Phase

At the start of November a reader called Tom asked us to write about our thoughts on obsession with minimalism (thanks Tom!). His own life, he felt, had possibly become a little too minimalist but he was also feeling as if the changes were bringing positive results, a more focused approach and less distraction. I was left wondering if an obsession with minimalism is a necessary phase in a long journey towards a simpler life.

Our own journey to a simpler life has at times felt a little obsessive. We’ve had phases where our possessions have been dramatically reduced. These have served to focus our attention on what is actually important. It turns out that most of the stuff we owned we didn’t really want or need. But over the years the focus has shifted away from stuff and on to experience. Perhaps the stuff bit has to come first. Stripping yourself bare of possessions leaves you nowhere to hide from what’s actually going on in your life.

The de-cluttering obsession is pretty inward looking. Having less stuff is nice, it frees up time and space. But for us it’s not the main purpose of minimalism. The point isn’t just to have a clutter-free house, the point is to make it easier to focus on how we want to experience life. Focusing on experience feels less obsessive, more outward looking, more liberating in fact than any amount of de-cluttering could ever be.

These days I have to stop myself obsessing over parts of our house which feel too cluttered, our office in particular. But it’s fine, we’ll never be amongst the minimalists who have 30 things or less (or whatever the goal these day is!). But whatever place you’re at, whatever phase of simplifying, be sure it will shift and change. If stuff is all consuming right now, I imagine you’ll find a point at which you’ll achieve a balance, make decisions about what matters to you. And maybe then minimalism will feel less like an obsession and more just a way of life.