“Mindfulness gives you time. Time gives you choices. Choices, skillfully made, lead to freedom.”Henepola Gunaratana
At the time of writing this, it has been 4 years since I discovered Minimalism as a practice. I came to it by way of a recommendation from a long time friend, who told me to watch the documentary “Minimalism.” The suggestion came after a discussion over the frustration and seeming powerlessness to enact change in the wake of the 2016 election. The documentary was self produced by a pair of Ohioans, who themselves celebrated ten years as “The Minimalist” near the end of 2020.
I find I have to constantly explain the idea of Minimalism to everyone I discuss it with because their first idea is some Monk like existence, barren of joy or material belongings, wasting away alone in some empty white walled room. That’s the double entendre in the naming this philosophy, Minimalism. In reality, Minimalism should be equated with Essentialism. An essentialist philosophy that is reinforced by mindfulness. The two fuel the thoughtful consideration of everything we bring into our lives and how we allot our time and attention.
So, what do I think about Minimalism after four years? Succinctly, it is more important than ever. Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and others saw their net worths balloon beyond their already absurd heights during the pandemic. The growth of their respective wallets coming at the expense of our collective attention spans and bank balances. When we could have all been improving ourselves and creating, we instead were mindlessly consuming and distracted. That’s why I wanted to revisit and reassert the essential need for Minimalism in this post.
Going Beyond Stuff
Much of the Minimalism content out there is about the removal of stuff; but I found over these four years is that it is really the creation of space by mastering the art of saying NO that is at the heart of the Minimalist’s journey. This ability is a super power and hard to develop & maintain. We live in an outcome driven society and are predisposed to saying YES to more. Whether it is entertainment, spending, distractions, or working; more is always celebrated or used as the measurement by which we judge. After you get past the physical clutter you have to move past the mental clutter as well to truly be a minimalist.
You will always be buying and subtracting material items from your life, but if you can’t foster a No First mindset, you will soon be back where you started. Overwhelmed by commitments, things, and distractions. So, if I were to recommend Minimalism now, I would not begin solely with the material reduction, I would ask, “can you say NO to everything for a day?” Most can’t, and that is not the expectation. But can you critically analyze a whole day and cancel anything that is not serving you?
In that reflective moment, if we pause and look around us, glance at our calendars, swipe through our phones and credit card statements, we will see that we have been saying yes to a lot of things that don’t matter. When we learn to default to NO, we make more deliberate decisions about the additions you bring into your life that end up as the things around you, the commitments on your calendar, or the digital media cluttering your head. To be sure, getting good at saying NO, is not a one and done effort. It requires routine check-ins to reassess what matters and is still bringing you value.
These resources are very different than most of the recommendations you wold see across various minimalism devoted websites. For the basics, you can just start with The Minimalist and all of their collected materials. But to go deeper on the idea of making real S P A C E for your mind and self, these items are great. They have been the real difference maker in me turning off the noise of daily life and making room for the real passions I have in life.