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Living with Intent

Why minimalism has staying power in modern times

Plant and laptop
Photography by Sarah Dorweiler

Just over a year ago, after hearing Joshua Fields Millburn on the Rich Roll podcast and subsequently devouring every episode by The Minimalists to date, I began my own journey into minimalism.

I was profoundly affected by Josh’s words and subsequently spent many days clearing out my mother’s dark and dusty attic. Hordes of childhood toys and memorabilia were sorted through and considered. It was like a museum of my life that no one would ever visit.

I began the lengthy process of listing anything of value on eBay while everything else was either donated, recycled, or trashed. After a few months, I’d made enough money from vintage toys and t-shirts to fund a holiday to Vietnam.

But what if one day I realize this ‘ism’ is just a fad and I regret letting go of all of my keepsakes? Will I wish I still had my collection of over-sized vintage band t-shirts? The guitar I never played? What about my childhood toy collection? My hundreds of DVDs? CDs? What about my impressive library of books? Could minimalism be a curse? I don’t think so.

Minimalism trains us how to let go through the art of non-attachment. It has also been around for over 2,500 years through the teachings of Buddhism and the Stoics. But, in a time of widespread excess, it is arguably more relevant than ever.

Buddhism teaches us that everything is temporary and subject to change: our health, our appearance, our environment, and also our beliefs. That’s not to say our beliefs will weaken; they may become stronger. It’s more that they won’t always be exactly the same. So, even if our view of minimalism changes in the future, that doesn’t negate the benefits it’s given us in the here and now.

A quick inventory of my life over the past year should be enough evidence that currently, minimalism is holding up on its end of the bargain.

Since embracing it, I have shed the stress of all my superfluous possessions, I exercise regularly, and am in the best shape of my life. I meditate daily and am as emotionally stable as I have ever been. I have a more positive outlook on life and its challenges. After veganism, it is probably the best change I have made to my life.

But minimalism isn’t just useful on an individual level, it is useful on a global scale. We currently have a climate emergency, driven in large by a capitalist, consumerist agenda where economic growth out ranks all other concerns. Never has it been so important to minimize our consumption.

Whether you want to curb your consumerism to save money, reduce your carbon footprint, live a nomadic existence, or just want to make the housework easier, there is something to gain from living simply.

Minimalism has served me very well and continues to do so. It’s no longer as much about clearing the clutter but about living intentionally and appropriately. I’m not sure when that could ever be a bad thing. It’s adding value to my life in a way that extra possessions and added distractions never could, so I will continue to hold on to minimalism. Just not too tightly.

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