By Vidhya Iyer
Minimalism seems to be the latest buzzword doing the rounds these days. Minimalism is bound to mean different things to different people. To some, it may mean owning fewer things, while to others it may mean adopting a nearly ascetic lifestyle. The most important thing to remember is that the concept of minimalism works best when it is tailor-made to suit the needs of the practitioner. It cannot work on the principle of “one size fits all.”
Minimalism is a way of life. It is however important to understand the meaning of the term in its entirety and implement it the right way. One of the most basic questions you need to ask yourself before you embark upon this journey is: “Why do you choose to be a minimalist?” Not having a clear answer to this question makes it extremely difficult to stay on course. It will hinder the process that is otherwise supposed to be liberating. It may end up making you feel trapped, confused, and in many cases, quit before you even set out.
Personally, minimalism to me means cutting out the unwanted clutter from my mind and around my space. It is about making an informed, conscious choice to own fewer things. It’s about avoiding distractions, staying focused, and conserving valuable resources such as energy, time, and money. What it isn’t though is buying or living with low quality products and services or giving up every item of comfort that I own.
As simple and appealing as this clutter-free environment sounds, removing clutter is challenging. We’ve spent so much of our lives surrounded by clutter that everything we own feels like a necessity, a reflection of our personality, or purely sentimental.
I’ve tried to document my journey towards minimalism, and the techniques listed below have helped me stay focused along the way.
Ask the question
A good place to start would be asking yourself the question, “Will my day-to-day life or activities get hampered without these items or having fewer of these items?” If your answer to the above question is “NO,” then congratulations! You have not only taken the first step toward living with less, but also freed up funds to purchase higher-quality products. You have also inadvertently saved yourself a few precious minutes every day by not having to make time-consuming choices.
Ask yourself if you really need multiple units of a product to suit every little need or occasion. Or is it better to invest in fewer but more comfortable, high-quality, classic styles that serve multiple purposes elegantly and efficiently?
You will always be spoilt for choice with so many businesses and shopping platforms constantly providing you with the finest products, brands, prices, and offers. And honestly, who doesn’t like to choose from a sea of options? However, the whole process can very quickly get overwhelming and exhausting. The amount of time spent pondering over alternatives does not always equate to a good purchase. In fact, the confusion and anxiety it causes could lead you to leave the store or website purchasing far more than you need, or even buying nothing at all! It is also not uncommon to find yourself second-guessing your choice even after you have made the purchase.
Try tackling this problem by doing your research but be conscious of not over-researching. Set a budget as well as a deadline and stay true to those. Simply move on to the next productive task once you’ve completed your purchase.
Technology plays a dominant role in our lives, and technological progress has made our lives a lot simpler and easier. However, we must accept and admit that this very same technology has sometimes made us mindless in our actions. A few minutes of free time and we immediately reach for our gadgets to either shop from the comfort of our homes, binge watch a favourite show, or idly browse or post on social media apps.
While it is not impossible to overcome this habit, it does require willpower. Reduce the number of purchase and entertainment gateways you have by making your gadgets unappealing. Remove shopping apps from your phone and use website blockers to prevent you from reaching out to social media entertainment. Walk away from your desk during breaks. Restrict your access to electronic devices for that brief period. Once this becomes a habit, you will realize how much more there is to life!
One in, one out!
Don’t buy a replacement product until you have given away the original. This rule is an excellent way to keep track of your purchases and be more conscious of them. To get started, assign a home to all your belongings. This home however cannot be your storage room. It has to be a visible spot in your home or wardrobe. And if your new purchase doesn’t seem to find a place in the designated spot, it is probably because you need to give something away to make room, or maybe you don’t need the product at all in the first place.
Following this rule has allowed me to only buy what I truly need. It has also improved my frequency of donating thoughtfully.
Try a DIY
One thing that most of us seem to have forgotten is the joy of creating things ourselves. With mass-produced products flooding the markets, we have lost our creativity, ability, and patience to create things with our own hands.
During the pandemic, I took up painting, macramé, clay modelling, and gardening as new hobbies. And today, I can boast of a house that has wall hangings and decor pieces handcrafted by me. Something as simple and inexpensive as plants can significantly add to the vibrancy of a space. Make your home an expression of your personality.
Try making your own disinfectants, cleaners, and cosmetics at home. Substitute the chemical-laden products with natural, safer options. You are bound to feel enormous pride and satisfaction while using these.
Commit to sustainability
Picking up one tube of cream for your hands and another for your feet, or a range of cookware for the many foods you prepare has become a norm. It’s time to break this habit and get back to the basics. Consider employing multi-functional products and repurposing product containers. Step away from disposable products. Use rechargeable batteries, reduce plastic usage and reduce food wastage. Create a sustainable future. Imagine the amount of trash you could prevent reaching the landfills on a daily basis.
We cannot afford to think of our planet only on World Environment Day alone. It’s high time we consume less and contribute more to the environment, which we seem to be actively ruining.
In essence, minimalism is something that helps you realize how little you need in life to be effective and happy. The rest indeed is clutter! Companies will always run effective campaigns telling you that you need it all to live a great life. What Minimalism is capable of is instilling in you the ability to rise above the din and saying “No” to consumerism.
Vidhya Iyer is a Marketing and Communications Professional with over twenty years of experience with corporates such as Hewlett Packard, Tyco Electronics and Messe Frankfurt. Her work spans across a wide range of marketing areas such as Branding, Product Strategy and Corporate Communications. She holds an MBA in Marketing from Mumbai University and is also a certified NLP practitioner. She is a Mindset Coach who works with individuals aspiring to either make a career transition or start an entrepreneurial journey.
Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, born in New York City and currently based in India. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.
Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine, “Reflections on Rohith Vemula’s Suicide”, edited by Drishadwati Bargi, Doctoral Candidate, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, USA.