The basic premise of minimalism is that you strip away the excess to reveal your true self. It can be unsettling, for sure. Some minimalists pose that the fear of seeing what’s underneath all the layers of stuff is a major reason why many people say they “could never” be a minimalist. We’ve been raised in a busy world, full of constant stimulus, and when those stimuli are removed—when you’re standing in pure silence, for example, or in a large empty room—you feel not only awkward but vulnerable and edgy. With nothing to distract from yourself, you feel entirely on display.
Minimal living has that effect on some people. When we pare down to the essentials, our true self shows through, and it’s difficult to avoid things we might not want to see in ourselves when there’s no distraction. But that’s precisely why it’s so important. We can think of minimalism as a form of self-actualization. Every time you discard something, or choose not to buy something, or consider why you do something, you’re learning about yourself. You’re refining yourself. You’re zeroing in on what your values are, what’s important to you, and what you should be doing with the time you’ve been given.
It’s hard to learn those things when there’s so much stuff around us.
When we surround ourselves with belongings, we’re throwing up a wall against the world. We’re saying, I don’t know myself, and I don’t want to. We’re hiding behind the armor of keeping up with the Joneses, masking our existential wonder behind tiny knickknacks and dozens of outfits. We’re busying ourselves shopping for, cleaning, maintaining, sorting, and organizing things, instead of facing ourselves and interacting honestly with the world around us.
So today, I challenge you to challenge yourself. Pick up ten things you own, and ask, “What does this tell me about myself?” Do you always like what the item says about you? Do you feel like it’s judging you, or that it acknowledges a part of yourself you’re unwilling to show to other people? Does it make you feel powerful? Does it make you feel guilty because you couldn’t really afford it or haven’t used it? Does it remind you of a goal you’re working hard to achieve? If it’s not helping you be your best, it’s not worth it. Face yourself. Get rid of the distractions. Reveal your true, wonderful, peaceful self.