As more people shun materialism and conspicuous consumption, they are looking for an anchor philosophy. They want to brand their new lifestyle and they need it to be cool. Eventually they come to the question: minimalism and simplicity – why the difference?
Human nature wants to label things. Everything, in fact. It is, therefore, no surprise that people want the difference between minimalism and simplicity quantified.
On the one hand, the need for labels is understandable. It is almost necessary, as we cannot engage in a meaningful conversation unless we have labels or names for things. And names for attitudes. And lifestyles.
On the other hand, it is regrettable to label everything. We can easily miss the fluidity of life or the advantage that flexibility can bring to our spiritual growth.
Let us agree to call it a necessary evil, and take a closer look at the two labels.
How do I live a life of simplicity?
You achieve simple living through various voluntary practices to simplify your lifestyle. It could include reducing possessions, increasing self-sufficiency, changing your diet and living frugally.
The motivation could be a counter to materialism, a quest for a healthier lifestyle or a spiritual journey of self-care.
How do I do minimalism?
In a previous post, I described minimalism as a lifestyle that is about focusing on the things you value while getting rid of the distractions. It is pursuing what you deem important and removing everything else.
The motivation could be to de-clutter the physical environment or mental space, or a spiritual journey of self-discovery.
But it’s the same thing?
Although I have found a few articles that describe the difference in a smart way, I did get a feeling that some writers or bloggers are trying to create a difference in order to protect their domain (pun intended). As if, without labels, their contribution would be of lesser value.
My take is that you can use the two labels interchangeably if you wish. It is your decision about the specific lifestyle you have chosen, for whatever reason, that is important. How someone else labels this lifestyle, is not important.
There is a subtle difference
Since this article started out with the question, I will try to give an answer.
Minimalism starts externally. It starts with material possessions and progresses towards a mental process, eventually becoming a spiritual journey. From de-cluttering your living space, you progress to de-cluttering your mind, giving you the opportunity to focus on what is important.
Minimalism is more popular amongst a younger demographic. Some participants engage in challenges or follow informal rules as motivation.
Simplicity starts internally. It starts with new thinking, because of a need to focus on what is valuable. This new mindset leads to a new lifestyle of reduced consumption and increased self-sufficiency.
Simplicity is more popular among a slightly older demographic. There are very few rules to follow if any.
My personal journey started with the physical environment and evolved into a mental and spiritual path, which is probably why I prefer the minimalist label.
“Being a minimalist means that you value yourself more than material things” – Brian Gardner
Why is it important to understand?
It is important at two levels.
Firstly, you need to understand you! Because you are unique in your view of the world and your understanding of things, it is also important for you to have your own understanding of minimalism or simplicity.
Secondly, you need to understand your own motivation. Unless you are clear about your reason and intent, your effort might fizzle out and you will revert to your old ways.
There are many examples where people saw minimalism as the newest fad. However, because they jumped onto the bandwagon for all the wrong reasons, or for no reason at all, they jumped off at the very first opportunity.
Can I become minimalist with an abundance mindset?
Indeed! Here is the irony: a minimalist lifestyle can facilitate a life of abundance!
As your new lifestyle un-clutters the home and mind, you get the opportunity to focus on what is important. You have removed the distractions, giving you time to enjoy the things that you value most. That is living with abundance.
“Not what we have, but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance” – Epicurus
Do not overthink it
It is easy to become overwhelmed. To be bogged down between the desire to change and all the detail and labels out there. Instead of making headway, you are spending your energy to clarify your path forward.
Sometimes the answer lies in less thinking and just starting.
Allow me to use this example: If it’s a foggy night, and you can only see 100 feet ahead, how can you see another 100 feet? By walking the 100 feet that you can see. Then you will see the next 100 feet.
Just start. Do what you can do immediately and progress from there.
Here are a few things you can do to start right away. They are easy to implement and quick to show results.
- Learn to say no
How many times have you said yes to an obligation, just to have “yes remorse” almost immediately?
By adopting minimalist thinking and taking responsibility for your self-care, your ability to say no will develop. Saying no is not mean or selfish; it is just putting your priorities first.
- Reduce the digital distractions
Start with something simple like not wearing your watch for a few days. You will be surprised how quickly you will get used to life without one, and how the endless glances to your wrist stop.
I used to work without wearing a watch. A colleague, who knew well that I was never late for an appointment, asked me about it. My answer was that time was everywhere around me. On my mobile phone, the car’s dashboard, on the radio, on the arm of the person next to me. I just had to be observant; I did not need a watch.
As for that annoying mobile phone, switch it off at the end of your working day. Observe how different your evening can be without constant alerts or notifications. Your family and friends will equally enjoy it.
- Start thinking about your possessions
Don’t throw out anything. Yet.
Just start making a mental inventory of the things you possess, which you will never use. Start questioning whether an item adds any value to your life, or to your happiness. Start thinking about the concept of sentimental value.
This process will grow in your subconscious and action will follow naturally, and unforced.
It is not important how you want to label your journey or your chosen new lifestyle. The only important thing is that you are on your way.
“Abundance is not something we acquire, it is something we tune into” – Wayne Dyer
I would love to have your thoughts on minimalism and simplicity. What do you see as the differences?
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