What is minimalism really? When you get past the idea of getting rid of material things and not being a mindless, zombie-like consumer, what is minimalism’s true goal? What are the people who practice it trying to get out of it?
Simply put, minimalism is the practicing of contentment. Contentment is being happy with the things that you have and doing your best with the situation given to you in life. It is the belief that you should not have to spend your life in a vicious circle of work, buy, consume, and repeat. Contentment is seeing what you have, appreciating it, and being joyful.
While society is constantly pressuring you to buy more and never be content with what you have, minimalism says that you should buy less, get rid of extraneous things, and focus on what really matters. So you see, minimalism is the practice of getting rid of things that don’t add to or maintain your contentment and focusing your time, money, and energy on things that do.
Now, contentment isn’t a static, never-changing, state. It doesn’t mean an end to the journey of life, nor does it mean that you can’t ever buy new things, work to improve your situation in life, or change something about yourself. Contentment is the attitude that you carry with you as you go about your day. It’s the mindset that you don’t need things to be happy. It’s the idea you don’t need events to work out perfectly to have a good life.
Granted, simply getting rid of your things and adopting a minimalist approach to life isn’t a guarantee of contentment. I’m not so naïve (and you shouldn’t be either) to believe that minimalism will solve all your problems. Minimalism is a tool. It’s a method of practicing contentment. It can add to your contentment and help you maintain it by keeping out frivolous things. But it is not the source.
The true source of contentment is leading a life of truth. It’s being a loving individual, following God, helping those in need, taking pride in your work and play, and growing mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Do you have contentment? Minimalism can help you get there, but it can’t save your soul, or fundamentally change your attitude. It can’t end that abusive relationship, or break your addiction for you. If you find that something is holding you back from being content, I encourage you to examine it closely. Can minimalism help? If so, that’s great! But if not, then seek help. Go to a friend, or get therapy. Change what can be changed, and find that place of contentment.
What gives you contentment? Find out what those things are and pursue them. Use minimalism to help you. But don’t confuse the tool with the ending product.