the emotional connection to minimalism

Shining a light on minimalism. (photo by Jo)

“Why are you a minimalist?” he asks. “Well, essentially it helps me feel closer to truth.” (pause) “Well, okay I want to know more about that but what I meant was, WHY? Where did this come from?”

Ah. What my new connection is curious about is how did I come across this notion of living with less. Hmm. This requires some thought! I certainly know what I get out of it. Themes from my past musings encompass tangible restructuring (no paper, digital photography, managing tasks, donate and recycle..) to reducing any misunderstanding about where I stand in the world (transitioning careers, going back to school, being mindful, connecting with nature)

But how did I get here in the first place?

Perhaps I need a little inspiration to help me answer this question. I will check in with a few of the many interesting people I follow in social media for their take:

On the site Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus explain: “Minimalism is a tool used to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.” Looks good to me! They say it helps to restore their time, rids them of too much stuff and contributes to finding purpose in their lives. The reason they made this change apparently had to do with living the dream life ( high paying jobs, big houses etc) yet they weren’t happy. “We took back control using the principles of minimalism to focus on what’s important in life—to focus on living meaningfully.”

What does Courtney Carver of get out of leading a simpler life? “In thinking about and dissecting simplicity, I’ve come up with a few things that I know to be true. Simplicity has become a force in my life with benefits and habit changes that I couldn’t have imagined from the start.”  She describes a long list of surprising improvements that stem from a particular moment of awareness. Essentially, she makes changes every day to “live my life on purpose”.

I have so much fun watching the journey of Tammy Strobel of, who lives in a tiny house! After reducing the size of her home, the rewards grew beyond living with less, such as a reduction in debt, a smaller environmental impact and yes, “freedom”.

There are so many delightful and inspiring blogs out there about how to live with less stuff. (Check out Joshua Becker at, Rachel Jonat at, and Meg Wolfe at There are a variety of approaches, from strictly counting the pieces of clothing in your wardrobe to just generally cleaning out the house, room by room and getting into the habit of not filling it back up again! Yet there are also stories of significant changes in people’s lives.

Physical, mental and emotional clutter

Living in a tiny house, giving up a car, leaving an unsatisfying job or a defunct relationship – the deeper end of minimalism seems to provoke or is created by an awakening of sorts. In regards to stuff, I have always lived minimally due to budgeting of money and moving a lot – two reasons for keeping ownership light. But on an emotional level, I recognize that I discard what doesn’t work for me, whether it’s a suit I haven’t worn for a year or a friendship that has grown in a different direction.

So does this answer the question of ‘why’? As I strive to improve myself, the current moment has always held more meaning for me than the past. Here is the truth that I seek in my minimalist approach:

  • own less, appreciate what I do have.
  • be organized – clean lines invites aesthetic breathing.
  • do less and function efficiently.
  • reduce noise, experience beauty.
  • replace negativity with kindness.
  • don’t ignore – take control.
  • less guilt, more honesty.
  • give myself permission to soar.

And now I am experiencing a curious sensation. I feel the need to draw on my courage today to express these things. I think I haven’t actually answered the question fully. It’s tough to ignore that the past contains experiences I wish to shed. I think this is the reason for the constant reinvention. This is where mindfulness, for me, is key. A minimalist philosophy isn’t meant to replace a connection with the world, to ignore it. I am proud of my story – I’m just writing new chapters that illuminate who I am now and this streamlined approach helps me do it. Hmm. I’m processing…

I will ask my minimalist colleagues if they can shed some light on this with their experiences. And certainly anyone else out there if you’d like to comment, please do! 🙂


5 thoughts on “the emotional connection to minimalism”

  1. Three words here stood out. Awakening. Mindfulness. Illuminate.

    I love your courage in this blog. Good on ya.

    My experience includes giving up projects I won’t finish. My artist’s brain has tons of ideas, and as a result I have tons of craft/art/sewing supplies. I used to love building dollhouses and collecting miniature everything. I have custom made furniture and trinkets that cost the moon. As I pare down on unfinished projects, I feel a huge sense of relief. I’m no longer burdened with the expectation that I have to finish it for fear of not being complete when I die. When my father was dying, he worried that he still had too much to do, and I would remind him that “your inbox will never be empty”. So, I’m releasing a ton of stress by releasing ideas that do not need to come to fruition. Some things linger longer than others, but with each piece of fabric I chuck in the outgoing box, it gets easier.

