Contrary to what many believe, minimalism is not about living in lack, it’s living with “enough”. Minimalism is not living with “nothing”, it’s living with “less”. Once you understand that gray area it makes minimalism more appealing, but also more complicated. How do you find enough in minimalism?
This is where a lot of people drop out of the minimalist lifestyle or decide not to begin at all. Finding a balance that is different for each person can seem daunting, especially for people who aren’t great at making decisions.
Studies show that most people actually prefer to be told what to do and exactly how to do it. It makes sense, with today’s massive amounts of information and decision-fatigue (which is the number one reason so many geniuses wear the same clothes every day).
So, many will select a role model and ‘model’ what that person has chosen to do. If the role model has opted to parse down to 100 total belongings and live on the road, then the newcomer will follow suit.
If the role model has chosen the RV life and owning exactly 33 items of clothing, well then the newcomer will do so as well.
And maybe the life choices are complementary, maybe they aren’t.
In a nutshell, each person’s level and method of achieving enough in minimalism is unique and personal. As with most things in life, it’s a matter of trial and error to find that ‘sweet spot’.
However, there are some guidelines (yay guidelines!) that can help you find your own personal (and family) sweet spot without losing everything you own.
Experiment with enough in minimalism
Don’t underestimate the value of experimentation. Amazing things have been accomplished throughout history solely from experimenting.
Experimenting requires trying a variety of new things and evaluating which ones work. If you’re constantly decluttering the same things and playing keep-up you aren’t experimenting and, therefore, there is no potential for growth.
Experimenting is required for growth and that means being a little uncomfortable while you step out of your shell and find your level of enough in minimalism.
There are tons of experiments you can try. Courtney Carver started the 333 experiment just to see what would happen if she wore 33 items for 3 months. Her experiment encouraged others to do the same thing and taught her something new about her wardrobe needs.
Joshua Becker talks about something he calls ‘leveling’ in his book ‘The More Of Less’. He uses this term to talk about experimenting with living without various items by removing them to a remote location for a period of time. If he hasn’t needed them for that period of time then he donates the items.
In his book ‘Enough’ Patrick Rhone shares how ‘enough’ is always changing. The conditions for ‘enough’ are a climate that, over time, will require adjustments. So, experimenting to find that perfect balance is a lifelong process, not a one-and-done.
For one person, living in an RV may be enough for a this time but possibly not enough later on down the line as life throws in new factors- economic, social, health requirements, etc.
Along the same lines of each person’s enough in minimalism being different, you can’t find your perfect balance if you’re looking externally.
Comparison truly is a trap because you end up focusing your attention and decision-making prowess on someone else’s goals.
So, should you make a conscious effort to not look at what others are experimenting with and not take advice from other minimalists?
Well, no. As humans, we build upon and out of the knowledge of others.
In fact, I encourage you to learn from as many different levels of minimalists as you can in order to learn more about what intrigues you (and what repels you).
Try new things yourself and try the ideas of others! I especially encourage getting into communities of people striving for a similar lifestyle.
Just keep in mind while you’re discussing different things you’ve tried that you don’t take theirs on as a religion and don’t push yours onto them as a religion either.
Remove the temptation
The minimalist lifestyle is not just about decluttering and managing your current belongings, it’s also largely about becoming aware of our consumption and resisting consumerism.
Of course, being human means that we will consume. There are things that we need and there are comfort items that can increase our quality of life. Choosing the types and number of comfort items for yourself and your family is something you’ll just have to experiment with.
However, especially in today’s consumerist landscape, you really have to be aware or you’ll end up in heaps of unnecessary clutter. With the incredibly targeted ads on the internet, being aware and proactive is huge.
Here are just a few tricks to removing the temptation of unnecessary consumption:
- Shop online for specific items without browsing. This prevents the sale items from turning your head in the store. The thing is, you have to go directly to the pages of the items you need so you don’t give the website a chance to do the same thing.
- Cancel mail advertisements. You can go to https://dmachoice.thedma.org/ to opt out of mailed advertisements. You can also notify the sender directly.
- Unsubscribe! I use an app called Unroll. This lets me choose which emails I’ve subscribed to that I would like to unsubscribe from. The ones that I choose to keep can then be ‘rolled up’ and sent at the same time each day. This way I’m not constantly disturbed by various emails.
- Get an ad block. I have “Adblock” as an extension on my Chrome browser. If you use Google Chrome for a browser just type in “adblock extension” in google. It will lead you to an extension you can then add to your toolbar at the top. It works in the background constantly.
Try a ‘plus-1-minus-2’ approach
This is a nifty little experiment that I’ve been doing lately. You finish decluttering to the point you feel done and then add 1 more item.
Then, when you’re shopping, whether for groceries or clothes, etc., after you’re completely done selecting items put 2 back.
When we go to Safeway or Fred Meyers we have an idea or a list, but there are always ‘those things’, those specials or delicious treats that I hadn’t considered when making the list.
When we are ready to check out, we stop and choose 2 items to put back. Almost always, there are a few things that we say, “yeah, I don’t really need this.”
How to find enough in minimalism
Minimalism should not be devastating to your lifestyle, it shouldn’t feel like lack. But finding your perfect, and very personal, balance can take quite a bit of experimentation and intent- or willpower.
Once you’ve found your sweet spot this will definitely not be a lifestyle choice that you regret. When you’re living with ‘enough’, you are in harmony with your own needs, without the excess. It’s totally worth the effort.