minimalism 101

I’m very happy to announce that this week, I was featured in the UK The Times newspaper magazine.

It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my short lifetime, and it’s incredibly humbling to realize that there are people who will listen to someone like me has to say.

So, with honor, I would like to say, welcome The Times readers!

This post is for you, but also for my current readers as well as my friends and family who I have kept this blog a secret from for so long. It’s a complete definition of what in the world ‘minimalism’ is, I predict that only a small percentage of people will actually read this post from beginning to end, but I can guarantee that you will be a different person by the end of it if you do.

If you’ve never heard of minimalism before, I should warn you that I’m going to make some pretty bold statements, but if there is anything this blog has shown me, is that there are also many people apart from myself who absolutely believe them to be true.

what is minimalism all about?

The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.”
-
Socrates

Minimalism is all about having enough. It’s about having only what you need, no more, and especially no less.

‘What you need’ can refer especially to your possessions, but can also include your commitments, relationships, work and lifestyle.

All our lives we’re told that we want to have more money so that we can achieve ‘our dreams’ of owning a big house with a pool in the back, a fancy sports car and expensive shoes so we can gain the label of ‘success’. We’re told to know the latest gossip, watch the latest shows, know what everyone is doing on facebook, and jump from relationship to relationship otherwise we’re labelled ‘loners’. We’re told that we should always be ‘busy’, because if we’re not busy we’re being lazy. We’re told all of these criteria and more about how we ‘should’ live our lives and what we should have so that we can be ‘happy’.

But that’s not the whole story. In real life, there are people that have and do all of these things, and yet they’re no happier than the people who don’t. And there are people who have none of these things and are very happy with their lives. Clearly this means that it can’t be the above things that make people happy.

But despite this, there are people who wake up in the morning only to look forward to an hour of sitting in their car in bad traffic, then sitting at their desk doing a job that makes them bored or tired, then going home exhausted and sitting in front of the TV, then spending their weekends spending the money they earned to buy things that ‘make them happy’ when all they’re really doing is perpetuating the cycle.

If you ask these people what they look forward to the most the answer is usually something like their next vacation abroad, or they’re saving up to buy something big and special, or they’re waiting for their retirement… all of which are things that only occur occasionally, whilst the rest of the 90% of their lives are spent… just waiting.

a new way of thinking

You have succeeded in life when all you really want is only what you really need.
-Vernon Howard

What’s the secret to happiness? This topic has been researched extensively, but I know many people have already found the answer.

It’s minimalism.

Do you think I’m making a pretty bold statement here? It’s up to you, but here are my reasons.

Essentially, minimalism is about breaking out of the mould of always wanting more. It’s about finding happiness in what we have already, instead of chasing something that is always out of reach. Once one gains something they’ve wanted for a long time, they only find temporary happiness.

Think about all of the times you’ve gotten what you wanted, do you still want them now? Of course not, because you got it. But my guess is that you want something else right now. So you have moved on from that thing you orignially wanted so badly. Don’t worry, everyone does it, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but minimalism helps you break out of exactly this vicious cycle.

Why do people want things, like the latest gadget, car or in-season clothes? Most of the time it’s to boost their ego, or to show off how much money they have, or to fit in or to confirm that they are doing well in life. These people aren’t bad or selfish, in fact, I used to be exactly like that because we hadn’t been taught any other way. But now I have, and I’ve stopped worrying about what others think of me and started making some real friends who love me for who I am, not what I have.

realism or idealism?

Well that’s all well and good, but I have to pay the rent and my credit card bills“. I get this remark a lot, because people are focussing on the the wrong issue. They think minimalism is about being practically homeless – with few possessions, looking ugly and hoarding all of their money, but that’s not it at all. I have always said that minimalism is different for everyone, and it cannot be measured in set rules like that. Sometimes, it’s impractical for people to give up their jobs, especially if there are people who rely on them. If you have kids and you’re wondering what this has all got to do with you, I would suggest checking out Becoming Minimalist by Joshua Becker (somebody who I’ve looked up to for a long time and had supported my blog in it’s early stages), who manages very well with being a minimalist and a parent.

But there is always something you can do. If you downsize from a huge house, you can probably afford to live in a better location. If you just get rid of the clothes you know you’ll never wear, then maybe it won’t be so hard to open and close your wardrobe. If you spend less time watching trashy TV shows you’ll forget about in a week, or films you’ve seen before, then you can spend more time with friends and family or developing a skill or doing a hobby. If you spend more time cycling than driving, you can spend less time worrying about traffic, your health and the environment.

