In early 2017, I watched a film called Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. It immediately struck a chord with me; here was a film that illustrated ways of living that I identified with, from the points of view of many different people from all walks of life, and in a way that highlighted our consumerist and information-overloaded society, our present-day situation, our right now.
Prior to watching the film—probably sometime around 2010 when I was in my mid-twenties—I’d already consciously adopted a lifestyle of intentionality. I was very much interested in ways to increase productivity, the concept of ‘deep work’, habit formation, meditation, creating a routine to maximise focus, and so on. What I discovered was that a lot of these practices are built upon an age-old foundation of intentionality and mindfulness; that is, being conscious of, and purposeful with, our actions (and by extension our thoughts, feelings, time, and so forth).
But there was always something missing for me. It was as though I had one foot in the door that lead to intentional living, but I’d taken a wrong turn along the way and skipped past something important. It wasn’t until I watched Minimalism last year that it all began to come together. But at the time, I was in my final year of my undergraduate degree and about to take an internship. For the most part, I was keeping a lid on things—I was successful in my studies and my work, and I was relatively happy—and so this thing called minimalism could wait until I could give it my full attention.
Then I graduated from uni and life got busy and I forgot all about it.
A month or so ago, after doing a bit of soul-searching, I rediscovered the documentary and it was as though a lightbulb turned on in my brain, sparking all the connections that had been dormant for so long. This can help me, I thought. No, this is me—I’d just forgotten who I am. I realised this is how I would confront the restlessness and lack of purpose I’d felt since graduating, since going from a hundred kilometres an hour, coming to a grinding halt, and launching into a sea of uncertainty about what I should do next.
Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, the duo that make up The Minimalists, suggest starting the process of minimalism by asking the question, ‘How might my life be better with less?’ This question helps us identify what we’re trying to achieve, and why. Somewhere along the way, I’d begun to live without intention, and as a result, I didn’t like the person I was becoming. Having less stuff, less debt, less stress, all seemed like good ways to find what I do want: more focus, more direction, more meaning, and especially to rediscover my passion for writing.
So, I started small. I started with the stuff. I don’t own a lot of stuff, and even collectively my partner, Steph, and I own less stuff than the majority of couples or families who share a household in suburban Perth, which has always been intentional on both our parts. But we still have plenty of stuff we don’t use or need, and the stuff we don’t need does nothing but weigh us down, so it was a good starting point. For everything I own, and everything I want to bring into our home, I now ask, ‘Does this serve a purpose? Does it provide value? Does it bring me joy?’ If the answer is no to these questions, I have to be OK with letting it go. Clearing away the stuff I don’t use will take a little while, but I’m finding I’m enjoying the process.
What I’m working on now is my health—being more intentional about diet and regular exercise—working towards paying off my debt and being more intentional about spending, and cultivating my passion: writing. Restarting this blog was an intentional first step towards forming a daily writing habit; something I’d kept up with for the five years of my degree and then let fall by the wayside after I graduated (I’m still not sure how that happened!).
Along the way, Steph has joined me on my minimalist journey. Through a combination of bite-sized conversations-in-passing and seeing the benefits (already!) of the small changes I’m making, she decided to board the minimalism train with me. It’s chugging along, slowly but surely, but most importantly is the fact that we get to decide where it goes. And that’s a great feeling.