5 Lessons on “Enough” Learned from Minimalism
At the very core of minimalism is the idea of embracing “enough”: figuring out what is truly important and useful, and letting go of the rest. We often think about this in terms of the things we own, but actually it’s more than that. Minimalism is not just about having enough. It’s just as much about being enough.
Being enough means finding contentment and acceptance with our lives the way they are right now, in the present moment. That’s not to say we don’t want things to be different, nor is it dismissive of the fact that change can be good and worthwhile; it’s more about letting go of expectations.
It’s about finding happiness in the present, rather than pinning it on the future (I’ll be happier when x). It all comes down to enjoying the journey rather than focusing solely on the outcome – which may or may not happen as we’d like it to.
That’s not to say it’s easy! We’re hardwired to dream and scheme and plan, wish things were different, imagine what the end result will look like before we’ve actually done the work, and compare ourselves to others.
Unlearning those habits is a big task. Being aware is a much easier first step.
Here are 5 lessons that minimalism has taught me about “enough”.
1. “I have enough. I do enough. I am enough.”
There is so much that needs changing in the world, and of course I want to do as much as I can to help make it happen… but I can only do so much. I used to lament about how I should be doing more, but I’ve realised that this made me stressed and ultimately more unproductive – I was almost frozen with fear and doubt.
I can’t do everything, but I can do something… and that is a whole lot better than nothing. That is a great place to start.
Whatever I do, I am content that at this moment, it is enough. When I was worked up about not being able to do everything, even one extra thing seemed like a huge burden. I’ve noticed that when I feel more relaxed that what I do is enough, I start to notice these things as opportunities to do just a little bit more.
2. Comparisonitis is a waste of energy.
I love using social media as a way of spreading my message, and sharing the messages of others. But I’m also aware that it can be a slippery slope towards getting comparisonitis… which is where we start to think we aren’t enough. We start to feel bad, and think about what we can do or buy to make ourselves better, rather than accepting that we are the way we are.
Remember, the images and stories we share on social media are (usually) a curated snapshot of the best or most interesting things in our lives. When all these images are put together, the feeds we see can be overwhelming. Being exposed to a constant stream of how much fun everyone else is having (which isn’t so much the reality as the perception) can negatively impact our feeling of self-worth.
I try to follow only people I find inspiring, who keep things (mostly) positive and have a practical focus. I keep the aspirational lifestyle stuff to a minimum. I also avoid checking social media when I’m feeling grumpy or stressed. It helps keep comparisonitis to a minimum.
3. You don’t need likes, follows or shares to be complete.
It’s great when other people like and comment on our feeds – it’s confirmation that we’ve touched someone else with our thoughts or images. Who doesn’t enjoy those shared connections? But chasing approval shouldn’t be the focus or the why. There’s enjoyment and satisfaction to be found, regardless of the approval of others, in the process of writing, creating and sharing.
Personal satisfaction keeps us going when the things we share maybe don’t have the responses we’d like. Worrying about winning the approval of people you don’t even know is a distraction.
Appreciate the likes and comments and shared connections that you do have, and be thankful for them, because behind the likes and emojis are real people who genuinely care about what you say.
4. Do what feels right.
This is as much about gut instinct and intuition as it is about figuring things out on a completely practical level. Just because someone else does things a different way, that doesn’t mean that’s what is best for you. For example, I’ve read articles that have told me that the ideal blog post is 500 – 700 words. I don’t think I’ve ever managed to squeeze what I want to say in so few words! And guess what – people still read what I write!
For me, that was less than enough. I am comfortable with a little more. Another example: I cannot fit my entire possessions in a suitcase, and I have more than 100 things. But I don’t feel that I am tripping over things I don’t need, so I am not chasing less. I am happy knowing that for me, this is enough. It is not a competition.
5. Don’t let feelings of less than enough hold you back.
Our own journeys and our own stories are just as important as anybody else’s. When I first started contemplating blogging in 2012, I nearly didn’t start because I saw Beth Terry’s blog and thought: well, she’s already covered everything so well, what more do I have to offer?
