I frequently feel overwhelmed. The majority of my day is spent staring at a computer screen, either for work, school, blogging, or leisure (i.e. watching Netflix while doing one of the previously mentioned activities). There is very little time to just sit and think. If I find myself doing nothing, it’s incredibly uncomfortable and boring to sit with my own thoughts. Which is sad, but true. And I know I’m not alone in this.
Our minds and lives are cluttered. That’s why I loved The Minimalists Podcast, hosted by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. In the past, my definition of minimalism was simply owning as few possessions as possible. Which, I thought was a little strange. After listening to this podcast and learning the “why” behind a minimalist’s thought processes, I realized that minimalism is a lifestyle. It can be applied to many areas of your life, and everyone can have their own definition of minimalism.
For Josh and Ryan, minimalism is living a meaningful life with less. Now, “less” is going to look different for everyone. After applying minimalist concepts, one person might own 30,000 items, while someone who has never applied the concepts only owns 1,000 items. The number doesn’t matter. At all. It’s all about how the things you do and the things you own add value to your life.
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That being said, here are the themes I noticed after listening to 15 episodes of The Minimalists Podcast:
Know What’s Important
One main reason for integrating minimalism into your life is to figure out the things that are really important to you. By downsizing the distractions and junk that are constantly in our way, it makes it easier to focus on things that truly matter. For example, by owning fewer items your home will be less cluttered and you’ll spend less time cleaning. With that extra time, you’ll be able to spend more time other things. This could include spending time with family and friends or cultivating your passion.
In the process of figuring out what’s most important, you have to choose where your time and energy is best spent. This requires the understand that you will always be missing out on something. If you choose one thing, such as cultivating your passion, you will be missing out on something else. And that’s okay! This prevents over-scheduling and unnecessary stress (which I am personally prone to!). The Minimalists encourage us to make decisions that will bring us the most joy while growing and living simply. Don’t be afraid to experiment with taking things in and out of your life. Nothing needs to be permanent, you can change your mind if things aren’t working for you.
Before listening to this podcast, I didn’t realize how deeply technology is ingrained in my daily life. I subconsciously reach for my cell phone at work when I’m bored and log on to my computer right when I get home from work. I read scriptures online before I go to bed. And my phone alarm is the first thing I hear in the mornings. If someone reached for a cigarette as often as I reach for the various technologies in my life, they would be called an addict.
Now, technology is not inherently bad! Technology can be used for some really awesome things, like connecting with others, communicating information from around the world, meeting new people, increasing sales for business, etc. The problem comes when we mindlessly scroll through apps that do not add true value to our lives.
Before writing this post, I went through my phone. I got rid of any app that wasn’t adding value to my life. This included an old email address that collected junk mail, three mind-numbing game apps (that were really fun), and two social media apps. To be honest, this was more difficult than I’d like to admit. However, this weekend has been much more productive! I encourage you to think about how you spend your time on the computer and your phone. Are the apps or websites you’re visiting adding value to your life, or are they simply distractions from the important things in your life?
Drudge Through It
Josh and Ryan constantly use the saying, “drudging through the drudgery.” I feel like this concept has come up in almost every podcast I’ve listened to. Successful people do not give up easily. When things get hard, they push through. So how does this fit into minimalism? Minimalism is about changing your mindset and lifestyle to revolve around the things that matter most to you. So, if your goal is to write a successful book, you will need to drudge through the times when writing is difficult.
One thing The Minimalists brought up is the idea of cultivating only one passion at a time. This idea was mentioned in Emma Gannon’s podcast, Ctrl Alt Delete, as well. The general idea is that you should stick to one idea. This allows you to buckle down and really focus on it. When a new idea comes long, it might be easy to chase it down because it would be “easier” than what you’re doing right now. The Minimalists and Emma Gannon would suggest that you stick to what you’re doing and “drudge through the drudgery!”
However, what about the people who have a bunch of great ideas and want to pursue all of them? I received a comment from Maryanne (thank you so much for taking the time to comment on my previous post, Maryanne!), who has a different point of view from the one I mentioned. She said, “Doing several things is called “branding” and it has been great for my career as a writer and public speaker. One of my mentors advised me ‘Keep shooting those arrows.’ She was right.”
I think that both points are valid and correct. Depending on the type of person, focusing on one project or pursuing multiple at a time could be the right decision. If you are a person that gets distracted easily (I fall into this category), then taking things one project at a time may be more productive. If you’re like Maryanne, pursuing more than one avenue at once can keep you motivated.