This is not another blog post that you found on Pinterest about becoming a minimalist. I’m not creating a capsule wardrobe. I’m not taking everything off of my walls. I’m not buying succulents. Okay, that last bit is really just me trying to be funny. But seriously I can’t keep a succulent alive, what’s the secret?
Now, I have been noticing that the minimalism movement has been gaining quite a bit of traction lately. But, it’s never completely appealed to me. I like the notion of simplifying my life and being more intentional, but I don’t want to throw out everything. I’ve joked that I like the idea of minimalism, but with more stuff.
That’s why I’m embracing essentialism.
A few months ago I was feeling fancy and bought The Essentials Issue from Kinfolk. One article that stood out to me was How to be an Essentialist: An Interview with Greg McKeown. He’s the author of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, which is "about challenging the core assumption of ‘we can have it all’ and ‘I have to do everything’ and replacing it with the pursuit of ‘the right thing, in the right way, at the right time’."
What I learned about essentialism is that it’s about living your best life.
Essentialism isn’t about strict elimination of belongings, but discovering what you can’t live without. It’s about taking simple steps to make essentialism a daily habit. It’s about focusing on what is essential to make your best life, instead of learning to live with as few things as you possibly can.
The problem with minimalism is that it’s still focused on material items.
Focusing on say, only owning 100 items, transfers emotional and mental stress from accumulation to elimination. The focus still remains on material goods, instead of being intentional about reaching goals or living life to the fullest.
When looking for a new years resolution, I wanted something that I could apply to my personal and professional goals. My 2015 goals were a bit ambiguous, and really aimed at my life outside of work. At the heart of it, essentialism gives you the room to reach your goals. It makes you think hard about what you find important. It makes you be more selective about what you put your energy into, and clearing out the clutter (physically and mentally).
Here are the 5 simple steps I’m taking to embrace essentialism and make room for what matters most.
Define what is essential.
Essentialism taps into my strategic planner tendencies, since I’ll be evaluating my life and business into essential and nonessential categories. I will focus on what I need to be my best self, which combines areas of my personal and professional life.
When I take care of myself I perform better as a business owner, so I shouldn't feel guilty about needing time to dedicate towards improved health. One of the ways I have been working on this is by setting fitness goals for myself. I will make sure that I have the time needed for this, because it is essential. But is it really that simple?
Trade-offs are necessary in making room for what is essential. In order to create the time/space for something, I have to eliminate what is nonessential.
What trade-off will I make to be able to hit the gym 5x a week? One solution is to wake up a bit earlier to create time in the morning, so I can start my day accomplishing one small step towards my fitness goals.
Clear the clutter.
My goal is to free up time and space, so I need to get rid of what is nonessential so I have more room for what matters.
I’m starting small with physical and mental clutter. Physical: closet clean-out. Mental: Go to bed an hour earlier.
It is easy to say yes, especially to myself. How many choices do I make automatically without much thought? What choices am I allowing to simply happen and what do those choices not allow room for?
Whether it is an aimless trip to Target (it gets me every time) or continuing to offer a particular service to clients because it’s something I’ve always done (but don’t love), I need to make sure the choices I make are being made intentionally.
No more maybe.
Maybe might as well mean yes. Since I’m being more intentional about my choices, I don’t have room for maybes. This plays into the less, but better mindset.
A gracious no is better than an ambiguous maybe. That maybe takes up mental clutter and creates the expectation of a yes. If I don’t deliver on a maybe, then the outcome is emotionally negative.
But what if the answer really needs to be a yes? If my first instinct is to say maybe, knowing that X needs to be done but I’m not sure where I will have the time/resources, I need to implement a trade-off. Ex: Yes, but that will require an additional cost of x. Yes, but that will require the deadline to be extended.