Later (once I’d started blogging, but still in the early days) I began embracing minimalism, and I wasn’t sure whether I should write about that because people like Joshua Becker already do an amazing job.
But then I wondered: maybe there’s a place for me, too?
Maybe I don’t know everything about living plastic-free, and maybe I have too much stuff to be a minimalist, but I still have something to add to the conversation. It’s not about being the best.
If I’d worried about not being the best, I’d never have started, and I’d have missed out on so many great experiences, lessons and connections.
Minimalism is about far more than simply getting rid of a bunch of stuff: it’s a whole new way of thinking. I’m not perfect at any of these, and I still slip up, but being more aware of finding “enough” within myself has made me more positive, boosted my productivity and increased my happiness.
I never realized when I first decided that I had too many possessions that the journey I was about to embark on would be so rewarding, and have such an impact on my life. But it has, and I’m grateful.
Now I’d love to hear from you! What are your thoughts on the idea of being “enough”? Do you associate minimalism with the idea of being enough, or do you focus on the idea of having enough? Do you focus on another idea entirely? Where do you sit on the positivity-and-acceptance-of-yourself scale? Do you focus on the successes you’ve had, and the satisfaction that you get from just doing? Do you get bogged down with comparing yourself to others, or wishing things were different? How do you deal with the knowledge that there’s always more to be done? Have you any experience of using mindfulness techniques, and have they helped in your journey? I really want to hear your thoughts so please leave me a comment below!
I don’t usually make new year’s resolutions, probably for the reasons you mentioned. My aim is to be content and I don’t want to start the new year with a long list of promises to myself or aspirations that will just end up bogging me down and making me feel bad as the months slip by. But this year, I made a resolution to keep it simple. We have been living in our first home for 2 years and we were at that point where we could keep going, buying, collecting, improving, upgrading…. or we could just stop. I made the resolution to just stop. Stop looking for the next big thing. Stop looking at how our neighbours and our friends were doing it. Stop and enjoy.
I can’t say that it’s been easy and I have to check myself all the time. What is interesting, like you identified, is how it filters into other parts of your life. Often it’s even harder to control the compulsions in the other parts of your life… but I’m trying every day.
I’m totally with you on the “no New Years Resolutions” front Kerry! For the last few years I’ve set an intention for the year – I guess a “theme” that I want to focus on over the 12 months. I think you choosing “simplicity” is the same principle! Not something that you can do or tick off as such, but a guiding force for the coming months.
I totally agree with you about it not being easy! There’s this great theory of change that I really like… when we start off, before we’ve actually made any changes, we are “unconsciously incompetent”. Which basically means, we’re no good at it and we don’t even realise. Then we begin to change and we suddenly become aware that we’re really not that good at it at all – we become consciously incompetent! (And that’s the bit that brings on all our doubts and feelings of struggle and temptation to quit). Then as we battle through (and it can feel like a battle at the start!) we begin to become “consciously competent” – meaning we’re better, but we still have to try hard, and to remember, and all of that. Then (finally!) we get to the point where we’re “unconsciously competent” – meaning we just “do” the new habit without even thinking about it! I find this comforting when I’m trying to make changes – knowing that it will get easier. Just remember, habits are like muscles – the more we try and work at them the better we get!
Good luck with the simplifying Kerry – I’ve found it so rewarding and I’m sure you will too : )
Thanks for this article…I definitely find myself guilty of thinking ‘everyone else is already doing x,y,z better than me, so there’s no point’ but you’re right, there’s always space for another point of view. I’ll try to keep this article in mind next time I am feeling like that :)
My pleasure : ) Think of cookery cooks – most people have multiple cookery books, sometimes even with the same theme. It’s not like one person wrote a book on Italian cookery and everyone else thought – oh well, that’s that done! We love to read different books on the same topic because we still get new ideas and we love other people’s point of view! So yes, your own story and insight is just as important and relevant as everybody else’s!
