I recently heard on a podcast that minimalism is a mind game – that it’s not about getting rid of stuff as much as it is about getting rid of distractions.
I’ve never heard it phrased that way before, but it clicked. I’ve dabbled with simplicity for years. In fact, my long-time readers will remember when this blog was called “simple productivity” – and focused as much on simplifying as it was on productivity. But minimalism? I could never get behind having 100 items in my life or 30 pieces of clothing or a single pen (a single pen? I’d get the shakes from withdrawal!)
It’s a Mind Game
I’ve discovered that most things that I want to achieve have a significant mental component – a mind game. Just like productivity is more than half mental, simplifying is mental too. It’s not enough to plod through a series of tasks; it’s not enough to purge all your books or socks.
It’s about the mind shift necessary to make these things happen.
Minimalism = Less Distraction
What it boils down to is that going for minimalism is to remove distractions.
I get that. As I type right now, my desk and visual field is littered with stuff – sticky notes, spent calendar pages, empty coffee mugs, stacks of notebooks, pens, and for some reason I can’t remember, three sets of reading glasses. And then there’s the decoration – the pictures of my daughter, the lucky cat, the plot bunny, the chrysanthemum stone, the sonic screwdriver.
And I am fighting to concentrate. I am seeing things out of the corner of my eye that is making it difficult to get words on screen.
Not all of it, though. It’s the notebooks, the pens, paper, cups and the reading glasses. It’s only some of the decorations. Everything except the sonic screwdriver brings me a soothing feeling.
So what would happen if I got rid of all that stuff? Less distraction. And to a certain extent, minimalism, as I see it.
My Minimalism Isn’t Yours
One of the things that has chafed me over the years is all the articles about how to be a minimalist. It’s not about getting to someone else’s idea of how much is enough. It’s about getting to my own.
And my idea of minimalism isn’t going to fit anyone else but me.
Just as sure as someone could sit at my desk and not be distracted by the notebooks, papers and such, or would be distracted by my pictures and rocks, minimalism is different for every person.
It’s Not Just Stuff
I think one of the things that minimalists focus on too much is the “stuff”. Yes, distractions in the physical form are the most obvious. But at the same time, I believe the non-obvious ones are the most insidious.
So even though we can focus on our outward possessions, until we master the distractions of the unseen (both electronic and mental) we can’t truly be in the state the minimalists are seeking.
If minimalism is about minimizing distractions, it is as much a mental game as productivity is.
Over To You
What distractions can you do away with today?