A few years ago I was at an event and ran into a friend. As we were visiting, she paused the conversation to introduce me to someone else she knew and said, “This is Rachel, she’s a minimalist.”
I was shocked.
Although I refer to myself as a minimalist here on the blog and teach minimalism, I never would introduce myself as a minimalist- actually, it rarely even comes up in conversation!
I don’t want to be known as a minimalist.
Part of minimalism is to not allow “stuff” to define who you are. But then, being known as a minimalist- that’s still letting your stuff (or lack of) define you.
Obviously I am a minimalist. I dove headfirst into a minimalist journey and have reaped so many benefits of it, I turned around to teach everything I could that has helped me on this journey.
Minimalism helps me live my life, but I don’t want it to define my life.
Minimalism is a tool. It helps me do all the things in life that I want to do- to fill my life with all the important things.
Minimalism is in place so that we have more freedom in our life. Not so we can be minimalists.
Minimalism helps me embrace the things I want to embrace. It gives me breathing room in my home. It helps me manage my home so I’m not spending every waking moment trying to maintain a clean space.
But being a tool- that’s all I want to be acknowledged as.
If there was a good all-purpose cleaner, let’s call it “Magic Spray,” and you ended up finding out that this great spray bottle helped you in every aspect of life…
Maybe you’d go around your house each day spraying Magic Spray on everything and your home would stay tidy.
Would you want people to label you with it?
‘There’s Rachel, she’s one of those “Magic Sprayers.”‘
Of course not, that sounds silly!
We would say “Seriously, is that all they think of me? What I use to keep my house nice?”
That cleaner is a TOOL. It helps me live the life I want to live, it’s my not purpose in life to use the cleaner.
And it’s not my purpose in life to be a minimalist.
Minimalism for me isn’t about the stuff
Yes, the most common idea of minimalism is having less stuff. And that does get most of the attention. I write decluttering articles, have a decluttering challenge, even teach people to declutter effectively.
And although that’s the most commonly talked about part of the minimalist journey- minimalism is about so much more than that.
For me, minimalism is about living more intentionally.
I had to get rid of a lot of stuff to accomplish this- my stuff was getting in the way.
But now that I’ve gotten rid of so much, I can focus on living with intention. To slow down, take time out to read, to be present with my children, to build relationships with those I love.
Basically, I had to get rid of stuff so I wasn’t always spending time on my stuff.
No longer needing to take care of physical items means I have more time for all kinds of other things.
I don’t look “like a minimalist”
If you walk into our home, you may notice we have a little less than average, but that’s all.
And honestly, I don’t want people to walk into the house and automatically think “Oh they’re minimalists!”
When people walk in, I want our home to be comfortable, to feel like a peaceful, joyful space that invites them to come in and enjoy visiting.
We got rid of the excess- so the house was EASY to maintain. We don’t want to get rid of things just so our house looks more minimalistic.
We also have 6 kids. Half are grown now and out on their own, but minimalism is keeping only the essentials, so even with 5 people in the house, we still have stuff. We have a small number of items for the number of people in our home- but we still have items.
We have winter gear- because we live in Montana.
We have baking dishes because we bake.
We have craft supplies because we craft.
I’m not going to get rid of the things we need, use, and enjoy just for the sake of “being a minimalist.”
Minimalism is individualistic, and not restrictive
Minimalism is probably not my favorite term, but I will continue to use it because it’s the most commonly recognized term for describing how I choose to live.
But minimalism is not black and white, there are no specific rules. Instead, we each decide for ourselves what minimalism is going to look like in our life and our home.
It’s not all about restricting the items that we own- it’s shifting the focus off of stuff and onto the things that we want to fill our life with- the important, lasting things.
And because we’re all different, have different things we’re passionate about- it’s going to look completely different for each person.
Minimalism is an approach to life
Minimalism is letting go of all the unnecessary things so we can focus on the necessary. The things we had before- they’re not bad. They might even be good things- but when we give up the excess, (even good excess) it frees us up mentally, emotionally, physically, and financially.
Does it really free us up so much?
Mentally: We keep a mental inventory of our things, what needs to be cleaned, moved, repaired, returned, etc. We are either mentally making lists of all the things that need to be addressed, or we’re spending up mental energy trying to avoid all that work.
Emotionally: We hold onto things because we don’t want to deal with the heavy emotions that will come up if we decide to let things go. When we do the hard work of grieving the loss of a season of life, we process our emotions and let go- all the heaviness leaves the house with those heavy items.
Physically: I don’t know about you, but I never used to be able to simply “clean the house.” If I wanted to wipe off the counters, I had to move piles of clutter. If I wanted to vacuum- well, it was easier just to vacuum the visible parts of the carpet. It was a lot of work cleaning around all that stuff. These days- well, you can see how easy it is to clean up in this video.
Financially: First, I don’t spend as much money trying to make myself feel better. No need to splurge on my weekly trip to Target, I’m much more intentional about the things I bring into my home. Second, I’m not always updating. I have pared down to what works for our family. The only updates I have to do is new clothes as the kids grow. I’m sure there will be times when I want to redo a bedroom, but I’ve gotten my home to a point where it’s EASY to take care of, which means, I’m much more content with it. Third, I don’t stress about having insurance on all our “nice stuff.” We only have what we need- if there is a fire or burglary, it’s not going to be hard to replace, because there aren’t that many things!