Perfect timing for me to have found your blog & journey towards minimalism. Recently retired we are slowly going through closets, drawers, bookcases & filing cabinets to deal with a lifetime of TOO MUCH STUFF. We have boxes for give away, recycling & garage sale. Not sure we’ve made a dent yet but slowly and mindfully we are releasing things until we arrive at our own “enough.”
Thanks and yes, it does sound like good timing Karen! Retiring is a great time to be letting go of all that stuff from the past – freeing you up for new adventures! Good luck – as whilst it does take more time than you think (and you’d probably like it to) I find the experience makes you determined not to accumulate so much in the future!
So glad you started blogging. Love your words. It inspires me in my plastic-free, zero-waste, minimalism/search for the Enough journey. So glad to have found you!
Thanks Carolina – that makes my day! [beams] Thank you for taking the time to comment – it’s lovely to “meet” you too : )
Unitil I read your post I hadn’t even thought of minimalism in terms of ‘being enough’, just ‘having enough’, so this has given food for thought. When the little devil of perfectionism is added to the general feeling of others having accomplished more or got further on their journey, it’s quite difficult to accept that you have your place. Our tendency to categorize ourselves and our lives results in self-doubting questions like can I call myself a vegetarian if I have fish once a month?; am I a sustainable traveller if I occasionally fly?; can I claim to be a minimalist if I haven’t removed all my excess items from my home? As if being something 100% with no flaws was the only acceptable goal!
What you said about blogging sounded so familiar too. My friends encouraged me to start a blog but for a long time I resisted: there are already lots of talented bloggers there giving great tips and advice, and ‘real travellers’ going around the world or volunteering in Asia – my own ad hoc city break musings didn’t sound particularly exciting in comparison. I didn’t even know what my style would be. But to improve as a writer you have to write, and right from the start I enjoyed connecting and interacting with other bloggers. I try to show my values in my posts and maybe one day I’ll have a chance to travel across Europe in a campervan or something similar. My current writing exercise can be an introduction to that! :-D
Oh, I love your comment and your thoughts / observations Min! Those questions you put forward, I think we’ve all asked ourselves something along those lines at some stage, and you’re right – its’ not a case of 100% perfect or fail. We’ve just got to keep trying and doing the best we can, and work on making small improvements if we think that’s necessary, we want to do so and we enjoy the journey.
I read an article today about blogging, and it said that until you’ve found your voice and your style, don’t write a word. I thought that was crazy! How on earth can you find your voice and your style if you don’t write?! Thar’s exactly why you should blog, in my opinion! To find your voice! I wrote this blog for a whole 12 months without having my name or photo or telling anyone who I was because I was shy, and finding my voice – and now I can see that if I’d have had the courage sooner, I’d have made so many more great connections. Because it is really hard to connect with someone if you don’t know their name or what they look like!
So yes, blog away! I find the conversations and the comments I receive inspire me to write more, and prompt me to research certain things further, and even look at things a different way. It’s so enriching. Plus I’ve read so many great blog posts that I’m sure if the writers had followed the advice about “finding their voice first” would never have been written. We want to hear about your ad-hoc city breaks! ; )
I recently moved across the country, and had to go through everything I owned and decide what came with me, what went in to storage (and was it worth storing), what I could rehome and what went to the rubbish bin. It was exhausting – particularly as I tried to rehome everything or recycle that I could. Researching whether things could be recycled or not was so time consuming as well as waiting around for people to collect things I was giving away. But I managed to bring only 10 boxes.
I feel your pain Shelby – trying to rehome stuff is harder than deciding to get rid of it in the first place, sometimes! 10 boxes sounds very compact – I wonder how many you have in storage?! I only ask because when I moved to Perth from the UK I left stuff in storage at my parent’s house. Every time I went back there I had to “sort out my stuff” and decide what I wanted to bring back that time. It took up valuable holiday time and every time I opened a box I was faced with stuff I genuinely had forgotten I had, and then had to go through all the emotions of getting rid of it again. In the end (trip 3) I just donated the whole lot. I should have done that the first time! I’m interested to hear how your storage experience goes… ; )
I really needed to read this today! Lately, I feel my minimalism practices have slipped, due to my need to shop frugally, as well as find new foods to meet the needs of a medically necessary diet. I’m very far from creating a single mason jar of trash every year, and you are right about the dangers of comparisonitis. My current path is a little more littered than many of the ZW bloggers I follow, and someday I hope to get a little closer to their paths. But, for today, I can be inspired and use the ZW ideas that fit into my life right now.
