How Minimalism Helps Us Remember What Really Matters

how minimalism helps us remember what matters
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I learned long ago that I’m not an organized person. My hands seem to play tricks on my brain and I can never remember where I put things. But I have figured an easy hack to keep myself from sorting through heaps and piles of things – I just get rid of the heaps and piles. I’m neither a minimalist or a maximalist – I believe in having the right amount of stuff that fits your lifestyle. Minimalism helps you find the right amount of things. Here’s how minimalism helps us remember what really matters. 

When Stuff Distracts You From What’s Most Important

Outside the customs area of Detroit Metropolitan Airport, I saw a swarm of activity around a couple with a small child. They had left their passports on the plane (at least that was the best case scenario). 

And at first I felt sympathetic because traveling with a small child is difficult. But still there are two of them and they could have tag-teamed with one person remembering the child and the other person remembering the passports. I’m sure they remembered the diaper bag and their luggage after all. But the most important things by a long margin are 1) the baby and 2) the passports. Everything else – whether  money, a phone, or another travel accessory – could be remedied after customs.

They were probably distracted by the luggage. If they had only brought the baby and the passports, then there wouldn’t be a problem. The more things you have to remember, the more likely you are to forget something. Unfortunately for them, they forgot the most important thing. They were so distracted with things that could easily be replaced that they forgot what couldn’t be replaced.

The Cost of Your Stuff

I bought a TV recently. This is the first TV I’ve lived with in over 20 years. The TV itself was only a few hundred dollars but I started to reflect on the other costs having a TV entails.

For instance, when people come into my apartment, one of the first things they mention is the lack of TV. Now the living room is very TV-centric. And when I sit on the couch, it just seems normal to turn the TV on. Though I multitask while watching the TV, it’s never as efficient as having the TV off. And watching TV precludes some other activities like listening to music or reading. So the TV isn’t just a financial cost – it’s a mental and time suck. 

When Stuff Holds You Back

I read a book recently where the author recounts how her grandmother, tired of taking care of her infant brother and doing chores in rural Appalachia, leaves the house and moves clear across the country. At the mature age of 13. 

These days I hear a lot of people talk about moving for new opportunities, for dreams, for reduced costs of living. And I always hear excuses. These are adults, with some means, with access to planes and online job searching and side hustles – and yet they can’t seem to do what a 13-year old girl was able to do at the turn of the century. 

Part of the reason is their stuff. It costs a lot of money and headache to move all your stuff. The stuff we have keeps us in place. Our stuff keeps us rooted in the same ways and stops us from exploring.

Minimalism Can Apply To Experiences

Minimalism doesn’t just apply to stuff. Having too much to do can also distract us. Most people agree that time is our most valuable resource and yet we squander so much of our time on the Internet, in needless bickering, complaining, worrying. We don’t spend the time reaching out to our loved ones, connecting with new friends, meditating, exercising, nourishing our souls – you know, the stuff that really matters. 

How Minimalism Reminds You of What Really Matters

If we stop and think about our lives, we can name a few things that are the most critical and the rest is nice, but it can be replaced. It’s the stuff that you run back into your burning house for (usually people, but certain items or documents make the cut as well). The rest of it is just crap.

There’s nothing at all wrong with stuff. But we each have a different amount of stuff we can handle before we start to forget the most important thing. For me, it’s a pretty low number because I’m disorganized and easily overwhelmed. But there are travelers with tons of luggage who still get everything together and there are backpackers who can’t keep it all straight. 

Tips for Minimalism Helping You

Minimalism helps me when I start every day or every endeavor remembering what’s the most important. 

  • packing (and keeping track of) the most important things first -the passport and the baby. Or a wallet, keys and phone when you’re out. This way you don’t walk out with dozens of items and forget what you need.
  • writing down the most important goals for your day before scheduling anything
  • just doing the most important things
  • just cutting out the things that get in your way. The friends, appointments, activities, clutter that don’t enrich you.

Conclusion – How Minimalism Helps Us Remember What Matters

Minimalism isn’t about how much stuff you have; it’s about ensuring that your  stuff doesn’t distract you from what’s most important. If we have too much stuff for us to handle and care for, or the stuff we have takes too much of our attention, then we may need to check ourselves.

But as long as you have your passport and your baby, it doesn’t matter how much other stuff you have.


Author: Lisa

A Washington, DC attorney discusses the financial struggles facing women lawyers.

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