Leo Babauta said, "Minimalism is a way of eschewing the non-essential in order to focus on what’s truly important." Joshua Fields Millburn called it a “well-edited, carefully curated” life. A minimalist is a careful editor of his or her own life.
I often use the word intentional as a synonym for "well-edited." Joshua Becker said minimalism is "an intentional journey to own less stuff," that leads to "more money, more time, more energy, more freedom, less stress, and more opportunity to pursue our greatest passions."
Why does this matter to you?
My story is like many others. The moment I started making money, I started filling my life with things. I compared myself to others and bought more. As I bought more, I found I wanted more. It wasn't long before I went into debt to afford more.
The debt kept me from pursuing what I truly loved to do. One day I asked myself what was most important to me in life and I was discouraged by the realization that nothing I had gone into debt for was truly important to me at all.
Why should it matter to me?
No matter where you are in life, you can benefit from living more intentionally. If you're wealthy, intentional living will help you invest in what matters, use your wealth to promote the good, and keep you from filling your life with just things.
If you're not wealthy, intentional living could help you see that happiness does not come from money, it will help you meet your basic needs before buying things to distract yourself, and it will help you make investments toward a more secure future.
Intentional living—minimalism—is something that anyone can start right now, because it's really not about things at all. To me, minimalism is an effort to live according to my values. 'Accumulating lots of stuff' was never one of my core values.
How is minimalism practiced?
It's up to each minimalist to determine how he or she might live. You might sell your house and live out of a backpack, traveling the globe. You might create a capsule wardrobe and sell or donate unneeded clothing. There is no right way to practice simplifying your life.
I sold or donated nearly everything I own in an effort to declutter my home, I deleted social media and cleared my phone in an effort to declutter my mind, I try to read and write more and I've eliminated most of my spending.
Have you joined a cult?
This doesn't have to be a religious thing. But I think we can learn about intentional living from certain religious figures. Consider how Tibetan monks live, or the asceticism of Origen, or the habit of nuns, or the professed poverty of a priesthood.
Consider the lifestyle of Jesus. I think his teachings are applicable to anyone, even if you're non-religious. In fact, Jesus only criticized the predatory religious establishment in his day. I believe he wouldn't criticize you if he were here right now.
Does this mean you're against owning things?
Not at all. I own things. I own a week's worth of clothes, a backpack, a computer, a phone, a car, a few sentimental items, and a few books. I'm a former professional guitarist, so I have guitar equipment. I'm not against owning things. I'm against letting my things own me.
I'm against debt. I'm against the burdens of storing, packing, and moving my things. I'm against comparing my things to things other people have. I'm against buying things I don't need. I'm against owning anything that doesn't provide joy or serve a purpose.
Who are some minimalists I would know?
On my blog, I often do profiles of minimalists who matter to me, like this one.