Everyone has different ways to implement minimalism into their lives, but the general view on minimalism, the one I read online, is mostly the same. So in this post I want to shed a different light on it and share my personal story & opinion (which is strongly influenced by Eckhart Tolle) about what I believe minimalism stands for.

Minimalism & Sustainability

During my journey towards a more sustainable lifestyle, I began to view minimalism as a part of it. Minimalism, I read back then, is all about decluttering and to live more with less. Quality over quantity, making conscious choices etc. A minimalist mindset often includes to only buy what you really need, which saves money and reduces waste. A pretty sustainable approach if you ask me. Since every item you bring into your home has a carbon footprint and will ultimately end up in a landfill, having less stuff/materials is definitely better for the environment.

I started looking more into minimalism as I was sure it was something I wanted to know more about, and I quickly gained another valuable perspective other than what I had read about online.

Minimalism & Happiness 

I was looking further than “organising” and “decluttering” and the matching blog posts like “10 things not to buy anymore”. I watched the documentary “Minimalism” on Netflix and finally someone talked about the void we are trying to fill with objects/materials. This void can be anything, like insecurities, sadness, unfulfillment etc. We think our insecurities will fade away once we have a big car, our sadness will lift when we do some “shopping therapy” and we will feel fulfilled when we are finally able to buy our dream house. In other words, we think we will feel happier when we possess these things. It might feel like that for a brief moment, but it won’t last. And I know what your are thinking, it’s one thing to know that objects don’t fill that void or bring happiness, but why doesn’t it feel like it? And trust me I am right there with you. Trying to live more sustainable/minimalistic does not mean I don’t feel like this as well. So I went looking for an answer.

Minimalism & Ego

I was reading “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle, and suddenly it all started to click. I will do my best explaining some parts in a nutshell, but I would recommend everyone to read his book to get a far better understanding.

Apparently it is our ego that likes to identify with objects. And if I say ego, that doesn’t mean being vain and thinking highly of yourself (although it could be). The ego can take many forms, superiority or inferiority, it is whatever you tell yourself or what others tell about you (that you have accepted as a truth), which gives you a sense of identity. But this is false, your ego is your “false self”. But unless we are aware of this, we identify with our ego and our ego identifies with objects. So if you want to go to the root of minimalism, you have to know more about your ego and how it is linked to our possessions.

So in “A New Earth”, Eckhart Tolle describes how the ego works and how we can detect our attachment with the material world. He says, and I quote: “I suggest that you investigate your relationship with the world of things through self-observation, and in particular, things that are designated with the word “my”. You need to be alert and honest to find out, for example, whether your sense of self worth is bound up with things you possess. Do certain things induce a subtle feeling of importance or superiority? Does the lack of them make you feel inferior to others who have more than you? Do you causally mention things you own or show them off to increase your sense of worth in someone else’s eyes and through them in your own? Do you feel resentful or angry and somehow diminished in your sense of self when someone else has more than you or when you lose a prized possession?”

It is our ego that makes us feel this way. So how can we let go of this, how can you let go of your ego? Well, you can’t. Your ego is a part of you and it will always be there, but you CAN become aware of it. Simply by becoming aware of the ego, you stop identifying yourself with it (in that moment). So always remember: “Ego is no longer ego when you know there is ego”. Another beautiful quote from Eckhart Tolle. You might want to read that again haha.

But here’s the trick: staying conscious and aware of this fact is not easy and you will slide back into your unconscious state after reading this blogpost. You have to actively look for your ego through your thoughts and behaviour to become aware of it again. And if you are aware, it will no longer control you the same, you will have a choice.

Minimalism & Possessions

So now comes the big paradox: If minimalism is really all about becoming aware of our ego and its attachment to materials, is it even necessary to get rid of the majority of our stuff or restrict ourselves from having them? Or can this be done even when you have many possessions?

My personal opinion is that you do not HAVE to get rid of your possessions or restrict yourself. The ego will still accompany you if you do. So for me it is really more about the inner work than it is about how many possessions you have. To understand this I will leave you with the last quote of Eckhart Tolle: “How do you let go of attachment to things? Don’t even try. It’s impossible. Attachment to things drop away when you no longer seek to find yourself in them. In the meantime, just be aware of your attachment to things. Sometimes you may not know that you are attached to something, which is to say, identified, until you lose it or there is the threat of loss. If you then become upset, anxious and so on, it means you are attached. If you are aware that you are identified with a thing, the identification is no longer total.” To me, this means that anyone can start becoming aware of the attachment. “Losing” your possessions might speed up the process for some, but it is not necessary.

It could be that minimalism stands for more than I am now taking into the equation, but I feel like being “a minimalist” could just be another identity of the ego. The ones that have read “A New Earth” know that the ego can identify with a lot of things. So I have been wondering why there is this expectation of how a minimalist lives or takes up space in our society. Can a minimalist live in a big house? Or is it more appreciated they live in a tiny house? Can a minimalist make 1 million dollars per year? Or is it more appreciated they earn a more moderate income? Can a minimalist have more than 2 children? Or is it more appreciated they settle for 1 or 2 maximum?

Like I already said, the ego can identify just as easily to your status as being “a millionaire” as it can to your identity as “a minimalist”. Because if you just think about it… does being a minimalist induce a sense of superiority? If it does, that right there is your ego speaking.

So unless I am missing the memo and only people who are physically letting go of their attachment to materials are considered a minimalist, I think I would call anyone that no longer seeks himself in possessions, and therefore mentally lets go of their attachment to materials, is in fact… a minimalist.

Lots of love,

Chayenne

P.S Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you think about my perspective or share your own opinion and view on Minimalism! I would love to hear from you.