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?
- Food: I try to maintain a balanced, healthy diet that corresponds with my activity level (distance runner).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 )
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!