/
noun
1. a movement in sculpture and painting which arose in the 1950s, characterized by the use of simple, massive forms.
2. an avant-garde movement in music characterized by the repetition of very short phrases which change gradually, producing a hypnotic effect.
3. deliberate lack of decoration or adornment in style or design.

Minimalism, as a philosophy has attracted me for quite some time. I have been a follower, reader and if my friends are to be believed, a vocal supporter of the minimal way of life. First started as a movement in art and music, it is now found in almost every aspect of life you can imagine. 

Minimalism can have different connotations for different people. For me, it means hoarding less stuff and doing more with less. It also means removing clutter and waste from my life - things like stress, bad influences, poor connections. This leaves me with only the things that matter, which add value to my life. 

If you are interested in exploring about this philosophy, here are a few points which might come in handy to get you started.

1.Buying less stuff - Let’s just get this out of the way. Minimalism by definition means making do with lesser stuff. It might sound cynical to say but we’ve been conditioned to consume. A visit to the mall yesterday reminded me of the lure of buying more stuff. I was impressed by all the shiny stuff on display around me and felt like buying things I didn’t need or the ones I already have. Now, there is not a problem with that per se. But, the problem arises when this ‘stuff’ doesn’t add value in your life and takes away valuable time, energy and money from things and experiences which actually matter, which brings me to my next point.

2. Spend on experiences, not things - There is a brilliant 5 minute clip of George Carlin where he talks about our hoarding culture. We spend our lives hoarding stuff and buying more of it wherever we go. We have to do that because we can’t carry our stuff everywhere we go. Whereas, your experiences travel with you wherever you go and help you grow as a person. Stuff fades away but the memories of great experiences linger on. 

3. Removing excess baggage - Realise that you are a tiny part of something huge at play. The stress you carry, the worries that you have, the emotional baggage that bogs you down and your problems are of no consequence in the grand scheme of things - not only on the scale of universe but on the scale of your own life. Worry itself is wasteful but if it is actionable then it could be good - so choose your battles carefully. You only have so much energy, spend it on contemplating about the things that matter a lot to you.

4. Deeper rather than wider - There is way too much stuff in the world for us to consume. Too many books to read, so many movies to watch, many places to see and a lot to learn. My idea is that there is a bigger joy in immersing yourself completely in one single thing rather than superficially scanning tens of them. The world is designed with plenty for each to learn in her own path of choosing. The knowledge from one book is equal to what you get in 100 books together or from one each of them. It is a matter of how you perceive it. A moonlit evening can be romantic to the heart which is full of love or can feel lonely to a troubled mind. It is a matter of how you look at it. 

5. Focus - This has become one of my favorite words recently. Focus on only the things that matter. Our tiny attention spans have a way of moving us about in different directions. Give more to one single activity, you are probably going to enjoy it more. Read less but deeply engage with it. Watch a movie and imagine yourself becoming the character. Project yourself how it would feel in the stadium while watching a match on the screen. Immerse yourself, become them.

6. Prioritize - We are all capable human beings who want to do a lot in our lives. I, for one know that I want to do multiple stuff - write, cook, click pictures, play guitar, learn Spanish and a host of other things. But, the structure of our lives doesn’t allow us to do so many things all at once. So, learning to prioritize helps. Saying ‘NO’ to things is as important, if not more, to choosing which ones to say ‘YES’ to. And if these priorities change over time, that’s fine. 

Leading a minimal life has helped me reduce stress, become more fulfilled and be happier in general. I am not an accomplished minimal guy but am getting there. So, this post is to remind me how to get there as much as it is to inform you. I hope these steps help you get started on your path to minimalism if you like to. And, if you do, I hope it brings you as much happiness in your life as much as it has in mine. 

Further Reading:

What is Minimalism by The Minimalists

Minimalists FAQs by Leo Babauta 

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