Becoming a Minimalist and Living A Minimalist Life
Last night, I did something that I do not usually do and refrain from doing too regularly. I sat and watched the Television. For an hour and a half, with no distractions. No mobile phone by my side, no evening snack at arm’s length. Fully engaged. Present.
Whilst there is nothing inherently wrong with watching Television, from my experience I have come to believe that there are a lot more effective ways of spending time. And it is not that by watching Television time is inherently wasted; for it can be a great way to learn, a great tool to unwind and a way to take one’s mind away from unhelpful thoughts. In this sense it has the ability to de-stress. This is all programme dependent; watching documentaries will provide as such, Keeping up with the Kardashian’s will not.
In watching Television, I feel that the negatives outweigh the positives. There are far better ways to learn. Ways in which we do not fall victim to the perils of modern day entertainment; be it excessive blue light exposure that can affect our sleeping through alterations in our circadian rhythm or through the distractions of advertising, product placements and marketing to name all but a few. These problems are just not experienced through reading. There’s the satisfaction of the experience: smelling the paper, interpreting with one’s own mind and imagination. And if reading doesn’t do it, there are also other ways to unwind; take writing, journaling, blogging, or meditating. It is no coincidence that these activities are more primitive and have been enjoyed for thousands of years. These all help to take the mind away from the unhelpful thinking patterns that have not progressed mankind or that plummet man (and women) into unhealthy behaviors. Granted, technological advancements have meant new forms of entertainment can now be ‘enjoyed’, but reading, writing, meditating they’ve stood the test of time for a reason. They are in essence more minimalist in nature and in application.
Turning back toward my one-off Television binge, with the use of my mother’s Netflix account, I consumed a documentary from start to finish called: “Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things”. This was no random occurrence or impulse watch; it was scheduled earlier within the day. The things I learnt are priceless.
It all began at sunrise…
As part of my daily morning ritual, upon my morning walk, I like to listen to a host of Podcasts. They are a fantastic tool to mentally prime for the day, and provide new insights, perspectives and understandings on a range of topics. In yesterday’s commute, I tuned in to the latest episode from one of the best podcasts in the fitness, health, personal development and growth industry: The Jay Ferruggia Show. He is a key proponent of Minimalism himself, as one of his posts suggests: Eliminate the Useless Crap. Now I have a lot of good things to say for Jason and what his guests have taught me but unfortunately for him his promotion ends here. It was with the message of his latest guests in which my head was turned.
What Is A Minimalist?
I was to learn of two “Minimalists” that go by the name of Joshua Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. Now if you haven’t heard of them yet, I would expect that you will soon. Their increasing influence and the testimonials of the many people who have already adopted their practices is telling. As any podcast listener is aware, it is imperative from the outset that you ‘like’ the voices and the personalities of the host, and they came across as two positive and inspirational individuals, keen to spread the message of their minimal lifestyle transforming and mind-shifting epiphanies. Without retelling their story in its entirety, starting several years ago, they gave up the vast majority of the things that they saw as providing little value to their lives. Possessions, objects, even thoughts that they had accumulated along the way; unnecessary, irrelevant or burdening. It’s an interesting thought and one in which the majority of us are yet to contemplate. How much in our lives we have accumulated; be it on a day to day, month to month or year to year basis. And this is not exclusive to the physical realm but to the intellectual -knowledge, thought processes, thinking patters and opinions have also been affected. Nor is it exclusive the public or private domain; personally we accumulate through our possessions; professionally we accumulate through fully blocked schedules with meetings and conference calls. The demand for higher salaries in remuneration for our expanding time, effort and ‘expertise’ is a never ending merry go round of the consumer capitalist system in which we are subject to. So much so that our behaviors have changed, for better or worse, we are in a sense controlled.
This was not supposed to be a post about my political opinions or stance on our society and culture, but the point I am trying to make here is that there is so much ‘stuff’ going on that we are all caught up in. Sometimes we just need to take a step back. Here is where I see their relevance and value, and how they can help us Office workers live a better more fulfilling life. It is at this juncture we hone in on the Minimalists. Joshua Millburn worked in the corporate world for twelve years, most recently as the director of operations for 150 retail stores. Ryan, on the other hand, had what he calls “made it” in the corporate world: living the American Dream until he was laid off. He goes on to describe this event as “one of the best things that ever happened to me”. Whilst I do not think that we necessarily need to quit our jobs and leave the office for good, I believe that we can take note and learn a lot from their experiences. We need to understand first and foremost that we have the ability to do the very same if we so wish. We can leave our jobs, if they are not fulfilling or aligning with our values, purpose or goals. We can change trajectory and we can establish a lifestyle that suits more favorably with our psyche.
Would this be difficult; why of course.
Would changes to our lives, lifestyles and habits need to be made; absolutely.
Would this all even be possible – it can be.
This could be as simple as looking or applying for a new job,
This could be more complicated and consist of moving town, city or country
Or this could be as difficult as packing it all in and going in alone; saying goodbye to the corporate world for good.
Regardless of whether the above applies, are desired or are even options, ultimately we need to look at life through this very lens. That we are in control of our lives and our destiny; we have the power to change our circumstances. In my opinion, the overarching message of the Minimalists is that we need to rid ourselves of the chains that we and the system around us has placed upon our ankles. To remove ourselves from the claws of those in charge (politically and economically). This is most eloquently captured on their website, www.theminimalists.com:
“Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. Real freedom.”
Now call me a Stoic, but this is the bait that I bit when the Minimalists cast their rod on the Jay Ferruggia Podcast and later in their documentary. This is what for me was missing in my dejected years of 2013-2016. This is what kept me trapped whilst working in my 9-5 cubicle job.
