Tell me if you relate to any of these situations.
It’s a Tuesday evening and after a long work day you want to relax and watch a cool movie. You go on Netflix and start to browse the content, but nothing seems to catch your attention. You search and search, and after a while its been so long you feel like going to sleep instead.
You get the chance to visit Rome for a few days. You've got your plan with all the things you want to see. You start by visiting Fontana di Trevi, then Altare della Patria, Piazza Navona, Piazza San Pietro, the Vatican Museums, the Pantheon, the Colosseo and many more places. At the end of the weekend, you are exhausted. You saw a lot of things but you tired yourself out so much that you didn’t even enjoy half of them.
Some old friends call you asking to go out for drinks. You don't really feel like going: the last time you saw them it wasn't that fun, you don't have much in common anymore. “Maybe this time is different”, you tell yourself. You decide to go. The evening goes exactly like you suspected, you crack a few jokes, do some small talk, and in your mind you start to come up with excuses to go home. "Sorry I'm really tired, tomorrow I have to work."
If you relate to any of these situations, you might want to learn about the philosophy of minimalism.
Many people think of minimalism as getting rid of all your coloured clothes and wearing black for the rest of your life. But minimalism is a much broader philosophy that can be applied to many aspects of life. This is how professor and author Cal Newport describes it:
"Minimalism is an ancient idea that can apply to lots of different things. The basic idea behind minimalism is that, in many cases, it's better to focus most of your energy on a small number of things that give you a large amount of value, as opposed to the alternative, Maximalism, which is trying to spread your energy over everything you can find, that might give you some value."
I believe Minimalism is particularly appealing today because our lives are getting more chaotic: there is so much content we want to consume, so many places we want to visit, so many people we want to meet. It can be overwhelming. In this sense, minimalism is an antidote to chaos. It is a way to preserve and optimize your energy by spending it on the few, selected things that will give you a lot of value, and happily miss out on everything else.
So how does that work in practice?
To try explain how minimalism works, let’s go through the examples I mentioned above.
A maximalist approach is to open Netflix and passively trying to find something nice. Most of the time, that it doesn't go well. A minimalist approach on the other hand, would be to research what to see in advance. Maybe from an indie movie blog, or websites like TasteDive where you can search for movies similar to the ones you already liked. This way, you are more likely to watch something you enjoy and happily miss out on everything else.
While planning a trip to Rome, a maximalist tries to squeeze in every tourist attraction hoping that he will like at least some of them. A minimalist, on the other hand, would carefully choose a few, selected activities that he or she knows already will be deeply enjoyable, and happily miss out on everything else. For example, if you like sports and being active you could do soft rafting on the river and experience the city from a different perspective. If you enjoy learning or cooking, you could spend half a day doing a workshop on how to make fresh homemade pasta. Even if you miss out on other things, you will still have a much better experience.
When it comes to relationships, a maximalist approach is to keep many friendships open, regardless of how much value they bring into your life. A maximalist says always yes when he is invited to go out, hoping that he's gonna have a good time. A minimalist approach on the other hand, is to identify the few friends who you really resonate with, the ones that truly make you feel connected. Then you would maximize the time you spend with them, and let go of all the other shallow relationships that tend to deplete your energy.
As you can see, minimalism is a philosophy that you can apply to various aspects of your life. From entertainment, to travelling, relationships, clothing, social media and more. Ultimately, minimalism is about living with intention and spending your focus, time and energy wisely, which always leads to a better quality of life.