Notice that I didn’t call this “How I Became a Minimalist.” While I’m certainly displaying tendencies in that direction, I’m not quite sure I deserve to wear the label “minimalist” — at least not yet.
All of us who are or who aspire to be minimalists have our own reasons for initially seeking this path. Often as we learn more, our own point of view changes, and along with it, some of our goals take different shapes and priorities.
When I made the decision several years ago to move from a three-bedroom house to a tiny motorhome, many people considered that to be a very minimalist move. I suppose it was, seeing as I parted with over 90% of my possessions to do so. Would I miss them? Would I feel deprived?
A New Feeling
Guess what? Instead of feeling deprived, I felt liberated. Free of the clutter. Free of the responsibility of maintaining and protecting it all. Free of the fear of it being stolen or damaged. No more spending weeks (or months!) packing and unpacking if I had to move.
I was feeling liberated by my tiny mobile dwelling and my lack of stuff. So far so good. I wasn’t really thinking too much about it as a lifestyle or a philosophy, though. I just sort of lived my life. Now and then I’d realize I needed something I lacked, or, more often, I just wanted something I saw, and eventually, after a few years, I realized that I’d accumulated an awful lot of stuff in my tiny home! Uh-oh. Not so liberating anymore. Especially when moving was taking nearly a week of rearranging and cramming so as to make this thing drivable, and then a half a day of unpacking and rearranging just to be able to use my bed, kitchen, and toilet once I’d arrived at my next destination.
A New Quest
It seems that when I had first downsized and simplified, I hadn’t made the necessary changes in my habits and behavior to sustain that simplicity. Funny how clutter can creep up like that. A trinket here and a gadget there doesn’t seem like much at the time, but they slowly, almost imperceptibly accumulate until suddenly you look around one day and go WTF? I wanted to get back that feeling of freedom and serenity. I consulted my favorite research tool, the internet, looking not only for decluttering tips, support, and inspiration, but perhaps some help on figuring out how, once I get things back to how I’d like them to be, to have them stay that way.
A New Community
I found a small but thriving (and growing) community of bloggers, most of them calling themselves minimalists, each at his or her own stage of dealing with a similar situation, and sharing their experiences for each other and anyone else to benefit from. In addition to practical how-to advice, I was also reading about why and about the results and how entire lives were being changed, enriched by removing needless clutter and excess material goods. As I became more involved, and started participating in the comments, I found not only inspiration for my decluttering challenges, but also a renewed interest in my own blog.
I’d like to express my thanks to this community, of which I now feel I am at least a small part, for not only all your words, but for inspiring me to write more of my own words. You’ll find most of the blogs that I regularly read are listed in the blogroll in the right-hand column. Maybe you’ll find some you haven’t visited before, or haven’t visited lately. And thank you to my readers and commenters, who remind me that my own blogging is a worthy endeavor.
My Current Goal
My immediate goal, at least with regards to stuff, is to get things to the point where I could easily pick up and go at any time, with a minimum of hassle. I want to be able, while in traveling mode, to still have access to all the necessities without that sensation of being in a tile puzzle. The closer I get to that goal (which, looking around me, is still a ways off), and the more I work on decluttering, minimizing, and simplifying, the more I seem to be absorbing of the deeper meaning of minimalism. Not just decluttering, but why. I’m seeing how I am not defined by what I own, and how too much of it can weigh me down, and getting rid of the excess sets me free. And not just the physical things, either, but how simplifying life and my approach to living it makes it better and gives me more time for what I want to do. So perhaps I am a minimalist after all. Or at least well on my way to becoming one.
How about you?
Do you consider yourself a minimalist, or at least seeking that path? Do you maybe lean in that direction, but prefer a different label? Do you find yourself occasionally straying from your chosen path, and need that occasional jolt of reality (or reading about someone else’s) to set you right again? What is your immediate or next goal?
I enjoyed this post a lot, Mike. Well-written and well-organized. I’m looking forward to more of your thoughts on the subject as your thinking and experience evolve.
