Being a Minimalist Muslimah- living with less gives you much more.
There is a massive Minimalist movement that is growing, and before you stop reading, thinking how can you possibly get rid of most of your possessions – it is not about that.
Minimalism is so wide-ranging, from someone who lives as a traveller with all their worldly possessions in just a backpack, o someone who lives a normal, but uncluttered lifestyle. For me, being a minimalistic Muslimah is still a journey in progress, decluttering and living with things I actually need and use, and freeing up my time, so it can be used more beneficially and positively. As an Islamic concept, we should be using our time wisely and productively and reaping good deeds for our ultimate destination in the hereafter.
What is Minimalism?
According to the Minimalists Milburn and Nicodemus, minimalism is living life more fully, with less need for a lot of material possessions.
“Minimalists don’t focus on having, less, less, less….rather, we focus on making room for more: more time, more passion, more experiences, more growth, more contribution, more contentment, more freedom. Clearing the clutter from life’s path helps us make that room.”
As Marie Kondo discusses in her book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising,” by looking at every item you own and choose to keep it only if it:
- Serves as a tangible purpose
- Brings joy
Minimalism is about being intentional in everything you do, from buying belongings to eating food, entertainment, company and the way you choose to spend your time. It’s about closely looking at how do you spend your energy, your love and your life. In this fast-paced society, where we are always in a state of FOMO (Fear of missing out), we are constantly catching up with the latest news, latest blogs, latest Instagram, Tweets, Snaps or friends on Facebook. Our time is so consumed in these things, we don’t realise how fast our life is passing us by.
Minimalism is not just about having a focus on what we buy and keep, but also focusing with more clarity and purpose in our lives and how we spend our time.
How Minimalism can help our lives
We live in a consumer world, from adverts, social media, all preying on our needs and emotions to make us feel we need to buy the next thing to make us happy or the next experience. Minimalism is realising we can be happy without all these things in our lives and it is about us experiencing joy and happiness within us and not associating and always connecting it to things. It is about us enjoying the company of friends, work we do, our own company, our hobbies, our faith and the natural environment around us. It’s about us being at peace with ourselves and having time to do things we love.
In order to get to this realisation, it really helps to unclutter our surroundings, thereby uncluttering our mind from unnecessary things that fill our lives. It allows us to focus on our inner work of being, by focusing first on getting rid of the excess in our lives, to live a more intentional, purposeful and meaningful life. It allows us to rediscover life and things that bring us joy and friendships, nature and love.
Minimalism allows us to slow down and enjoy life more
It allows us to consciously take a step back and focus on adding value to our lives in a meaningful way and reducing all the frivolous things in our life and things that have no meaning or purpose, essentially things that waste our time.
How many times have we bought things we have hardly used, that get piled up and we just end up moving them from one place to another?
By having less clutter and more organisation, you have more time in your life to do things you really enjoy, such as reading, social time, fitness time, healthy cooking, spending more time with the family and children, working on your interests or passions and so on.
It also allows us time to reflect on the meaning of life, our true purpose and time for meditation (dhikr) and prayer. It allows us to clear our cluttered filled heads to focus on our bond with our Creator.
My experience of Minimalism
Living with a lot of belongings and three children, I tend to hoard a lot of things for memories and keep-sakes and things I think I may use in the future for my next idea or project. However, the more I tended to accumulate, the more time I would spend cleaning, dusting and organising. I could clean an entire day and still feel there is so much more to clean, organise and declutter.
After watching a Netflix documentary on The Minimalists, it struck a chord and I felt needed to become more minimalist, using the less is more approach. I felt I was being held back from all this unnecessary clutter in my life. Being a mother, I also tended to hoard all my children’s school work and things they did at home for memories.
My sad reality of having hoarded so many of their old school books and folders and squashing it into less and less space. Even looking at where to start, used to overwhelm me, so I procrastinated, as we usually do and busied myself with other things. Until I finally took the decision to actively start decluttering.
I had decided that is will be a journey in progress and not set a specific timescale, as I knew I would feel overwhelmed, so I started on one drawer at a time. I ensured I didn’t empty out a whole cupboard in one go, as I realised it would take so long to organise, I would lose steam and end up piling a lot back in the wardrobe, just out of sheer tiredness.
I now focus on one thing at a time, strictly one drawer at a time, or one set of clothes at a time. I try and do a little each day or a couple of times a week. At first, I found it so hard getting rid of things, but as you get used to the process it becomes easier as you see light at the end of the tunnel, and feels lighter so it motivates you to get rid of more.
