My journey into minimalism began in the same way as many others - by de-cluttering a materialistic existence. Up until then, life always felt absent of something I couldn't yet understand, but it wasn't until I started getting rid of a few possessions that I felt that my life was becoming more fulfilled.
A life with less felt more complete.
Decluttering was a difficult task at first, but after seeing a few bare cupboards, wardrobes and after the new-found sensation of gratitude in witnessing formerly-precious items deserving of a new home making their way to the local charity shop in search of a new life - I realised I was hooked on minimising my possessions.
Discarding items became somewhat of an unexpected drug. I constantly needed a fix, discarding another item of clothing, discovering other things that hadn't been used in years. A simple rule that quickly came into effect:
If I didn't know I had it before…
…I don’t need it anymore.
This accelerated the simplification of my physical space. I desperately wanted to say goodbye to things. It felt like everything needed to go. At one point, I almost felt as though everything actually needed to go!
It wasn’t long before I stopped focusing on tangible possessions and started to focus on relationships. Suddenly, I had the urge to sever connections with people that were no longer ‘sparking joy’ in my life.
If we hadn’t spoken for years before…
…we don’t need each other anymore.
I knew that if this ever changed, we could always reach out to each other again. Our globalised world makes it far too easy to connect with one another - and perhaps that was why I felt like I needed to minimise my relationships in the first place. It’s not as though I blocked these people from ever contacting me again - I simply deleted our conversations (decluttered) and moved on.
They can always contact me again, and I can always get back in touch.
I barely used social media as it is, and primarily only used messenger apps like Facebook Messenger to communicate with people I used to regularly connect with on other social networks. This raised an important question:
Was it technology I had become to feel so much resentment for?
For a long time I had felt discontent with social media, but when I finally bit the bullet and deleted my accounts, I felt a strong sense of peace, repeating the same feeling I felt from discarding tangible objects. The subsequent reduction of digital advertising clutter I would no longer see as well as a stronger connection to the real world revived an aura of stillness and intentionality which vastly improved the quality of my offline life, particularly as an introvert.
I could connect better with myself. However, I didn’t realise there may be unintentional consequences.
First and foremost, I disagree with almost everything social media stands for; advertising sucks and social media influencers are mostly fake. I had been so focused on removing possessions, digital clutter and old relationships that I hadn’t realised what would happen to my other relationships.
When I removed myself from social media entirely, I didn't realise the impact this albeit simple change would have on the most intimate connections I had with the people I cared about most. I no longer knew what was happening in their lives.
When I stopped being invited to events through the methods my friends usually invited me previously, I realised that I can’t change the way they choose to socialise. I stopped seeing what my friends were up to, which perpetuated a feeling of disconnection from what I considered were my most important relationships. Having said that, some relationships I thought were more important than they actually were, faded away entirely.
How can I strike the perfect balance between living an intentional life with less, when my most intimate relationships no longer function this way? Is there a way?
Have I been crafting a life as a digital minimalist, whilst sacrificing my social life?
I believe that this is a paradox, and that it's important to live a life in balance. As minimalists we thrive on less, but when it comes to the connections we have to others, it's more important to consider what living with less may actually mean for them too.
Now, I need to find the right balance that works for me as much as it does for those I care about most. Because in the end, isn’t that what matters?