Exactly, Linda! Change can be hard, and it takes time – and beating ourselves up about not being as good as we’d like (based on what everybody else is doing) is definitely not going to help! Think about how far you’ve come, not how far you’ve got to go – it is far more motivating! Yes, do what you can today. Perfectly said! : )
There’s an old saying in Chinese that goes along the line of “the one who knows enough is wealthy.” I repeat this little phrase to myself frequently since learning it as a child and it continues to remind me how blessed I truly am.
When you know enough, you glow from within contentment.
It is knowing that what’s good enough is enough. It isn’t having no goals, expectations, aspirations or dreams. It isn’t being complacent or lazy. It is being wise enough to know what is enough and what is seeking perfection. The wallet I’m using is good enough; I don’t need a newer one with more compartments. The condition of my hair is good enough; I don’t need to do extra things to make it look shinier or bouncier. Examples abound in our lives.
I particularly love your #5 because I’ve been held back by this fear for far too long. As a student, I was often surprised by how others felt so at ease at offering answers or opinions that I thought were rather plain, obvious and trite. I thought I had to come up with the smartest, most original things to say to make my classmates’ and teachers’ time worthwhile. But the truth is, oftentimes people just want to hear your regular thoughts and experiences as another fellow human being. Not some superwoman who knows and does the best of everything in all situations. You can’t relate to a person like that. Now, I know that my “answers” and “opinions” are good enough to be shared.
It’s very comforting to read and learn more about how others embrace “enough-ism”. Thank you for this post, Lindsay. I enjoyed it very much. :)
Thank you so much for your comment Natalie! I loved all of your wisdom. (And yes, I did see it as wisdom – glad to hear you are happy sharing your opinions!) I particularly love your word “enough-ism” – I think that’s a new favourite word for me. Maybe I’m not chasing minimalism at all, I’m chasing “enough-ism”. I do feel myself thinking about the things I own, and saying “maybe if I replaced this with that” or “when this is life expired, the next one should be…” and then I stop myself, and wonder why I’m even wasting time thinking about stuff like that. I’m glad it’s just mental chatter rather than actual actions that I take, but I would rather it was quieter – or silent!
Yes, I completely agree – I love hearing regular thoughts! It’s so interesting how different people have different understandings or perceptions of the same thing, or see it in a completely different context. It makes for a much richer conversation.
Thanks for taking the time to comment Natalie, and I’m glad you enjoyed it : )
Thank you so much for sharing these inspiring thoughts with us. I already knew all these things -more or less- but I’m only human and I tend to forget them. So thanks for reminding me my life isn’t less worthy than the others’! :)
My pleasure Francesca! I agree – we often know these things deep down but sometimes we need reminders ; )
Thank you for this. Your article touched me and is extremely timely. My husband and I recently took a giant leap into our chosen life and in doing so have had to deal with criticism and skepticism from a lot of people. But we’re finally living the simple life we want, being true to ourselves, and working towards our dreams of travel and exploration. We know moving into an Airstream isn’t for everyone but we want to share our journey so that perhaps we can inspire people, like we were inspired, by people like you. You article has bolstered my lagging spirits. Thank you.
Cool, Courtney! (I checked out your blog.) My family and I have been living Near-O Waste, and have become pretty minimal (inspired by Lindsay!), as of 2015. Although our house is already pretty small, we sometimes fantasize about living in a “tiny house” (and we LOVE road trips so I must say an airstream is pretty appealing!) Enjoy!!!
I agree completely about the Tiny House fantasy Andrea! We went camping this weekend and I immediately decided that we needed to buy a camper and set off on a two-year road trip. Sadly, it won’t be happening any time soon. I’ll have to read about the adventures of Courtney and others instead!
