I often refer to minimalism on this blog, but it was only when I gave an interview about it to Domino recently that I realised I’ve never really shared what it means to me, or why it’s become such a big part of my life.
I’m not quite sure when I started identifying myself as a minimalist, but I’ve always been drawn to simplicity and over the years I’ve gradually adopted a pared-back approach in many areas, from the way I dress to the décor in my house. It’s partly because I have a condition called synaesthesia – I’ve talked in more detail about this before, but in short it causes senses to merge with one another rather than being experienced separately. It can manifest itself in all sorts of different ways, but in my case it means I see each letter, number and day of the week as a different hue. As a result my mind is constantly buzzing with colour, and I find it very hard to switch off and relax.
Minimalism acts as a much-needed antidote to all that, and it also helps me cope with the wider stresses and demands of modern life. And it’s become even more important to me in the last few years, as a couple of long-term health issues have forced me to take stock and slow down. On the days I feel bad, minimalism frees me up from the pressure to keep going, to try to have it all and do it all. And it helps me make the most of the days I feel good, which I don’t want to waste on things that don’t matter to me.
Whatever your situation, I wholeheartedly believe that minimalism can help improve your wellbeing, but there are so many misconceptions around it. So, here’s my take on it, and why I think it looks very different for different people…
It’s not just about living with less ‘stuff’
For me, minimalism isn’t necessarily about having fewer possessions, although that’s often part of it. It’s a wider mindset. It’s about focusing your time, energy and income on the things that make you feel happy and satisfied, and letting go of anything that doesn’t. This intentional attitude can be applied in all sorts of ways, from decluttering your home to shedding draining social commitments. It could even mean saying goodbye to friendships that have run their course. What form it takes depends on your individual circumstances and what you value the most.
You can be a minimalist and love colour
In purely aesthetic terms, minimalism isn’t just about white walls and monochrome colours – although I admit that’s how it translates for me. And it needn’t be cold or stark – it can be warm, cosy and inviting, and it certainly doesn’t exclude colour, pattern and texture. What’s more, I fully believe you can have a maximalist house, if that’s what makes you happy, but still apply a minimalist approach to your wider life.
You can still go shopping
Honestly, you can! You just need to shop in a more considered way. I’m not going to pretend I never buy anything or treat myself to new possessions, but I’m definitely a lot less impulsive than I was. I now pause to work out what I really want and need before making a purchase, and I try to invest in items that will stand the test of time rather than throwaway trends.
There are no set rules
I don’t think there’s a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to approach minimalism. Life is often messy and out of our control, so there’s no point trying to shoe-horn it into a specific box. Minimalism is fundamentally about freeing up more space for the things that are important to us, so in my view putting pressure on ourselves to behave in a certain way kind of misses the whole point.
It’s a gradual process
Living without clutter around the home is so natural to me that I don’t find it challenging, but I know it’s often tricky for others, especially those with children. Conversely, I’m not as successful when it comes to applying minimalist principles to other areas of my life. I’m definitely getting better at saying ‘no’ to things, but I often take on too much and end up feeling frazzled. I don’t get cross with myself when that happens, though – minimalism is a gradual process, and I try to learn from each experience and move on.
So there you go! I don’t believe for a second that minimalism is about denying yourself anything. Instead, it’s about creating more room in your life for the things you love, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. I’d love to know your thoughts on it, though – do you identify as a minimalist, and if so what does it mean to you? And are there any areas of your life that you’re trying to simplify?
All photography by Abi Dare