    I have so far to go, or so it seems. However, I’ve flicked the switch in me that allows “letting go”. There really is nothing like this freedom. I am no longer the mess I still live in, because I know it’s not here forever. It’s not even here much longer, and it will keep getting smaller.

    Anybody want to finish a quilt I started in 1986? It just needs the backing put on 🙂

    1. I’m sure you’ll find a home for that quilt, Marj 😀
      Wow, you really look like you are letting go and there’s that freedom word again! “Releasing ideas that do not need to come to fruition”. That’s powerful! As a fellow artist, I understand this to not be easy.
      I am curious about when you flipped that switch, if you’re willing to share? Why then? (The inciting incident? 😉

      1. I’ve had similar experiences with dieting/exercise. You know, there are those times when you’re eating pretty well, and you walk regularly, but then something makes sense about really loving yourself and taking good care of yourself. Perhaps I should be speaking in first person.

        I’ve been a keeper and a purger simultaneously for a very long time. With kids, there is always something coming in and something going out, as they outgrow things. I purged before our last move. I purged after the move. I kept filling bags and boxes every week. The stuff just seemed to create itself! There is always more to get rid of. Crazy.

        What’s the “switch”? Loaded. It’s been partly gradual and inconspicuous, until I noticed that one object, that I thought I loved, looked back at me and told me it made me unhappy. It is a photo my father took when we were on holidays when I was about 12. I had actually wrestled for it with my sister, when my mother died. Black and white. An abandoned house on the East coast. Gorgeous. Haunting. Filled with memory. One day I sat looking at it, and realized that it filled me with sadness. What I saw was grey abandonment, loss of my parents, and a responsibility to carry the past. It didn’t serve me anymore. I want to live in colour. I emailed my sister and offered her the photo. She was thrilled to take it.

        I use that realization when I evaluate what I can easily part with. I think about what will enrich my present and my future. Do I want my time taken up finishing all these silly projects, or do I want to create art and food with my kids? Do I want to get outside more? Do I want to work out more? And what would become of these projects when I’m done? I look at other things too. I have furniture I got from my mother. It’s beautiful. Do I need it taking up space in my life? Nope. Can I remember how much I love her without her furniture to remind me? Yup. And is the memory of her more important than my present life with my children? Nope.

        I was also saving frames for paintings I would someday do. Screw that. I put them on the wall and filled them with my kids’ art. Some hang empty. The art can be moved around, added to, rearranged. It’s colourful. It’s current. And my kids love seeing their pieces honoured.

        Okay, so this is long. I gotta pull out the biggest purge of all. After years of feeling weighted down in a bad relationship, I finally dug myself out. The realization is that I am all I need. The moment after he drove out of the driveway, I turned toward the inside of my house. It was a physical manifestation of the mess that was the relationship. I hadn’t fully seen the mess until that moment, even though I knew it was there. It seemed sudden that I saw what had become of my life. No wonder I had nightmares of being buried alive in clutter. I continue to dig through the emotional junk from 15 years of collecting it.

        The “switch” isn’t one flick. It happens over time. Once the ball starts rolling, the momentum builds. For me it’s about self-love. Once I found what that is for me, I felt a huge commitment. Not an obligation. Joy. All I can see is life moving forward, not stuck in the past. Hanging onto THINGS keeps me stuck in the past. I choose to live right now. I embrace change.

        Do I still want to keep my sewing machine? Yup. I love my hobbies. However, I’m going to use it to teach my kids some skills, and to mend clothes so we can save some dough. I’m keeping the paint so I can teach my kids how to do some art. The preciousness has gone. The idea of “someday” has gone. Now’s the time to create memories with my kids so that they won’t need my stuff when I die.

        As Loretta LaRoche says, “Life is short. Wear your party pants”.

  2. Wearing your party pants…in living colour!!
    Thank you so much for telling me your story. “Things keep me stuck in the past”. That’s what I’ve been looking for! Yes, yes.
    A great point about deciding what’s important. This is different for everyone – for you, memories of love for your Mother, and where that sits in relation to your present love for your kids. I’m so glad you typed this here! I bet this will have an impact on a reader or two.
    The switch happens over time. I agree! There is that first moment – once a shadow is removed, we start to notice light and eventually walk toward it. As you say, what will enrich your present and future. Good on a Marj!

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