You don’t have to give up everything, it’s about reducing to what you really need. You can still dress fashionably without wasting money on brands, watch TV that is actually worth watching and drive a car when you need to. Just do what feels right for you. If you know me, or any other minimalists, you’ll just see a regular person. We’re not that different on the outside, just the inside.

Some people think that minimalism is against human nature. They think that if humans stop wanting more, things will stop progressing. If people have no ambition and drive, then ideas and innovations cease. People will stop working hard and just stick to their lowly jobs. This is not true. You can be happy with everything you have, and still improve yourself and society. The difference is this: as long as you are happy right now and not basing your happiness on obtaining the next thing or stage, then you’re practising minimalism, because you’re already happy. From then on, you’re working because you love what you do, not so that you can obtain happiness – because that kind of thinking never works, you will always be hanging on for ‘the next thing/stage’ , and when you get there, there will be another thing and then another thing… We should have more faith in human nature than thinking it is to be greedy.

Every human being is born to be happy. That is our life purpose. From those born poor or rich. Even the bad villains we see in movies are just trying to find happiness in their own way.

We deserve more than to be constantly waiting for happiness.

happiness

Live simply so that others may simply live.
-
HH Dalai Lama

A post that has been consistently popular since I published it is ‘Why minimalism brings happiness‘. People are looking for an answer.

But what is happiness exactly? How do we know if we are ‘happy’?

What happiness means is different for everyone, and in my opinion there isn’t one complete definition, but for me, happiness means that

I am feeling how I want to feel, I am doing everything I want to do, and I am at peace.

How do I want to feel? I want to feel good about contributing as little as I can to the waste and pollution of the Earth. I want to feel good that I have enough time and money to give away to people who need it more than me. And finally, I want to feel that I’ve made a positive impact, no matter how small, on the people around me and thus a difference in the world. No matter what, I’m determined to leave this world in a better state than how I entered it, that is what happiness means to me.

why I became minimalist

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.
-
Confucius

So let’s keep it simple. Apart from being happy, I became a minimalist for three reasons. For my:

1. Health. Minimalism keeps me healthy. Just check out my previous posts on a minimalist diet, my minimalist kitchen, minimalist exercise, cycling, runningand so on.

2. Study. I am a student, who is in love with her major. Through minimalism, I’ve been able to be where I want to be. If you want to find where I am, check out ‘the big reveal – my year abroad‘.

3. Dreams. Finally, I became minimalist so that I can eliminate distractions from my life. Without things that don’t matter cluttering up my life, I can focus my time, efforts and money on my dream of being able to travel the world because I am a firm believer of experiences over possessions.

I am happier now than I have ever been. And I predict in the future that I will be even happier than I am now. Hopefully, my happiness will never stop because I find myself wanting something I can’t have, or because I put my life on hold to get something I want. Of course there will be ups and downs, but what can I say, I’m an optimist.

An optimist is a person who travels on nothing from nowhere to happiness.
-
Mark Twain

make a difference

When I started this blog, I did it anonymously because I thought it was so that I could chat about minimalism with people who felt the same. But in the Times article, my identity has been revealed to everyone, including my family and friends who had very little idea about what I was up to. Why did I agree to reveal myself in the article? Believe me, it wasn’t for fame or recognition or anything like that, I don’t care about that stuff.

This blog is my way of expressing the message of minimalism. It isn’t a cult, or a religion to follow, and I never preach or push about it in real life. Minimal Student blog is my way of spreading the word and to making the small change in the world that I have always wanted. I just want others to be happy, and if this is the way they’ll find it, that makes me even happier.

where to go from here

I’ve linked to a few of my past posts above but they are by no means all of them. If you want to read more, check out my most popular posts or read a little about me. You can also check out a few series I’m currently working on Simple Philosophies, 5 Life Lessons and Minimalist Meditations.

I have already mentioned some of these blogs above, but just in case you didn’t check them out, I want to thank the following people who have inspired me:

Finally, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has supported me so far. Thank you for reading and thank you for your helpful comments and encouraging emails. If you find any of the posts helpful to you in some way, please help me keep Minimal Student going by making even just a tiny teeny donation.

If you can’t see the donate button, please click here!

Have you changed even just a little since the beginning of this post? I look forward to hearing from you.