I started to slowly declutter, by starting with a charity box. I keep a box on my landing and every time I find something old, like a toy, or clothes that don’t fit, place it in a bag and when it’s full, I take it to charity. It’s amazing at how quickly the box gets filled, especially with growing kids!
De-cluttering not just re-organising
I used to find myself arranging things at home and within a week they would need re-doing because I wasn’t actually getting rid of clutter. This lends to a sense of always feeling overwhelmed at the amount I had to get done each day and it cut into my family time, spending time with my children, socialising and friends. I found if I spent time in the others things in my life, my house would become a mess very quickly, I used to wonder how people kept their houses so tidy.
Over the years, I have been trying to slowly declutter and instead of just re-arranging things, trying to actually find a home for everything. If everything has a home, it is easy to put back and find when you need it.
Trying to free yourself from physical possessions is very liberating and it’s not an easy process for many people. Everyone has to work out what type of minimalism works best for them; one size doesn’t fit all. For me, it’s still very much a work in progress, but it gets easier day by day. The more clutter you get rid of, the lighter you feel, the more joy it brings and the easier it becomes to unattached yourself to things. So if you feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, just start on one drawer and take it from there.
Minimalism gets rid of attachments
Minimalism forces you to actually think about your attachments to physical things. It makes you think that one day you will leave the world without any possession and allows you focus on the things that really matter to you: our connection to our Creator, building our good deeds by helping others in the community or wider world and servings others. In reality, what we have forever is whatever we take to the hereafter, in essence, the good we have done in this world. It doesn’t mean living as a hermit, but it means making a conscious effort not to constantly chase things that will fade away, it means using what we have to help and serve others: whether it is our children; families or communities around us.
Be mindful of how you spend your time and energy
Being mindful of how we utilise our time and energy if we are constantly re-organising and cleaning as we have so many things surrounding us, most of which we never use. Isn’t it better to have what we need and use regularly, which means less washing, ironing, cleaning and putting away. This means we have more time to focus on where we actually spend our time and energy.
We don’t want to constantly spend our time and energy on trivial things but use it for something more meaningful, to make connections, to help others, to learn something new, to take up a new hobby, to learn more about our faith, to work on our own self-development, to strengthen our connection with our Lord, to enrich our children’s lives, to care for our parents, to travel. The time we have in this world is very limited, we should use it wisely.
The famous Islamic saying by Imam Shafi, “Time is like a sword: if you don’t cut it, it will cut you.”
Having more real-life experiences
How many things do we buy on the spur of the moment and realise, did I really need that? Or buy something and then the novelty wears off after a few months? Or we buy a new shirt, or cardigan and realise it doesn’t match with anything so we buy new clothes to make it match? By making a conscious decision when we are about to buy something, also helps with budgeting.
By focusing on how we spend our money and actually budgeting, we actually can use the spare money on things that interest us more, such as: travel around the world; hobbies; trips; charitable work and experiences to enrich our lives, we can even use it for investments which grow so we can work less in the future.
It’s worth taking a look at your income and expenditure and try and see where you can cut back on unnecessary things to save a little each month.
Organised house, organised mind
You will find that once you start your minimalist journey, there will come a point where you are more at peace, you have more time and you know where everything is in your house. Have you ever looked for something in three different places before you find it? Imaging the stress and time doing this, especially if you are in a rush!
Once your space is organised, your creative juices start to flow more easily and you automatically become more peaceful and less stressed and you allow blessings to come directly into your life. By making a focused effort on what you own and what you buy and how you spend your spare time, you begin to appreciate the blessings of life more and automatically become more grateful.
By being more grateful, you attract more blessings into your life, as it states in the Quran, “If you are grateful, we will surely increase you.”
How to declutter
There is no right or wrong way to declutter, but the main principle is to only take out what you intend to finish and it’s easier in smaller chunks on a regular basis.
Marie Kondo emphasises to start with one category first, for example, books and focus just on books, then work on clothes and so on. So you are focusing on the category and not the room. Others suggest start in one part, for example, your drawers. She also mentions to respect what you own and don’t squash things away, put everything where you can see it, and give each thing it’s due to space and respect. I actually find it easier to focus on one space at a time, if something doesn’t belong to that space I move it until I get to that space.
The Minimalists have outlined the concept of minimalism in their book Minimalism- Live a Meaningful Life
Wishing you every tawfiq (success) in your minimalist journey and your outward and inward journey and ultimate success in the akhira!
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