When does one become a Minimalist?
I often wonder this. In the nearly three years that I have been slowly progressing from Maximalist/borderline-hoarder towards something far more lighter, I’ve been looking for a sign that tells me I’ve “made it”.
So far this hasn’t happened, and I’m beginning to suspect it never will.
When my wife and I began living together my understanding of minimalism was that it was very nice but something for other people. People who didn’t want many things. I understood it as binary; either you were a natural minimalist, or you weren’t.
And I wasn’t.
Gradually, with some insistent encouragement from my definitely naturally minimalist wife, I began to reevaluate my relationship with Things. This was extremely tough at first (to put it mildly) but experience began to show me that life went on without those things that were so hard to part with. In fact, I didn’t remember much of what I’d let go.
I’m still learning, and over the past two and a half years I have let go of around 85% of what I owned.
So this is where the question comes in…
Am I a Minimalist yet?
Last November I thought I’d made it. Becca and I played the Minimalism Game and successfully scraped another 460+ items from our home. It grew so hard at the end I was sure we’d cleared out everything we longer needed or wanted. Surely now we were minimalists (I say “we”, but I mean “I” – there was never any question about Becca).
Then last week on impulse we decided to do a car-boot sale. In just a couple days of sweeping through our cupboards and boxes we had an entire car full of our “favourite” things – things that had survived every other purge, but that we now realised were adding little value to our lives. We sold what we could and gave the rest to a local charity.
So am I now a minimalist?
For the first time I’m beginning to see that I don’t need a sign to tell me I’ve made it. And in fact that there’s no “it” to make. Minimalism is not binary; it’s a sliding scale. I’m far further along that scale than I ever could have imagined even 4 years ago, and I’m not as far along as I suspect I will be in another year’s time. And that is just fine with me.
I’m growing increasingly content with the things I own, and increasingly resistant to the idea of adding anything new without being sure of the value it adds to our lives.
With fewer Things we’re finding more time to spend on activities we love, surrounded by space and only those things that we adore. We also have space to bring new belongings into our home when we want to, only those that do add value and that we love.
This is what I can measure, and this is what matters more to me than any label telling me that yes, I am now a Minimalist.