The Middle Way of Simplicity (aka The Minimalist Experiment)

This is a guest post from Robert Wall of Untitled Minimalism.

When I was a kid, I took swimming lessons. And when you’re a kid taking swimming lessons, you start in the shallow end of the pool.

Being able to swim like the adults seems impossible, since none of the parts of your body seem to be doing what they’re supposed to. Your arms aren’t moving right, your legs can’t kick properly to support you, and you always feel like you’re about to drown. The idea that you might ever be a great swimmer sounds ludicrous – you can’t even keep from drowning on your own!

Your parents then present you with a gift – “floaties”.

These are those little things that go around your arms and keep you above water. You may not be a master swimmer yet, but the “floaties” help to compensate for your lack of existing ability, and you learn basic swimming techniques.

You also learn by holding onto the edge of the pool. Even if you can’t touch the bottom, you can keep yourself above water by holding onto the edge, moving your legs a bit, and learning to breathe properly. With the help of a kickboard, you might even venture out into the middle of the pool.

After a bunch of lessons you take the floaties off, and you let go of the side. The idea of needing the floaties seems silly to you. They just get in the way! You’re still not as good as the adults, but you’re better than you were.

Minimalism and simple living is a lot like swimming.

You see other people living with less stuff and less money, but you just can’t see how that would work for you. There are too many “what if” questions going through your head. It just doesn’t seem possible for you.

Nevertheless, somebody convinces you to do something like “Project 333” or “The 100 Thing Challenge” …

i.e. a “minimalist experiment”. 

This is the minimalist equivalent of “floaties”. You’re given a bit of a challenge, but with enough of a safety net that you’re not going to be irreparably harmed if something goes wrong. With the aid of the experiment, you realize that minimalism isn’t as scary as you thought it was.

You didn’t aim for the extremes; you aimed for the middle way. But now that you’ve arrived at your goal, you’ll see something fascinating:

The middle has moved!

Having gotten used to living with less clothes or less overall stuff, you begin to realize what’s working (and what’s not working!) for you. You’re still not sure you’d want to be like one of those twentysomething bloggers who’s travelling across Asia living out of a backpack, but you’ve made progress.

You look just a little further down the path, and begin to wonder if you might be able to make a little dent in some of your consumer debt. Emboldened by your previous success, you decide to start skipping your morning latte and paying an extra monthly credit card payment.

And the middle moves.

A year or so later, you realize you’ve got your credit cards paid off. And rather than trading in your leased car toward yet another new car (and all those new car payments!), you pay cash for a seven-year-old used car in good condition.

And the middle moves.

If you’d tried to start out by junking most of your stuff, paying off all your cards, and getting rid of your nice shiny new car all at once, there’s a good chance you’d have failed. It would’ve been too much, too soon!

But if you do it a bit here, a bit there, spaced out over time, you’d be amazed at how much you can accomplish – and given time, you can go as far as you like.

Today, don’t focus on the enormity of the task ahead of you.

Focus on something small and concrete that you can do.

De-clutter a desk. Skip a latte and make a $5 payment on a credit card instead. Make a small change, even if it seems insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

Take a step into the water….and watch how the middle moves.

This awesome guest post is from Robert Wall of Untitled Minimalism – a blog dedicated to conscious living through the application of minimalism, simplicity, and good old-fashioned frugality. If you liked this post, head over to Untitled Minimalism and check it out!


* Photo Credit: by Dave_S.

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7 Responses to The Middle Way of Simplicity (aka The Minimalist Experiment)

  1. Robert Wall August 2, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

    Thanks for the opportunity to guest post, Mohamed!

    • Mohamed Tohami August 2, 2012 at 3:54 pm #

      You’re most welcome! That’s one of the best guest posts I’ve ever received. I love it.

  2. Kimberley August 4, 2012 at 11:40 pm #

    Excellent post! It is all about baby steps. I believe that it was a chinese philosopher that wrote, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. It is so much more rewarding and less overwhelming to approach any task/project in this manner. I recently told a friend (who wanted some tips on decluttering her closet) to do it in baby steps. Start with the shoes and work till it is completed. Then move on to your handbags. Work on that till it is completed. Etc. Etc. I told her it may take her a month, but working on it a bit at a time will achieve better and longer lasting results than saying I am going to clean my closet Saturday. I have found that when you do things in smaller steps/increments, the process is self motivating.

    • Mohamed Tohami August 5, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

      The interesting thing is that the baby steps turn into giant steps as you build up the momentum.

  3. Willow August 6, 2012 at 10:36 pm #

    Yes, Robert, the ‘middle moves’ and you become more comfortable with the steps you’ve taken. Somewhere along the way, you’ll find your balance and say, “This is right for me.” Of course, I’ve found that even the balanced place will become another jumping off point. Great post!

    • Mohamed Tohami August 6, 2012 at 11:09 pm #

      I totally agree Willow. When your simple living muscles grow, you will be able to take more steps towards a simpler life.

    • Robert Wall August 7, 2012 at 1:25 am #

      Agreed – each person has to find that point for themselves. Of course there are plenty of people that’ll never find it, because they’re not looking. The real key is the first step!

      Thanks for reading Willow!

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