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This post is going to take a look at extreme minimalism, and how we can use the most drastic take on a minimalist lifestyle to help us draw a boundary comfortable for each and every one of us – allowing us to identify the things we can’t live without, the things that bring us joy and comfort, and the things that act as distractions and clutter in our lives.
Before we dive into today’s post, a disclaimer: I am not an extreme minimalist. I never will be. I like having multiple pairs of jeans too much, I have a slightly unhealthy habit of hoarding all my glass jars, and no one can convince me to give up my comfy double bed for a futon (I’ve tried them – they just aren’t for me!).
What is extreme minimalism?
Extreme minimalism is a lifestyle choice of living on the bare necessities. This can, of course, be interpreted in many different ways. Some extreme minimalists may choose to be totally self-sufficient, living off of their own land with minimal interaction with commercial businesses. A good example of this is the sustainable tiny home movement, or homesteading.
Other extreme minimalists may choose to filter down their wardrobe to just a handful of outfits, live with no (or the bare essentials) furniture, have an aim to be zero-waste, vegan, and own as few possessions as possible.
Are there any benefits to extreme minimalism versus minimalism?
Just because extreme minimalism isn’t for me, doesn’t mean it’s not beneficial to others. For one thing, being an extreme minimalist can help you save a lot of money – while aiming to be self-sufficient in as many areas of your life as possible can give you a lot of freedom, in a sense.
Additionally, some people may find that the total and vast removal of distractions, clutter, and possessions is incredibly freeing, allowing you to focus on the things that are most important to you.
Using extreme minimalism to highlight what your minimalist lifestyle could look like
This post isn’t about showing you how to be an extreme minimalist (I loved Heal Your Living‘s perspective on it though!) Instead, we’re going to use extreme minimalism to work backwards towards a more ‘typical’ minimalist way of thinking, and identify:
- The things we genuinely can’t live without
- The things that bring us joy & happiness
- The items and things that add comfort and convenience to our lives
- Everything else: the distractions, clutter, and chaos
What can’t you live without?
So, first things first: what can’t you live without?
Of course, we’ve got the obvious answers like food, water, shelter, sleep, heat…
We’re not cavemen, though. While you could probably carve out a life for yourself with those things in some remote corner of the world and get by, I’m going to assume that for the majority of readers, that’s not really your goal.
So, we need to think of the ‘2020’ things we can’t live without. That could include:
- A means of income
- A few outfits and shoes
- An internet connection and a device (phone, laptop, tablet) – sad but true, life is pretty hard these days without one!
- Electricity, gas, water etc
- Some kitchen supplies and appliances to cook for yourself
- A place to rest, sleep, and relax
Of course, this list might look different for you depending on where you’re from, what you do (or want to do) for a living, your culture and current circumstances etc. This is just a basic example based on my experience.
So, this first list might be what an ‘extreme minimalist’ life looks like for you. The bare-bones that will allow you to stay afloat, but not much else. You could also list down any key values/belief systems that are a big part of what makes you happy with your life. For example, being vegan, living a zero-waste lifestyle, or being nomadic are all choices that could change this list quite dramatically for you.
Now, we’re going to work backwards. Thinking of this list as your ‘central’ circle – now, we’re going to draw rings around that circle until we find the balance between the things we need and add value versus the distractions and clutter.
What brings you joy?
Next, we can widen the circle to think about the things that add joy and happiness to our lives. This applies to both your physical possessions and to the intangible things like relationships, health beliefs, morals and other things that really shape you as a person.
Things like your favourite outfits, maybe your coffee maker, a favourite book, items related to your hobbies and interests, your favourite cozy blanket etc.
Get as specific as you like – as a caveat, if you know that you are guilty of having a lot of clutter in a particular area of your home – for example, the kitchen, it may be a good idea to list down the utensils and equipment that you use every single day and therefore give yourself an awareness of the things that simply take up space.
Once you’ve got your possessions noted down, you can move on to the non-tangible things you can’t live without.
What does that mean? Relationships and friendships that you couldn’t lose, hobbies that shape you as a person, values and ethics that are cornerstones of your personality, perhaps if you are lucky enough to currently have your dream job, your health, diet etc.
What gives comfort and convenience to your life?
This is where the minimalist definition can get a little blurred. The things that bring comfort and convenience to your life as totally subjective and whether or not you choose to declutter them or not is down to you.
This is things like your means of transport (for some people, switching from car to bicycle is a no-no, for some, it’s a real possibility), all those cute knick-knacks and accessories that decorate your shelves at home, loads of shoe options, stacks of kitchen utensils and dining ware…
What are the distractions?
At this point, you should have a pretty good idea of the things that simply sit on the fringes of these circles we’ve drawn – not really in the way, but not exactly adding anything to your life, either.
By working our way out, we can find the things we can’t (and don’t want to) be without, the things that make us happy and then sort out the clutter from the creature comforts we like having around.
Hopefully, this has helped you gain a better idea of your priorities in pursuing a more mindful, minimalist lifestyle!
Are you interested in extreme minimalism? What are the things you identified that you can’t live without?