How to Make an Active Minimalist Happy

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Why is it, that being “happy” remains an elusive thing – so much so, that it often attributed as a life goal? Like happiness is an end state – that once we attain it, it is forever ours?

Outside of survival needs (food, water, shelter), most of us desire the same basic things, like being loved and accepted by our family, friends, and greater communities; being safe, in good health, and free from worry; having the freedom to exercise our passions without judgment and consequence. Any sensible person also knows that these “basic things” can easily be taken for granted, and that in this day, having any of them is, unfortunately, still considered a privilege. There are many things outside of our control that can disrupt the balance and rhythm of our lives. And sadly, it is too often in moments when we confront our own mortality that we realize just what is truly important. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Minimalists, and especially active minimalists, tend to emphasize the importance of just “being” or simply “doing” what is natural. Becoming a minimalist is often a product of some sort of discontent, so stripping away the excess garbage allows us to discover our hidden values. The moments we live outside of work and social media are where the raw, unscripted parts of our lives emerge – the words and behaviors that expose our own humanity. The behaviors we exhibit outside of the job title, the family role, the caretaker, the provider, and so on. We are most passionate – most human – when we take off the mask with our titles and roles. And we all wear masks in most places, if only for society to function properly.

Unsurprisingly, it is in those moments when we’re true to ourselves that we feel most liberated. And when we are true to ourselves and accepting of that truth, we begin to feel that elusive thing we call happiness. Personally, I am happiest in an environment where I can naturally “be.” Not “expected to be,” not “supposed to be,” not “meant to be.” Some of you may wonder, what if to “be” is to also be toxic, violent, or condescending? Color me an optimist, but I believe that if someone is truly happy, that person would also be in a position to genuinely be supportive of others. Happy people don’t put others down.

Fancy gifts, money, and swanky dinners can be treats for just about anyone, but for a minimalist, genuine relationships cannot be beat. Shared moments, experiences, and passions can be cherished more deeply than new things, and they cannot be taken away from you.

Is Minimalism Ruining Your Relationships? Simple Guidelines for Living with Non-Minimalists

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As I alluded to in my about page, definitions of minimalism fall on a spectrum, ranging from bare bones live-out-of-a-backpack to full-on suburban house with family SUV and multiple kids, where the level is measured by how many complications (stuff, commitments, etc.) you have. As we slowly edge our way across the spectrum, we sometimes realize that we are taking the journey alone. And so, minimalists are often asked how to convince partners, spouses, or other loved ones to adopt minimalism principles. It’s the same age-old question we all ask – when we are smitten with an idea and find ourselves beside ourselves with the desire to convert everyone around us, how do we succeed in converting them, or how do we stop ourselves from ruining our relationships with them when doing so?

As a disclaimer, I am not a parent, and cannot speak to the parenting aspect. But first of all, let’s be clear here on how not to convert someone to minimalism.

If someone else’s “stuff” is affecting you, then it is a good idea to work with that person to resolve the issue. Do not declutter other people’s stuff for them. That is one very good way to start a fight. It is difficult – I know – to resist. Every time I visit my parents, I feel a strong urge to fill up a donation bag with all the junk lying around the house. I want to tell them all about how their lives could be better if only they had less stuff.

But if someone is not ready to let go of something he or she owns, it is that person’s choice to pick the right time to let it go, not yours.

You also cannot force someone into minimalism via accusatory, confrontational statements like “you should declutter” or “why do you keep this stuff?” People don’t usually like to be forced into things, even if these things end up being good for them. If you end up being unable to tolerate this person’s habits, then perhaps you’ll need to assess your relationship with this person, and decide what is truly a non-negotiable. If it is a significant other, then both of you need to be willing to work with each other to find middle ground.

The solution, then, is actually quite simple. All you have to do is live by example. Declutter your things, reap the benefits, and display it without being all up-in-your-face about it. Because while minimalists believe that minimalism can benefit everyone, not everyone wants to be a minimalist, and it is not in our place to swiftly impose it upon everyone around us.

Walk the walk, carefully acknowledge its benefits, and hope to inspire as much as we can.

Unsurprisingly…that is the minimalist way.