Sadie Bingham, MSW, LICSW
  • Minimalism – Little to do with STUFF

    “When your room is clean and uncluttered you have no choice but to examine your inner state.” – Marie Kondo

                Minimalism seems to be all the craze these days. You see it everywhere – in articles, documentaries, books, podcasts. People are now claiming to be happier, healthier, and calmer all because they have de-cluttered their homes. You have seen the shows where the couple appears exasperated by all their belongings. They don’t seem to have a clue that if only they tidied, organized, or bought less STUFF, they may not be in this pickle!

                Full disclosure – I do consider myself a minimalist and one to practice the lifestyle of minimalism. And at the same time, I love to collect rocks, crystals, books, jewelry, etc. If you ever proclaim yourself to be anything (like starkly declare yourself a Minimalist) you will be met with a bunch of skeptics who love to point out all the ways you are not this.

    I began to understand that minimalism has nothing to do with how sparse your space is or how you magically no longer feel the tug of consumerism. 

    For me, minimalism is a value. It’s intentionally choosing the life I want to live. It began by a deep yearning that I couldn’t relate to those around me. I didn’t enjoy social media, I hardly traveled, I drove a clunker, etc. Instead what I really wanted to do was hunker down in some cabin in the woods and stack my money up. I wanted to isolate and slow down. I felt crazed by the pace of society. By happenstance, years ago I stumbled across The Minimalists, then several years later listened to The Minimalists podcast nonstop on a road trip, and then watched their documentary. Upon returning home from the road trip, my husband and I promptly got rid of our “stuff.” And we have slowly been accruing it back ever since.

    Through this process, I began to take a closer look at what consumerism meant for me.

    I now understand why I get a buzz walking through shops, will buy a bunch of stuff I don’t really need, and then slowly feel the guilt seep in as I realize none of these items will make me happy. Once I understood that consuming could no longer make me feel whole, the entire process lost its luster. I saw the fallacy in the message and there was no turning back.

    Now I consume AND I am still a minimalist. 

     I have become mindful about what I love. For example, when I road trip and visit National Parks I love buying random stuff. Back in the day, I used to use this consumerism as a way to shame myself and point out the ways I was a poser. I now understand that those items really mean something to me because it reminds me of the adventures I have experienced and reminds me that being adventurous is another value of mine.

    The balanced approach is to take a moment to question the why of what you are purchasing.

    If you are able to walk away from the item and go about your day, you will begin to notice whether or not that item has resonated with you. Have you completely forgotten and are glad you walked away? Or have you imagined where that item will fit in your home, or where you would wear that item, or how you would use that? If so, go get that item and love the shit out of it!

    In conclusion, minimalism as a lifestyle is starting to see all the ways you live your life in excess. After seeing, you can begin to whittle it down to the values that represent you the most. For me that meant throwing away my credit card, climbing my way out of financial debt, discontinuing my commute, changing jobs, moving out of the city, and saying no to social engagements.

    This led me to be clearer about what I value: financial peace, simplifying my schedule, and living slower.

    How is minimalism a lifestyle for you?