People want options, it
almost goes without saying. We get a few emails per week from overwhelmed
readers asking us where to start on their journey into minimalism. They are
lost and overwhelmed and are looking for direction. Really, these people are
looking for options. Some of them are scared shitless. They don't know where to
start and thus options make it easier for them to make a decision.
This presents a particular
kind of double-bind though. You see, options are great until we have too many
options. That's why it takes you twice as long to shop at Walmart than at your
local grocery store. That's why you're wife/husband/significant other spends
five minutes in the shampoo aisle. Paralysis by analysis. Options are good and
helpful, but too many options are not.
So you want to live a more
minimalist lifestyle? 'But where the hell do I start?' you ask yourself. There
are so many blogs out there that you feel overwhelmed just trying to scratch
the surface. And there are ebooks and references and everyone has his or her
opinion that they pretend is some sort of absolute truth or some kind of zen
maxim or something. It's all a little crazy-making.
Whenever we get one of those emails asking us
where to start, we usually respond
with three options: extreme, moderate, and conservative.
1. Extreme. You could call this the Colin Wright and Ev Bogue approach towards minimalism. This is both the easiest
and most difficult option of the three and it is not for most people (it
certainly isn't for the two of us). Ev Bogue summed it up this way: 'rent a
dumpster and throw all of your shit in it.' That's pretty much all there is to
it, but be prepared to live with a bag or two of clothes and that's about it.
There is nothing wrong with it, especially if you want to travel.
2. Moderate. Do what Ryan did and have a packing party. Pretend you're moving and unpack what you need over the course
of the next week. Discard everything else thereafter. This option takes about a
day of your life, but you can actually have fun doing it. This option tends to
work very well for single people and for couples with one or no children. It
is, however, too much for some people to handle at first.
3. Conservative. We call this the Joshua Becker approach. Start with one room and take baby steps towards your goal.
Whichever option you choose,
the most important part is taking action. Once you make the decision, you must
take action. This allows you to build momentum. You should never leave the
scene of a good idea without taking some sort of immediate action.
Getting rid of most of your
clothes might not sound practical. There's no doubt that it's a bit more on the
extreme side. You see, Joshua started out initially with the conservative
option, well over a year ago, slowly paring down his possessions and
decluttering and getting rid of things he didn't use or want or need.
But he eventually moved to
the more moderate option, beginning to question all his possessions. 'Do I
really need this?' was the question he started to ask himself about all his
stuff, from clothes to furniture to kitchen utensils.
Recently, he realized that
he could get by with less and by doing so he could appreciate what he had even
more. So he got rid of anything he hadn't worn in the last 30 days, from coats
and shirts to belts and shoes. His closet is down to the basics now and he
feels great about the decision. (N.B. We're sure that he still owns more than
100 things.) The moral of the story is that it's OK to start out by taking baby
steps. Walk before you run. If you can start off running, that's even better,
but don't get discouraged if you can't. You should only get discouraged if you
refuse to take immediate action.
Don't wait until tomorrow.
Tomorrow will always be a day away. Don't put up a barrier or an excuse that
prevents you from taking action. You're so much better than that. Sure you're
tired, sure you're busy, sure you're whatever, but don't let that stand in your
way. The only person holding you back is you. And you don't need permission. Take action today. Take action now.