  • Mike

    I brought the times today and read about you. Well done.
    I am well past my student days.
    I have been collecting stuff for the past 50 years.
    I can see the value in discarding stuff.
    I will give it a go.
    Thanks

  • http://twitter.com/mattfrog Matt Harwood

    Hi Jessica!

    New reader over from The Times here. Love the blog, and minimalism in general (avid reader of zenhabits, unclutterer etc.) and lovely to have a new outlet to read.

    Speak soon
    Matt

  • http://www.meibloempje.blogspot.com meibloempje

    I follow you for quite a while now and I Like all of your posts. But this one is a perfect summary to explain everything I like about minimalism. Thanks. I refer to your blog a lot in my own blog. :) You are as much my ‘hero’ as Leo Babuta is.

    I would like to read the NY times Article.

  • Asli

    Love love love this! That is what I really need…Will I be able to make it? Don’t know..But as a PhD student who is addicted to shopping and waiting for the “next big thing” to happen all the time and sick of all of it, I will be big fan of this blog! (Yup, discovered your blog on the Times!)

    Thanks for sharing all of these!
    Asli xxx

  • http://seanmccolgan.com Digital Sean

    Hey Jessica – congratulations on the Times feature :)

    Really nice to see the minimalist movement featured in the mainstream media.

    +1 subscriber.

  • Leo B-Taylor

    Hi There Jessica,

    Brilliant Blog!!! I also found about it whilst reading a copy of The Times magazine, which I found on the train. So glad I picked it up. So much of what you write about reflects on my own student lifestyle, I will definitely be checking back on the site every now and then for tips to further my own minimalist identity.

    Thanks Again!

    Leo BT [Swansea Uni - UK]

  • Tom

    I’m a litte bit in love with you. Something that’s inspiring, not because it’s a ‘thought’ that’s hard to grasp but one that makes perfect sense and is just logical. Will be sure to adopt this lifestyle and idealogy once I’ve figured out what I want to do in life.

    Bravo!
    Tom

  • Stefano

    Hi Jessica,

    you are in the Italian newspaper as well…

    Well, I just read the article, not yet your blog… but I agree with you :D

    Here the link:

    http://www.repubblica.it/cronaca/2010/11/02/news/generazione_zero_vivere_liberi_dagli_oggetti-8653256/?ref=HREC2-7

    Cheers!

    • Veruska Ferrara

      Yup, that’s exactly how I discovered you and this entire new world I didn’t know existed! Def one of the nicest things out there in the blogosphere – how did you get the idea? How did you begin your venture? Best of luck – V

  • Nicola

    Hi Jessica. I happened to come across the Times article on my tea break at work. It just so happens I’m moving flat on Saturday and the article really made me sit back and think, “why am I taking all this stuff I haven’t touched in two years to the new place?”. Your lifestyle makes so much sense. I’m going to try and donate as much as I can to charity before the move. Things like books and DVDs, I’ve felt some time now they were merely “things” taking up my living space. If I want to read a book, I can buy/borrow it, read it and donate it, chances of me reading the same book twice are slim to none. I also have a lot of old textbooks from my Uni days, I think I will donate those to the Uni. Many thanks for your article.

  • Crabbymole

    Also the Italian newspaper “La Repubblica” wrote about this blog… so now you have a(nother) new reader =)

  • Jessica

    Thank you for your comments everyone! They really made my day. :)

    Jessica.

  • aberinkulas

    Many congratulations. Good work and keep up the good blog.

  • http://www.uncommonlybrilliant.blogspot.com Mike Crosby

    I just subscribed to your blog.

    The only thing I’m not minimalist about is subscribing to minimalist blogs. I love them. And especially your blog Jessica. Thank you.

    • Jessica

      Hey Mike,

      Thanks for your comment, I completely understand what you’re talking about! I find minimalist blogs so exciting to read because every time I find someone new I feel the movement is getting stronger and I definitely want to be part of that!

  • Emily

    I found it! This post is perfect; I agree with pretty much everything you’re saying here. I’m definitely going to start researching the minimalist lifestyle now.

