In the world of minimalism, I discovered that there are varying degrees of the term.  One that drew my eye was the concept of essentialism.

Essentialism can be described as having the bare minimum – the essentials – to function while meeting basic needs.  When I think of essentials, categories like food, shelter, clothing, and safety come to mind.  While some minimalists – let’s call them essentialists – aspire and succeed at living in such a way, I don’t think I could ever get to that point.  But… just like minimalism, essentialism should not be strictly defined either.  It is likely we have our own ideas of what items/priorities are essential to our lives.

After reading a few blogs and plugging “minimalism” into my search engine to determine a few different categories, I concluded that I probably am an essentialist, in my own way.  (Some others included: “enoughist,” “eco-minimalist,” “traveling minimalist,” and “soul-minimalist”.)  I brainstormed a list of what is important and essential in my life to get a better picture of what the term means to me.  In other words, what are my essentials?

Essentials:

  1. Food:  I try to maintain a balanced, healthy diet that corresponds with my activity level (distance runner).
  2. Clothing:  I work in an office environment, so a semi-professional style of clothing makes up my capsule wardrobe.  (see: Capturing Time: Capsule Wardrobe) However, one activity that gives me joy is camping/backpacking, so I have a collection of clothing that doubles as day-off clothes/camping wear.  Outdoor clothing is essential to my activities, so as long as I keep simplicity in mind, I can properly organize and maintain the items.
  3. Shelter:  I currently share a home with family members, so my personal space (a room, garage space for my car, and a bathroom) is taken care of.  The kitchen and living room are what I consider “shared space,” with is not essential, but comes with the situation.
  4. Safety: My phone and emergency kit equipment are two things that fall under essentials too.  These items provide me 2 different lifelines – whether I am traveling, at work, or at home.
  5.  Transportation: Different places around the world come with unique modes of transportation.  For me, a car is the best I can do, as there is no transit system and work is a bit too far to bike (not to mention a busy commuter route).  I learned to balance this essential with carpooling on the weekends and finding alternative items to save me trips to the store.
  6. Health:  Maintaining good health is an essential for me, so hygiene purchases and my exercise clothes are essentials.  So are items like my foam roller, yoga mat, and free weights.
  7. Happiness:  Items that make me happy are often found in gifts or simple entertainment like a book, a deck of cards, or a supply of bedtime tea.  I carefully assess what makes me happy to find ways to multi-purpose my belongings.  For example, soap is part of my health essential, so a gift of fancy shower gel fills the need and makes me happy.  A scarf that a family member bought me for the holidays becomes a part of my winter wardrobe and I will remember their thoughtfulness for gifting me the item. (Also check out my post on: Consumables )

Moving Forward:

Defining a list of essentials not only helped me to assess my belongings, it helped me simplify the way I think through my goals.  By putting limits on my physical “stuff,” I make space to budget for traveling, exploring a new trail, and helping others.  I am able to set aside money that used to go toward the “extras” and reach a goal of financial stability. I am not as eager to keep up with the race to consume so much, because I am not entangled in the lie that more stuff equals happiness.  I am content because my needs are met.

Essentialism is just one way you can define your direction as a minimalist.  I have learned to define my needs and wants, knowing I can always switch or combine directions, based on evaluating my life.  I found that it helped shape my goals when I started purging my clutter.  It has also been a good regulator as I discover new ideas to test while remaining true to myself. Try it out as a place to start. Pass it on!

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2 thoughts on “Let’s Discuss: Essentialism

  1. Thanks for a great post. Coming from an major East coast city and living the life of ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’, living for the last 14 years in a remote wilderness cabin taught me how one could indeed be content living as a minimalists. Having to live without communication, running water or electricity tends to shape you into one who understands what is truly essential.

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  2. Great points here! I’m hearing more and more about essentialism now than ever and it is definitely a great way to define your direction and help keep focused!
    Follow my NEW blog gypsyminimalist.com or follow me on Instagram @gypsyminimalist! Thanks 🙂 ~Sydney Kate | Gypsy Minimalist

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