Thanks, Meg. Nice to see you here in the comments, too.
i half-jokingly say that i was born a minimalist. but it’s true. i was a kid who liked space and fresh air, sunshine and a good book, instead of a lot of stuff. i had a repeating ‘claustrophobic’ dream, or rather nightmare when i was about 7. who knows what brought it on…but it seemed to affect my way of looking at spaces, even after the nightmare finally went away. i didn’t know i was a “minimalist” until a few years ago. I felt very much a minority for most of my life. people value stuff. and if you don’t, you’re a little weird to them i guess. lucky for me, i met and married a man who felt like i did!! i would say, there is a sea change that happens to you, if you let it. when you can look around and enjoy seeing the surface of things, without a lot of other things all over it, it begins there. you breathe a little easier. you see it as beauty. and you want more of it. and more of it means you let go of things that don’t matter. light and shadows take on real loveliness and your mind grows more calm. and you become content. at least that’s what i hope for you! i like your site. it’s clean, simple and interesting. you have a following!
I think I got to be a somewhat of a packrat over the years in part as a result of being thrifty, or at least thinking I was. I’d end up with so many things because I found a deal too good to pass up, or, better yet, got them free. Never mind if I actually needed them. I was quite the thrift store, yard sale, and clearance aisle junkie for much of my life. At the same time I’ve always had an appreciation for clear spaces and elegant simplicity — just not the ability to maintain my own environment in complicity with that appreciation.
i’ve been reading a pretty cool blog and while reading the archives, i thought of you. it’s got an odd name. i haven’t got to the part why he calls it that, but he’s kinda fun to read. he’s in his mid-50’s, single and lives in the florida keyes. he’s usually lived in an rv, or boat apparently, but i think now he has a small apt. he’s gone minimalist. always fun to see how others do it!
i’m in the february archives right now.
it didn’t highlight. maybe it will when i post. anyhow, that’s the correct address.
I just ran into Manatee Fritters recently too! How funny is that. 🙂
Looks interesting. I read a few posts; I’ll have to remember to check it again and read more of the archives, too. I think I saw him in the comments on Minimalist Woman’s blog recently.
Straying from the path. Yes! I consider myself in recovery so I ward against shopping/thrifting/side of the road find urges like the plague. I love my minimalist life, and even though I’ve downsized so much I am always downsizing “just a little bit more”.
I’ve been enjoying your posts Mike and can’t wait to see what you kick out next. How bout some shots of your rv, eh? Show us the drama baby!
Oh, no… she want to see my clutter-porn! I dunno if I want to do that just yet, Tanja… on one hand, it would make for a better presentation if I waited and could show the “before” and “after” together, but OTOH, if I show just the “before” now, then I might be more motivated to keep working on it so that I could ultimately mitigate my embarrassment from the “before” with the beauty (well, at least improvement) of the “after”.
I was gone a couple of days last week and didn’t comment on this post. I’m glad to see your blog moving again. And I’m glad to see that like me, you’re toying with the minimalist label.
I’m looking forward to featuring your guest post on my site this week.
I tend to like the phrase “voluntary simplicity” myself, but of course that only describes a lifestyle and/or philosophy, but doesn’t name the participants. I had a paragraph in this post about names and labels, but it didn’t make the final cut. I saved it, though — maybe I’ll be able to build a post around it in the future.
I’m looking forward to guest posting over there too, Gip!
I’ve been simplifying or minimalising for three years now and for me the ‘things’ creep is continual, I go through phases but at the end of each phase I seem to progress and each time I progress I learn something and it gets better and better. So I consider myself a minimalist, because it’s not how much stuff you have now but a direction you’re taking… I’m sure there is a personal limit and as you get closer to it the phases might disappear and you turn into some magical shining levitating minimalist monk, but then again maybe not.
Simetimes the progess is slower than others. I find it best to set small goals, and as they are reached, set new ones. Eventually you might find a state of equilibrium. OTOH, the more clutter you eliminate, the easier it is to recognize the remaining clutter.
Hi I’m new is this thing that we call minimalist … And feeling much much better…grrrr but convincing your partner is the dificult part… Together we are making changes
Thanks communitiy for inspiring us