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The Hardest Part of Being a Minimalist That Most People Have Overlooked

The Hardest Part of Being a Minimalist That Most People Have Overlooked
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At a time where people seem to define themselves by what they have -via Instagram bragging or the recent obsession with affluence, you’d be surprised to find that growing alongside that trend are an increasing number of individuals who identify themselves as minimalists.

Minimalists, i.e. people who choose to live comfortably with as few material possessions as possible – have become a staple in the sub-culture of many economies.

This decision doesn’t come from lack of motivation or ambition -as a matter of fact- many of them make reasonably solid incomes; but rather as personal decision and a means to not only ensure financial stability but also as way of disconnecting from the zeitgeist of wealth-seeking and enjoying life for it’s simple beauty.

The lifestyle choice is akin to people who enjoy hunting, camping, skydiving, or any seemingly niche commitment. There is no qualifier for it, other than that it works for them. As anything else, it comes with its’ own fill of pros and cons.

The question than becomes, “Is less, more?”. The answer may shock you.

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Becoming a minimalist is a massive change.

Along with the obvious economical benefit of being a minimalist, many also report to be genuinely happier. As matter of fact, in the United States minimalist Joshua Fields Millburn, claims that minimalism may have even helped him to find his calling in life:[1]

“Getting rid of the stuff is just the initial step. I found that once I got rid of everything in my way, it was much easier to focus on what was important in my life: health, relationships, pursuing my passion, personal growth, and contributing beyond myself.”

However, despite becoming a minimalist, in the article, he does imply that it was not all that he had to do in order to find happiness.

“We go way out of our way to add value to other people’s lives. I don’t know about you, but when I find value in something, I tend to share it.”

It seems that minimalism has assisted Millburn -to an extent, though his approach and calling may not be a “one size-fits-all for the average individual. Let’s dig a bit deeper.

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Millburn states in the aforementioned article that his inspiration for pursuing the minimalist lifestyle was Colin Wright, whom is referred to as a remarkable minimalist on his own standing. Wright had this to say about the lifestyle-

“Minimalism is about getting rid of the things in your life that don’t add value so you can focus on the things that do. Beyond that, it’s a person-by-person set of rules.”

From the perspective of these two, we can see that minimalism in and of itself, may not be the answer that we’re looking for but may provide us the path to happiness and meaning – sans a multitude of accrued possessions.

But, what of the every man?

Well for the person interested in minimalism or becoming a minimalist, without going to the extremes of Millburn or Wright, there are a host of other issues to face. The primary issue of course being how to redefine yourself once you’ve made the decision.

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The change is undeniably massive. According to the Huffington Post, the change in identity is in fact, the most massive adjustment to make.[2] They spoke to Ryan Nicodemus -a co-founder of The Minimalists- blog (along with Millburn),[3] who had this to say about the transition-

“It wasn’t really the stuff that was hard to get rid of. What really was difficult for me was my identity,” Nicodemus continues, “I had wrapped myself up in this corporation, in this high-profile job making lots of money, and I identified with that title and with that lifestyle, so that was probably the hardest thing for me to let go of.”

In addition to the redefining of self, it has also been noted that becoming a minimalist may also place an individual as a part of the counterculture, possibly ostracizing and stigmatizing them to popular society.[4]

But minimalism will help you find happiness.

Despite any initial hardship, there are those who stand by their minimalist values, in synthesis with society at large and find happiness and advantages in the lifestyle once it’s been fully integrated into their day-to-day lives.

Benefits such as,

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  • Reduced decision fatigue.[5]
  • Freedom from fear, worry, and anxiety.[6]
  • Focus on the value of life.[7]

How to become a minimalist one step at a time?

Regardless of the initial separation anxiety that some may have about giving up some of their things, it seems that the existential trade-of can be enormously gratifying – should the individual seek a more spiritually abundant existent as opposed to the kind that we are faced with in every day life.

Though the extreme may not be for everyone, there are certain things that the average person can do, to get a taste of what it’s like to live with less.

  • You can start by assessing your belongings and considering what you may be able to live without.
  • Slowly begin to sell, donate, or throwaway items that you may not need or create useless clutter.
  • Once the clutter is gone, see what electronic devices that you could live without. (Most will find that a cellphone and/or laptop is sufficient enough).
  • Continue to assess the things in your life, that you may have little to no use for.
  • If you like the fresh abundance of freedom from the material things, think of downsizing, or simply try going a lengthy amount of time without buying in excess of what you need.

Embrace the change and discover the meaning of life.

If you’re willing to make the change, and attempt to downgrade your lifestyle -even incrementally, you may find yourself living a happier and overall healthier existence.

Don’t shy away in fear of change. Embrace what’s on the other side of what you’re accustomed to. Just one small change at a time, can lead you to discovering a whole new meaning to fulfillment in your life.

Reference

More by this author

Antwan Crump

Novelist, blogger, essayist, podcaster.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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