How to change your chaos into brilliant focus in 4 steps
A lot of people are talking about Minimalism right now. It's kind of the word of the moment. I couldn't be happier to see so many people joining in, and I hope you're intrigued by the idea, too. But maybe you aren't quite sure what Minimalism is, or what the point of it is. Those questions will all be answered here, and along the way, I'll show you the Alchemy of Minimalism — how striving for it can make you more creative, happier, and reduce your stress levels.
What is Minimalism?
I define two main types of minimalism: environmental and mental.
- Environmental Minimalism: This is the “less is more” movement. It promotes living with fewer items and buying and keeping only what you truly need or love.
- Mental Minimalism: This is a rarer beast. It requires keeping the mind calm, focused, and clear of mental clutter. It’s the elimination, or, at least, minimizing, of what I call mind sinks.
Minimalism isn't about giving away all your shit, living in a bare-walled apartment, and using mason jars as both glassware and Tupperware. (I actually do that with mason jars, but you don't have to. You're allowed both glasses and Tupperware if you want.)
Instead, Minimalism is about freeing yourself from overwhelm. I always remember Biggie Smalls' "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems" when I try to explain Minimalism. There's nothing wrong with either money or things, but at a certain threshold, our things stop helping us and start hurting us. Mo' Things, Mo' Problems.
So Minimalism is choosing to let go of things that aren't helping us reach our goals, are holding us back from achieving what we truly want, or in the words of Marie Kondo, things that don't "spark joy".
How can Minimalism help you with your chaos?
By releasing your attachments to material possessions, you open your head and your heart up to enhanced creativity, reduce your stress and anxiety, eliminate time sinks during your day, and increase your mental and physical energy.
Sounds fantastic, I know.
When you make the decision to transition your life to a more minimal one, what you're really doing is choosing to create space for your real passions. You're tired of feeling blah all the time. You're tired of decision fatigue. You're tired of not having a direction. You're tired of not knowing where to start.
You're tired of being tired.
Minimalism eliminates all of that. When you practice it—whatever version you find is right for your life—you find that 24 hours stretches a lot further, coffee is because you enjoy it not because you need it, and your creativity, productivity, and happiness soar.
Minimalism seriously reduces stress and anxiety. I know—I experienced it first hand.
4 Stages of the Alchemy of Minimalism
The greatest benefit of Minimalism is what it does for your head-space, rather than what it does for your physical space. Yes, it's nice to not have clutter, but the greatest drain on your energy and creativity is from mental clutter. Reducing your environmental clutter will generate more mental energy, but you can also reduce intangible clutter. I follow an actual Alchemical process for living minimally, destroying my mind sinks and time sinks, and opening myself up to endless creativity and focus.
There are four stages to an Alchemical change, and each one makes your life better. They are:
This is the first stage of the process of changing your life from chaos to clarity and less stress. It's slow and mild, but it's not easy. At the end of this stage, you'll be a Warrior. The Blackening is akin to taking all of the ingredients of You-Right-Now, from your habits to your biases to your unconscious feelings and more, and cooking them over a hot fire until you have a uniform, black matter. A blank slate.
The second stage of the Alchemical process is about answering the question, "Who am I?" You have two opposing parts of yourself, your head and your spirit, your creative side and your rational side, and during this stage, you bring clarity to both of them.
This is the third stage of the process, and it's when our "Divine Intellect" rises from within. The dawning of our own inner "solar light". It's pretty sweet, actually. It's often called the "You will discover" stage. But to get that sweet inner light, we have to kill off the things that bring shadows. Like an apple, our old self rots away so that the seed inside can grow.
And we finally arrive at the fourth and final stage. By now, you'll be feeling amazing, almost like you can do anything. By the end of this stage, you will be able to. This stage is the phoenix finally rising from the ashes. Alchemists associated the sentence "Dissolve et coagulate" with this stage because you have dissolved something impure — your Old Self — to create something amazing — your New Self. When you finish this stage, you will have completed your Masterpiece, your Great Work — your Magnum Opus.
