Have you heard of minimalism? Is it a strange cult where people throw away everything and live in cold and soulless spaces?
Over the past few years we have been hearing more about minimalism and decluttering and after spending some time reading a few blogs realised that they were to a large extent talking about the same things that relate to our philosophy at Made to Last.
Specifically – The idea that we should focus on what is important to us in life and stop buying unnecessary things. Additionally, when we do make a purchase we should properly research it and buy something that will stand the test of time, that will get a lot of use and that will bring us joy.
Today we are interviewing Antonia Colins who runs the Balance through Simplicity blog about her experiences with minimalism. We hope you enjoy the read as there is some great advice for all of us here.
1) How do you describe or define minimalism to someone who has very little experience or prior knowledge of it?
My favourite definition of minimalism is from Joshua Becker of becomingminimalist.com. He defines Minimalism as
“the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it.”
I still haven’t found a more appropriate definition.
Minimalism isn’t about living with no furniture, bare white walls, a set number of possessions or never buying anything new.
Minimalism is about identifying what’s important to you in life and keeping out the random clutter that fills our homes, hearts, mind and time.
It’s a mindset shift and lifestyle choice that encourages you to simplify your life. It enables you to focus on your priorities and find ways to keep out or say no to things that aren’t important or add value to you.
2) I read on your blog about how minimalism helped you personally on a practical and mental level – can you tell us a little about this story?
A few years ago, I was juggling a full-time career and young kids. I managed it for a while but soon reached burn-out and was signed off sick from work.
Something definitely had to change. I needed my job to pay the bills and obviously I couldn’t get rid of the kids (!), so the only thing I could change was my mindset and my approach to life.
I was fed up of struggling through each day, feeling tired and pretty unfulfilled. I researched ways to make my life less overwhelming and came across the concept of minimalism as a way of simplifying my life and creating more time for myself and my family.
From decluttering my home and making it easier and quicker to look after, to decluttering my calendar and generally becoming much more deliberate and intentional about what I let into my life (and therefore what I said ‘no’ to), I created much more time, space and freedom to do the things I wanted to do, not just what I needed to do.
It doesn’t mean that life is always plain sailing. There are days when things don’t go right or I’m run off my feet. Minimalism isn’t a magic wand but it does help makes things so much easier!
3) Can you give us some examples of practical changes to your life that you have benefited from that you feel are probably applicable to most people?
There are some fantastic benefits of living a more minimalist lifestyle, some of which are instant and others which take time to really take effect. However, there are 3 main practical benefits which stand out for me – my home, my time and my finances.
The first benefit was my home was so much less of a burden on my time and energy. I reduced the amount of stuff in my home by decluttering the things that I didn’t really love, use, need or didn’t add value in some way. Having less stuff meant that it was easier to keep it clean and tidy. My evenings weren’t spent catching up on housework or clearing away the toys. Instead I created more free time for myself.
Decluttering my home led me to use the same approach with my diary and my time. I learnt to be careful what invitations and commitments I said yes to so I didn’t clutter my calendar with things that I didn’t really want to do, or didn’t add value to my life in some way. I stopped cramming things into my diary and instead carved out more free time for myself and my family.
I streamlined and simplified my finances. I ditched credit cards that I didn’t need, subscriptions that I no longer used and found ways to save a little each month and spend more wisely whenever I went shopping.
4) You now help other people adopt minimalism into their lives – can you tell us how you start this process with someone?
If you’re interested in the concept of minimalism and the less-is-more philosophy, the easiest and most practical starting point is to declutter your home. Decluttering is really popular right now but it’s so much more than a current trend.
Getting rid of the excess clutter encourages you to start thinking about your life and the stuff in it in a different way. What is really important to you? Does it deserve a space in your home or your life?
After all, everything that’s in your home comes at a cost – either in terms of what it cost for you to purchase it, or the cost of your time in looking after it.
Decluttering is easy for some, difficult for others. It depends on how much stuff you have, how attached you are emotionally to your belongings and in logistical terms, how much spare time, energy or motivation you have to give it a go. There are plenty of tips and resources available to help you start and to address any problems that arise.
Decluttering does get easier with practice as you shift your thoughts about what’s of value in your home or your life and what’s not. This is the basic principle of minimalism and why decluttering is such a great place to start and try it for yourself!
5) At Made to Last I feel that we have come to some similar conclusions to you about how to live life more simply but from different perspectives.
I never thought about our philosophy as minimalism but the idea of buying fewer things and only buying things that you love and using them for the long run matches what you said about how you you changed your buying habits when you took up minimalism.
Do you feel that you now spend less overall, even though you perhaps now buy better quality?
Minimalism isn’t about never buying anything new but it is about spending money more wisely. It’s about asking yourself whether you really need something before you buy it instead of buying it just for the sake of it.
This, of course, means that I’m more conscious about where and how I spend my money. I tend to think more carefully about whether the item is going to serve me well, add value or give me pleasure in some way. It’s definitely a case of quality over quantity wherever possible to help make sure the return on investment is better.
I do more research before I set out to make a purchase and I’m hardly ever swayed into buying an item just because it was in the sale. I choose more carefully and think more about where and how the item was made, how it compares with similar items and whether it represents good value for money.
If I have spare money left over then I’ll either save it or spend it on experiences and doing things, rather than on physical clutter that I bought but didn’t really need.
6) If someone was interested to learn more about minimalism how would you recommend they go about it?
There are plenty of minimalism resources on the internet as it’s becoming an increasingly popular lifestyle choice. My website is about minimalism but I also encourage people to live a simpler, more intentional lifestyle.
It’s about being more mindful of what’s important to you in life and finding ways to promote and build on this even though life throws daily challenges at us. Choose carefully what you say yes to in your diary, allow into your home, purchase at the shops and so on.
Minimalism as a simpler lifestyle comes with some wonderful benefits. It’s just a question of trying it for yourself and finding a way to incorporate it into your life in a way that suits you and your situation.
Minimalism isn’t about following a rigid set of rules, it’s just about thinking more intentionally about every aspect of your life.
For more information and to get started, visit my website at balancethroughsimplicity.com. I have a blog dedicated to minimalism and how to simplify your life and there are plenty of free resources available too including a popular downloadable Declutter Starter Kit.