Strangely, I believe I have inherently been practicing minimalism for the past year or so, even before I was aware it existed. Not to the extent of the Minimalists, but in a more basic sense; straying more tamely from social pressures and expectations. Leaving the office early when the boss was not looking, working from home on Fridays without permission. Letting the bum fluff on my face grow and keeping my hair unkempt when all others were telling me to shave it off. Some may think this is simply rebellion and to some extent it is. It is a small indicator of me taking ownership of my life and my actions.
I think this is why minimalism offers so much value to me; because I can understand my thinking processes and how I have got to where I am. I have been able to understand that I am not alone in my thinking, and that there are others out there with a similar mindset. And the best part is that essentially, the principles behind the movement can be applied to all people at all times in their life. This is why it is such an attractive proposition. Our luck can be down, things can be going ‘wrong’ in all areas of life but there is always a foundation to return to. The baseline is to just be. To just live. To just be in the present moment and to enjoy life for what it is. To enjoy our experiences, our relationships as they happen. To express ourselves creatively and to imagine our prospects and our futures more positively.
Becoming a minimalist has enabled Joshua Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus to obtain the following elements:
• Eliminate discontent
• Reclaim time
• Live in the moment
• Pursue passions
• Discover missions
• Experience real freedom
• Create more, consume less
• Focus on health
• Grow as individuals
• Contribute beyond Oneself
• Banish excess stuff
• Discover purpose
I can see why. I can see how the minimal lifestyle has begun changing lives and I can see how it will help to free the many yet aware of their message. Particularly those who feel they are a slave to their job and to their office.
Before I end this post, I have compiled a list. Each item is one in which I am personally practicing. This list is not complete; and will be reflected upon in the future. It will also be updated regularly so feel free to come back. It is also not ‘my list’ and therefore it would be great if you would contribute, or provide suggestions (please use the comment box at the bottom of this post).
Based on the essence of minimalism, these are the avenues to explore for any office worker stuck who feels dejected or isolated. For those who feel stuck in routine and monotony. These have all been of immense benefit to my own health, well-being and life.
Becoming a minimalist whilst working the 9-5
1) Live off ones own accord, ones own watch and calendar; take the initiative and make the plans
2) Do not be a slave to technology – do not check email too regularly, get off the mobile phone and social media – use it in the right way and for the right reasons
3) Feel free to decline meeting invites and calls that are not believed to be of benefit
4) Listen to inspirational leaders and thought provokers. Surround with the best people, and turn the back on negative or energy zappers
5) Never bow down to others and stand up for personal beliefs; voice opinion when and where possible
6) Live with an open mind, and always be willing to learn more or change stance. Never restrict to a ‘camp’ or way of life.
7) Be positive, smile more and be the one that adds energy to the room.
8) Focus on the present: face each task one at a time and never multi-task. Really engage with the activity – whether this is in the office, in conversations or whilst exercising, eating etc.
9) Take life less seriously; joke more, laugh more.
10) Add a personal touch and twist to everything that is done:
Have a report that is or has been created the same way week after week? Scrap it – find new software or a new way of doing it
11) Relieve the restrictions placed in life and never feel tied down to a regimen; never diet or try to fit society’s expectation or mould. Only partake in physical exercise that is enjoyed and stimulates the body and mind. Want to lose weight; provide the body with the right nutrition, practice the right habits and this will be a consequence
12) Learn a new skill, language or hobby often– both professionally and personally.
13) Harness the relationships all around and stop living so isolated: say hello to strangers frequently.
14) Prioritise the most important task before work; gym workouts, writing etc.
15) Try to work from home as much as possible and make the most of time.
16) Use weekends to explore the local area, walking – activities.
17) Take as many holidays and breaks as possible – Explore cities and travel to places that are of interest and not that are fashionable, on sale or what TripAdvisor says.
18) Change the routine regularly and often, whilst all the while sticking to healthy habits
19) Begin and keep writing, journaling, meditating, and listen to the right podcasts.
20) Do things for the right reasons; for personal development and growth, not financial gain and reward
21) Provide as much value to others as possible; do not be on the take.
22) De-clutter regularly and throw out unrequired material possessions, objects and items
It is here you can see that the minimal lifestyle has enabled me to view life with a fresh lens. Once stagnant, my outlook is has been refreshed with hope, with promise, with expectation.
Minimalism has enabled me to become a writer and to be proud of my work and all that it represents. No longer am I of the opinion that my work is not valuable, or that is just a way to fill time and a hole in my life and schedule. Even if it can help one person, someone, somewhere –then for me it has all been worthwhile. If only I had this knowledge when I stepped foot in the office three years ago, at the start of my corporate ‘career’. The best part is that I am only just beginning in this journey and there is far more to learn. This is where I write the disclaimer: I am in no way a pro, nor a guru, nor do I have anything that I am trying to gain from this post or from Ryan and Josh. This is the beauty of it all. I am simply trying to help others through the lessons learnt from my own experiences, battles and demons. I feel that a quick insight into future hopes for minimalism and where it can lead me will also be of benefit before I wrap up. I am still anonymous on this site and am still yet to announce my face to the world as the writer behind Shirt and Tie Fitness. Does this sound contradictory to some of the items in the above list? Slightly, but like I say I am no expert and am still a work in progress myself.
Does this all sound pretentious?
Maybe, but sometimes we need to just sit still for a minute, to look in the mirror and to understand what we truly want out of life. What we truly believe and what we truly stand for. Perhaps becoming a minimalist is what we have been searching for all along.
Sometimes, we just need to take out the trash…