Within these stages are Alchemical Operations — specific tasks you can do to reach your goal. If you'd like a deeper look at the process, check out my post on Creative Inner Alchemy.
How can you get started with Minimalism?
It depends on what you want to focus on first: your head space or your physical space. I vote for starting with your physical space because it gives you something concrete and tangible. The effect is much more immediate.
Starting with your Environment
Define your passion workspace.
Everyone needs a place to work on her passion. Do you have one already? If not, then take the time to set one up. If you do have one already, then clean it! Clear the junk from your desk drawers. Donate the extra notebooks you don't need. Sell the tools you don't use. Sort and recycle the papers you planned to sort through 'some day'.
Don't half-ass this. This is where your passion happens. Treat it like the shrine it should be.
Pare down your closet.
Do you know how amazing it is to get up in the morning and have something that looks fantastic on you to wear? How about when you're still half-asleep as you're getting dressed and can't think well enough to coordinate but still manage to look super chic and fierce anyway? How do you feel about having to do laundry half as often, or maybe even less?
These are just 3 of the benefits of having a style uniform. A big way to implement Minimalism is to create a capsule wardrobe. Try taking my Developing Your Signature (Career) Style class on Skillshare.
It'll show you the process of creating your own personal style uniform so that you can reduce the excess in your closet and have only things you love to wear that all work well together.
Set a standard for things that stay.
You may be like me and have family, friends, or in-laws who just like to load you up with stuff. I'm here to tell you: It's okay not to keep it. Really it is. There's no need to feel guilty over letting something go.
I recently said goodbye to some perfumes I'd kept from my grandmother's things, and it wasn't easy. But you know what? Now someone who collects vintage perfumes has cool additions to their collection, and they're no longer sitting in a shoebox in my closet.
Sentimental stuff is hard to let go of. You may have to do it little by little—or you may prefer one quick sweep, like pulling off a band-aid. Either is fine. The only requirement is that you choose what you keep. Keep only things that meet your standard; not someone else's.
You may also like: How to let go of sentimental clutter
Starting with your Head
Prioritize your passions and chores.
If you're anything like me, your creative bucket list is a mile long. I want to get my novel published, write another novel, read all my unread books, start an Etsy shop, redecorate my apartment, set up a recording studio, run this blog, make more friends who are into Minimalism and the creative process, plan a wedding, and on and on and on.
But I have 24 hours in my day, and I need at least 8 of them for sleeping, so I have to prioritize. And so do you. Even Beyoncé does.
Sometimes, the easiest way to stay on track is just saying no to requests that would take you off track.
You're overwhelmed, but you're probably also fairly good at not letting on that you are, and people may come to you and ask for favors that you just can't commit to and still stay in a healthy mental place.
Say No. It's okay.
You don't have to apologize or feel guilty. You can offer to reconsider in the future, but you don't have to. Take this time to get yourself straight, and if you find you can take on more later, then you're free to do so... or not do so!
How do you know you're on the right track for killing your chaos?
You know those Swiffer commercials? That floor is super nasty, but with just one pass down the middle with a Swiffer, there's a sparkling path? It's just like that.
When you get started, your mind is a hot mess, just like those folks' floors, but you clear a path down the middle and then suddenly, you can see how wonderful it is to be stress-free and full of creative passion.
With each pass, more of your mind clears up, until, by the end, you're left with a sparkling, productive mind, full of ideas and with the knowledge of how to actually succeed with them.
How to get started with chaos-killing Minimalism
What's the biggest thing affecting your energy, anxiety, drive, and creativity right now? What can you do to eliminate it? I want you to start today. Don't put it off until tomorrow.
Do just one thing today to transition into a more minimal life. Just one.
Then tomorrow, do another.
If you're having trouble getting started, hitting a roadblock, or just want some feedback, leave a comment and I'll do my best to help you. I want to see you succeed with this. I know you can.