Essentialism: It’s a spectrum!
“Imagine a life with less: less stuff, less clutter, less stress, less debt, less discontent, fewer distractions. Now imagine a life with more: more time, more meaningful relationships. What you are imagining is an intentional life. It’s not a perfect life, but an easy, simple one.”
– Joshua Fields Millburn
Lately, I have been looking into essentialism. Although I wouldn’t call myself an essentialist (at all!), purging 40% of my home and giving away many of my belongings has had an amazing effect: I feel great when I open my closet and pick from only my favourite clothes, my house is tidier, everything is easier to clean, and it is a breeze to put things away because everything has its place. And in the long run, because my home is neat and clean, I am happier. With less belongings, I am more aware of the things I do own, and the things I do love. I am more mindful of caring for my stuff, my home feels like it’s had a makeover! But essentialism isn’t just decluttering and re-organizing your home!
Every Possession Should Serve a Purpose or Bring Joy to Your Life
Owning less is better than organizing more.
The main idea of essentialism, is that every single one of your possessions should serve a purpose or bring you joy. If an item doesn’t fulfill either of these, you don’t actually need it. If you sort through all your belongings by this principle, you’ll end up with no excess stuff, only the essentials. What are you holding on to that no longer adds value to your life? By letting go, someone else can use the possessions that are merely taking up space in your home, your office, your life.
SIDENOTE: You’ve been hearing about Minimalism, and now you’re confused about whether it’s the same as essentialism?
In a nutshell, the difference between the two is realizing, investing in, and hanging onto the things that are “essential” to each of our individual lives (essentialism) as opposed to trying to “make do” with as few things as possible (minimalism).
But honestly, if Essentialism or Minimalism seem too harsh, then perhaps you can re-label your interpretation of it all to, for example, any of the following -isms: Selectivism, Enoughism, Lessism, Practicalism, Naturalism. Call it whatever you want!
Essentialism is a Spectrum, Not a Radical Lifestyle
At a first glance, people might think the point of essentialism is only to get rid of material possessions: eliminating, extracting, detaching, decluttering. That is a mistake, though. The point of essentialism isn’t to have as little as possible. It is to have just enough to keep you happy, content, and comfortable. For some people, that could be enough to fit into a backpack. For others, it could be much more. It’s a spectrum, and you have to find out where exactly you stand (but be honest with yourself here, or you’ll end up keeping everything!).
The best way to tidy up a messy room is to get rid of half of it.
Let’s say you have this collection of books (or stamps, plants, CDs, ..anything!) and you love all 253 books! You’ve got a nice big library, you love the way the books smell and feel, love turning the pages, you love lending them to friends and then talking about the books later. And now you’re starting this essentialism thing, but can’t get yourself to give any of the books away. I say keep your collection! These books seem to add a lot of value and joy to your life. It doesn’t matter that the collecting consists of 253 items. Don’t restrict yourself to a certain number, because everyone is different. Just make sure that you really love every single one of those books/stamps/plants/CDs/etc. in your collection.
This goes for any type of collection or hobby or love! You might have heard about project 333 (reducing your closet to 33 items for 3 months) or similar challenges. Many people like to start off their essentialist journey with these, because you have a reference point, a specific number of items that you have to downsize your stuff to. And because we are all different, these challenges might be too easy for some, and impossible for others: If you’re doing your favourite sport 3 times a week, and need a certain amount of sports wear and gear for it, reducing your closet to 33 items might not be possible. Maybe your personal 3-month challenge should be getting along with 44 items instead.
So let’s be real: There is no Essentialist Rulebook. We are all different. The things that add value to one person’s life may not add value to yours. A 20-year old single guy’s essentialist lifestyle probably looks very different to a 45-year old mother’s minimalist life. So you need to decide for yourself what adds value to your life, and what doesn’t.
- Identify the Essential.
- Eliminate the Rest.
If you want to know more or get that essentialism inspo, check out these medias that I have come to love:
Instagram accounts: @minimalistbible and @livingbetterwithless
Book: “Essentialism – The disciplined pursuit of less” by Greg McKeown (yeah, I know, the irony of buying a book on essentialism! ..Maybe get the kindle version instead?)
Netflix documentary: “Minimalism: A documentary about the important things” (2016), 78min