I know when my minimalist journey began. It was a time when I started to shift my thinking from ‘achieving success’ to ‘simplifying life’.
I have always been a driven person and we had set and achieved life goals before around health, education and finances but this was the first time that these goals were centered around what we would later realise was a minimalist approach.
Initially, our de-cluttering journey began as a means to remove excess belongings and organise our lifestyle so that we could move cities at the drop of a hat when I found a better job. I can remember a strong feeling of wanting things to be ‘simpler’ and ‘easier’. We decided that even if our de-cluttering didn’t result in a move away from my current job, we would be better off and happier by going through the process anyway. We even considered downsizing our house in the town we were living.
Like a lot of people, we had boxes that we had moved every time we had moved house, including internationally, that we were just storing. When I went through one of those boxes I found myself throwing out old Christmas cards from when I was 16. We had textbooks and notes from university. I even had some folders I had kept from high school.
It was early days as far as our de-cluttering efforts went. At the beginning, our thoughts went no further than ‘move as little as possible to the next house’.
Looking back I know now that this was when my values and beliefs started to change. Well known minimalism gurus, The Minimalists, talk about how clearly establishing your values and beliefs is the first step on the minimalist journey and I believe this is true. Once I knew that I wanted to live with less, I was put on an inevitable path to the lifestyle I aspire to live today.
What is ironic is that in my work as a lean practitioner and coach, I work daily with the concept of ‘sorting out what is not needed’ from the workplace and business processes. Up until this point I had not made the link between work lean and life lean.
In fact, it’s only been recently that I’ve been really thinking about how the concept of how both lean thinking and minimalism have their grounding in understanding value. In lean business thinking, we focus on delivering value to the customer. I regularly coach teams where the message being delivered is that a simpler, clutter free workplace, will deliver a much better, more efficient and more pleasant working environment as well as delivering more value for the customer.
If we put minimalist ideals into lean thinking terms we might say that we focus on delivering value to our personal customer which may be ourselves or our relationships. In order to do this, we have to reduce the time we spend on non value adding activities.
For me, this is definitely where the simplification process of minimalism is a winner. I don’t like to dust, I really don’t like to see dust in my house and this dislike of dust has shifted my focus to reducing both the number of surfaces in my house and, the number of things on those surfaces. This way I get to see less dust and spend a lot less time actually dusting, or worse, feeling bad that I haven’t dusted yet. By simplifying the surfaces in my home, I have also simplified my life. Not by a lot but I have found that ongoing, incremental changes like this have led to a much simpler lifestyle over the months and years.
When my values and beliefs started to change to a focus on delivering a simpler life for myself and my family instead of ‘success’ goals such as acquiring money and possessions I started on a journey that has led to peace of mind and a sense of purpose. I am sure that if I had not made this small change in mindset three years go I would not now be enjoying a much freer lifestyle that living with less has made possible.