Oh Courtney, what a touching comment – thank you. I can imagine that other people would have been very forthcoming in their opinions, and I suspect that it says more about them than it does about anything else. If you are taking steps to live the life you’ve dreamed about, and they are busy making excuses as to why they can’t do that themselves, then what you are doing is bringing out their own securities which they then project onto you. (I have no idea if that is the case of course, but I would guess that at least some people would see it that way.)
Moving into an Airstream isn’t for everyone, but neither is working 9-5, coming home to watch TV and eat microwave dinners, going shopping every weekend, and dreaming about buying more stuff. I know which one I think sounds the most fun, life enriching and rewarding ; )
I’m 66, retired, and have lived in a caravan travelling around Australia for the past 2 + years. We sold our property and most of our stuff , and kept only a minimal amount of ‘stuff’ in storage – what a freeing (but difficult) experience it was to divest ourselves of a lifetime of hoarding and ‘just in case we need it’ mentality! I have slowly and sometimes painfully come to learn what is ‘enough’ – and that I am enough just the way I am! Still learning, still get tempted by the glossy magazines which tell me I won’t be enough until I’ve got the latest glittery gizmo or the fancy whatsit! Your article sang to me, inspired me to keep treading my own path, to ignore the critics, especially the one in my own head. Thank you!
Wow, I bet the past 2 years have been totally amazing and worth all the struggle – and I can only imagine how much of a struggle it would have been. How long did it take between making the decision, and getting rid of everything? Or was it always something you planned to do in the back of your mind?
I don’t read those glossy magazines now – I find them too overwhelming with all that full-on marketing! The last time I read a magazine was in the hairdresser – it was on the counter in front of me and I think it was called Shop Til You Drop or something similar – I was traumatized! Because we don’t have a TV and I use ad-blockers on the computer, I rarely see adverts now and when I do I find it quite stressful!
Haha, I loved your point about the critic in our head… sometimes that can be the biggest critic of all!
Thanks for all your lovely comments about my post! : )
I like your analogy with the cookbooks Lindsay. Certainly I’m glad you write. When I found your blog I thought ‘finally, someone who thinks like me!’
I think i do OK on being enough…. Until other people are involved. I rarely seem to be enough for others. For the most part I charge on my own path anyway but it does bite and it’s got me particularly down at the moment.
Thanks Rachel. It’s so good to connect with people who think and feel the same way : ) Sorry to hear you’re not feeling too happy at the moment – I’ll send you an email x
Oh wow, loved this article and you really touched my heart and took away the self-doubt I am currently dealing with. Am I good enough at what I am doing if I do not get any feedback? Yes, and it is really about quitting the chase of approval and retrieve this quality in ourselves first. I have screensaver that says All You Need is Less – and so it is. Instead of accumulating and stocking up on things outside us, we need to tap more into the infinity and boundlessness of ourselves.
Thank you Maike – glad to help : ) I loved the way you worded your comment. Seeking approval within ourselves makes us far more happy and content than chasing the approval of others, definitely.
Great lessons Lindsay, enjoyed your post!
Thank you Oskar, appreciated!
Great blog and articles, Lindsay, keep it up! I’ve only just found you as I wanted to find a zero waste blogger in W.A. (I’m in Busselton if you know of any even closer for tips? Not had much success yet with taking jars as a lot is already in plastic, like butchers)
I came across Joshua Becker’s blog a couple of years ago and used his idea of removing the same items as the year (2015 items in 2015 for example) as a fun idea. I am already known as a minimalist so I was still surprised to remove 1470 items last year!
I’m so inspired by your blog on minimal needs, as well as the comments from your readers. I love living simple, connected to nature and a supportive community. Sadly my community is going more the mainstream way, and I sometimes feel somewhat fragile. To read your blog and comments, makes me feel whole again. Thanks
Whilst I try to live a minimalist life I really struggle to find a balance with the expectations of others around me who insist on wanting, having, doing and being more. I just wish we could all be content and happy with our lives.