  • http://rosa-goettin.sectorvii.de Dori

    Hello!
    I just want to say hi and that I really love your blog. I just browsed the internet and while reading things about becoming organised and increasing productivity I stumbled over your blog.
    You have such a nice way of writing and it really is relaxing for me to write some posts of you. I am looking forward to new posts and I wish you all the best!
    Greetings from Germany,
    Dori

    • http://rosa-goettin.sectorvii.de Dori

      Of course I mean “to read some posts of you” ;-)

  • Hettie

    Hey Jessica,

    This morning I was looking through the old papers and magazines my father doesn’t like to chuck. I picked up a Times magazine and thus found your article.

    At first I thought to myself ‘yes, I like miminalist music and poetry but how is one to enjoy something which isn’t ‘for’ variety?’

    As an art student I constantly find myself picking up objects, hoarding them, buying old things and new things, rolling in books, films, records. I money is frittered away relatively quickly on things I don’t need but strive to have as they are aesthetically pleasing. I like substance not money. Occasionally I find something I’m so enthralled with the chances of it ever leaving my clutches seems unlikely. Most of the time though it just gathers dust or ends up in the drawer. I’m not fussed about the latest tit or tat, having technology or any of that stuff but I do find myself thinking ‘well, a hand chain saw would be pretty handy’.

    I suppose it’s a bit difficult sorting out what is necessary from what isn’t. A lot of things I collect can be used in my art work and thus I am reluctant to rid myself of it.

    Still, I think there is practicality and security to be found in this minimalist life style. I may well be converted (as long as I don’t need to face white walls).

    I don’t know if I will be able to enjoy a bare nest (I enjoy too much making things asthetically pleasing for myself) but I’ll give it a go.

    • http://minimalstudent.com Jessica

      Hello Hettie, thank you for your comment! I understand your concerns about minimalism, but don’t worry, it’s not about white walls, I promise! Broken down, it’s literally about having only what you need, and as an artist if you find the things you collect pleasing, and you’re okay with keeping a few of them, then that’s fine! It’s not about sacrificing anything that would have made you happy, only if you would find yourself happier and feeling more creative if you get rid of clutter. Good luck on you minimalist journey!

  • asia’s99problems.blogspot.com

    I really enjoyed reading your blog, its so amazing, a huge inspiration to me. Im currently trying to get rid of almost all of my personal possessions, to start fresh, I guess, and really analyse what I bring into my life from now on. Ive only just started, and its a real struggle to let go of things, even those things that I never use.. Anyway, I really love your blog. Keep up the amazing work.

  • http://lookingatlyrics.wordpress.com Uta

    Hi Jessica, I stumbled upon the whole minimalist thing researching for my next blog post which will be about the Eddie Vedder song “Society” and the movie “Into the wild”- “less is more” being part of the song’s lyrics… Thank you for inspiring me – I’ll put you on my blogroll if you don’t mind…
    Good luck and regards from Germany, Uta

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  • Siddartha67

    heres some perspective: if we spent less time on aquiring and more time on persuing what makes us happy and enjoying the people and things that are in our lives now,why would we have this obsession with ‘improving’ everything?? we spend all this effort to improve and advance technologically and make things more convenient when we really dont need much of that at all!!! thats why the poorest people in the world are usually more happy than the wealthier people in rich countries…Bhutan and Gross National Happiness! sadly they are changing now as well cause they gotta have TV and Air Jordans and other consumer nonsense….but,alas, thats the way of the world!

  • Aditya

    Hi Jessica,

    I read your blogs often and one thing that I’ve found is that this topic somewhat relates to me. I don’t know if you’ll read this comment till the end but still . . .

    Though I belong to a rich/well-to-do family, but sometimes I feel sort of packed up in a briefcase, like so alone, so alienated from this world. Being the single child, I’ve always spend holidays alone, either visiting places in the country by air or completing HW. That is it. I do have cousin sisters who love me a lot but the thing is they can’t be with me every time. Why can’t happiness be permanent ? I visit hell lot of places, representing my school, like camps, trips, educational excursions etc. where I make friends but then again, we lose touch after a few months.

    When my friends tell me about their experiences with their brother/sister, I feel super-jealous and desperate. There are instances when I feel like killing myself in a go. Even after having so much money, there’s nothing that makes me feel complete or contented all the time. My girlfriend takes good care of me, she understand me better than anyone else, sometimes better than my mother too ! Does that mean she’s my life ? There are times that she too ditches me and . . and . . well, you’re wise enough to understand that feeling. :/

    A request: Can you start a thread about ‘Coming out of Loneliness’ or something of that sort and suggest some solutions to it, please?

    Greetings from India,
    Aditya

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