In this podcast (#515) and blog, I talk to Emmy-nominated Netflix stars, podcasters, and New York Times–bestselling authors Joshua Fields Millburn and T.K. Coleman about minimalism and mental health, how clutter can be contagious, how we can all live more meaningful lives with less, and so much more!
First, it is important to define what minimalism is. At its core, it is “the thing that gets us past the things, that makes room for life’s most important things.” As Joshua and TK note, minimalism isn’t just about living with less. It is what you make it. “If you desire to live with fewer material possessions, or jettison your car and television, or travel all over the world, then minimalism can lend a hand. But that’s not the point…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.”
But, as they point out, this freedom doesn’t mean that we should feel guilty about having stuff, or that it is bad to have possessions, period. Rather, it is about the hold that these possessions have over us, and about what they say about our internal life. “Today’s problem seems to be the meaning we assign to stuff: we assign too much meaning to things, often forsaking our health, our relationships, our passions, our personal growth, and our desire to contribute beyond ourselves.” Minimalism is “to let go of the habits, rituals, commitments, people, and things that no longer serve you.”
At the heart of minimalism is the understanding that our material possessions are a physical manifestation of what is going on inside of us. In many cases, when we have a lot of excess clutter in our life, it often means we are also dealing with a lot of mental, emotional, psychological, relationship or spiritual clutter as well.
In life, we are often encouraged to focus on getting more, more, more, whether we are talking about possessions, accomplishments or other things. But minimalism turns this desire on its head, focusing rather on the question, “What happens if I have less?”. It is the opposite of consumerism, which focuses on having more to be happy. Minimalism is about letting go of that which is in the way of us living our best lives.
Underlying minimalism is the idea that, no matter what it is, there is an unhealthy version of everything. Minimalism is about establishing a relationship to things, and the pursuit of things, with intentionality. It is about focusing our lifestyle and creating space for the kind of “more” that leads to true flourishing.
This starts with the question, “how may your life be better with less?”. This gets to the “why” behind why we want to simplify our lives, which, in turn, helps us evaluate how much clutter, both physical and otherwise, we have, and how this clutter is impacting our wellbeing.
Once we start working on this clutter and working on simplifying our lives, we can learn how to manage our internal and external lives in a way that boosts our health and helps us live a meaningful life, where possessions are not integral to our happiness or success. The number one benefit of minimalism isn’t a cleaner house or fewer cars; rather, it is about the person you get to become in the process of making tough decisions on what you are going to let go of in your life—it is about the way you and your life transforms for the better.
For more on minimalism and mental health, listen to my podcast with Joshua and TK (episode #515) and check out their amazing work. If you enjoy listening to my podcast, please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing. And keep sharing episodes with friends and family and on social media. (Don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).
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1:30 What our material possessions say about us
2:05 What minimalism is
3:00 The importance of intentionality
16:00 The benefits of simplifying your life
22:00 How minimalism can change who we are for the better
32:30 How minimalism can help us mentally let go of the past
37:15 Do we need more minimalism?
50:00 What happens when we just focus on the momentary pleasure of now
55:00 How clutter can affect our wellbeing & what we can do about it
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