How I Became a Beginner Minimalist: The Surprising Story

About a year ago, on a rainy Sunday, I found myself binge watching episodes of Tiny House Hunters on HGTV. I couldn’t tear myself away from the 300 square foot tiny homes and the incredibly passionate people that seemed intent on a life change.

 

I watched with a combination of admiration and disbelief as these people downsized and packed their entire lives into a shoebox on wheels. Episode after episode, I couldn’t look away; I was mesmerized.

 

Months later, I stumbled across the Netflix documentary “Minimalism.” There is no logical reason why this documentary caught my attention; I’m the last person you’d expect to be curious about minimalism. My style motto is “more is more,” and I have an entire piece of furniture for my jewelry.

 

But there I was, glued to the screen, with my husband skeptically asking, “Why are you watching this?” I didn’t have an answer; I didn’t understand my interest either.

 

 

But I did know this. I wasn’t watching out of skepticism, humor, or a desire to be entertained. I wasn’t watching thinking, “What is wrong with these people?” I was watching out of genuine admiration.

 

All of the people on my TV had something in common. They were going tiny or minimalist for a reason. Each of them talked about a deep conviction to live their life differently. To simplify. To own less. To be free.

 

And then it struck me. Intentionality. That’s what all of these minimalists had in common. It wasn’t about only owning two pairs of shoes or not enjoying material possessions. Rather, it was about being mindful and really paying attention to how they lived their lives, how they spent their time and money, and what they truly valued.

 

Suddenly, I got why I was so intrigued. As a psychologist, intentionality is one of my life buzzwords. I am constantly preaching the importance of living a life that is mindful, thoughtful, and deliberate. I encourage clients to tune into their internal experiences, make difficult decisions, and be courageous in their relationships. I constantly talk about the importance of making hard but healthy decisions, getting us closer to the meaningful and healthy we so badly crave.

 

Yet there was area of my life where my commitment to intentionality was going completely untouched. My buying, spending, and acquiring. I practice mindfulness, I meditate, and I have a daily gratitude practice; I believe in intentionality. So why wasn’t I translating this belief and practice to my consumption? I decided to change that.

 

 

For the last year, I’ve made a focused effort to consume more consciously. I’ve become a beginner minimalist. Why do I want that? What will it really change in my life? What experience could I have if I said “no” to that? Does this help me live the meaningful and value driven life I crave?

 

As I psychologist, I spend a great deal of time helping my clients practice intentionality. We do not have to react impulsively to our thoughts and emotions; we can choose to respond in a more healthy and value-driven way.

 

Just like I encourage my clients to do, I’ve found a sense of peace separating myself from my impulses to consume unconsciously, thinking I need that dress, those shoes, or that cute stationary.

 

I wish I could say that I’m an advanced minimalist, and that intentional consumption has become second nature to me. It hasn’t. Yet. Slowly but surely, though, with intentionality, I’m getting closer to this way in which I want to live.

 

Intentionality is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves. It’s brave, deliberate, and not always easy. But I believe it’s worth it. As a psychologist, I’ve always known this. Now, as a beginner minimalist, I feel more fully engaged in this practice, as I choose to really evaluate my stuff and the space it takes up in my life.

 

This piece originally appeared on No Sidebar.

 

PS: Curious to see the phrase I’ve used to stop buying stuff I don’t need? Click here.

2 Comments

  1. Will

    I recently lost my parents and it’s been difficult going through their stuff. You want to donate or toss most stuff but you feel guilty because that was your parent’s. My house is overflowing with their stuff. I’ve learned that I don’t want to leave that burden to my children. I’m trying to read dostadning (by the way don’t read when going through family memories). Being a minimalist not only helps you, but will help alleviate the burden to those who need to take care of your stuff when you’re gone.

    1. Dr. Allison

      Will, absolutely. It leaves such a heavy task for those family members. We logically know “it’s just stuff,” yet grief has a way of making it so much more. I think living more minimally helps us, as well as those who love us, feel lighter, less burdened, and more present. Thanks for sharing your perspective; I think it’s really powerful for us all to remember.

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