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 me find the right amount of things. Here’s how minimalism helps us live a meaningful life.
The Problem With Stuff
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).
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 to remember, by a long margin, were 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 (second) most important thing. They were so distracted with things that could easily be replaced that they forgot what couldn’t be replaced.
Goodbye to Things?
I bought a TV recently. This is the first TV I’ve lived with in almost 20 years (my roommates never had TVs). 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 used to visit 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. (But, it’s fun when I watch a movie!)
Minimalism Helps You Remember What’s Important
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, of some means, with access to purchasing plane tickets and online job searching and side hustles. 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 lives that we always had. Our stuff stops us from exploring.
Declutter Your Experiences Too
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, etc.
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.
Minimalism Helps You Remember What’s Important
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 things. 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 Live a Meaningful Life
Minimalism helps me when I start every day or every endeavor remembering what’s the most important.
- When I am packing, I keep track of the most important things first – the passport and the baby (if I had a baby). Or wallet, keys and phone when I’m out. I’ve stopped carrying a purse and just started saying “keys, phone” to myself so I don’t lock myself out (like so many things, my wallet is on my phone now). This way you don’t walk out with dozens of items and forget what you need.
- Write down the most important goals for your day before scheduling anything.
- Just do the most important things.
- Cut out the things that get in your way- the friends, appointments, activities, clutter that don’t enrich you.
Conclusion – How Minimalism Helps Us Live a Meaningful Life
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.