I will never be one of those people that tells you to get rid of your stuff. But today I want to talk about minimalism for writers.

Minimalism for Writers

Original photo by Jonny Caspari
I know the topic of minimalism is tired and played out here in the blogosphere. I know you’re tired of hearing about the benefits of it. I know that many of you really just associate decluttering with minimalism, even though I would argue it’s a lot more than that.

See, in my twenties, I played the game. I racked up degrees, got day jobs that I felt would validate my existence, and spent money in the good ol’ fashioned American way. But I hated my jobs. I hated feeling trapped by stuff. And I hated going shopping for clothes or books or house stuff. But I kept living in this weird cycle where that’s all I did. It’s like I thought I could make myself happy if I just kept powering through the stuff I hated because that’s what we’re supposed to do, right?

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And the whole time, I wasn’t really writing. I mean, I did a little, but I mostly didn’t have the energy for it. I hated it all. And that’s largely because I was super depressed. It’s taken me a long time to realize how unhappy I was from 2007 until round about 2017. But now that I see it, and it’s obvious that I was way too focused on things that didn’t matter.

But now, I’m living my life in a way that keeps writing at the forefront, and doesn’t make space for any of the rat race. That’s why I’ve downsized and moved into a small studio apartment. And with that, I’d like to share with you the idea behind minimalism for writers.

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Minimalism for Writers

001: Fewer chores means more time.

I’ve mentioned this I don’t know how many times all over the internet, but I really don’t care for cleaning. It’s something that is never truly finished, and it’s the least rewarding task on my to do list. And sure, it’s nice to live in a clean house, but if I don’t do the dishes for a couple of days, it doesn’t get under my skin. But if I don’t write for a couple of days, it’s terrible.

So, it was with that in mind that I decided to make the move. My new place has fewer rooms, less square footage, and less room for stuff. This means it will take less time to vacuum, less time to dust, there’s less room to hoard things, and I won’t be spending all my time picking up after myself or managing dog hair. Logistically speaking, I’ll be able to clean this place in a matter of minutes. Which means more time for writing.

002: Less clutter means more creativity.

The clutter in my home is usually a sign of some kind of mental clutter. If my mind isn’t clear, neither is my home. So by having less space for mess, and fewer things to become a part of the mess, I’m not completely clearing my head, but I’m at least making the conditions ripe for that.

And the ultimate goal right now is to have the sort of space where I can sit down and write. I have so much work planned this summer. And I plan to complete it in record time. I’ll be updating on my writing process or good writing days over on YouTube, so keep an eye out for that. And you’ll see how my space directly enables my creativity.

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003: When you can focus, projects get done.

I’m a pretty anxious person. I struggle with clearing my head and getting stuff done. Or focusing on one thing at a time. I think this is probably part of my introvert mind because I’m always internally processing things, but it generally means that I’m not present in the tasks I’m completing.

But with a smaller place and less stuff, there are fewer things to worry about. There are fewer moments for my brain to say “I should really be working on this other thing.” There are fewer moments where I’ll get distracted by something else, or add another thing to the to do list. And I hope that this will allow me to focus in on my novel. I want draft one done by September, and I think I can absolutely make that happen if I focus.

004: Less room for possessions means you spend less money.

If I had a dollar for every time I though about running to a place like Target or Dollar Tree and just picked something up, I’d have a lot of money. But I’d also be drowning in clutter, because that’s a lot of stuff to pick up. I try to be mindful of the money I spend. I try to be aware of what I’m bringing into my house, since everything I bring in has to have a space.

And if you know you don’t have space for those things, then you don’t get them. Or, if you do, you know you have to get rid of something to accommodate it. But if you don’t buy the thing, then you just save that money. And that’s the biggest piece of mind for me as a writer. One of my goals is to do more writing retreats, and I know I need to save some money up to make that happen, especially since I want to go back to the Writer’s Colony soon, and I want to attend one of Alexandra Franzen’s Hawaii retreats.

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005: Having less means the important things stick out.

It’s not uncommon for me to fall into a routine. I’ll come home from work, make a meal, and sit on the couch. When I’m sitting there, I’ll find myself watching something on YouTube or Netflix. I may have intended to read. Or maybe the plan was to do some watercoloring. Whatever it was, I wind up ignoring it because I just get absorbed in whatever is shutting down my brain.

But when you’re surrounded by less things, the important things stick out. So, I’ll notice those poetry books first thing. I’ll see my watercolor stuff sitting on the desk. I’ll be surrounded by the things that are important to me, and I won’t just fall into old bad habits of how I spend my time.

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How Do You Feel About Minimalism?

Do you like to get rid of things to make more time and space for your creative projects? How do you feel about decluttering? Do you cringe at the word minimalism? Are you going to leave me snarky comments about how minimalism is over and that trend should just die?

4 Responses

  1. Great points, Marisa. It bugs me when I miss a day writing too. Unfortunately, summer means outdoor projects for me. I’m trying to schedule my outdoor work early in the morning and write in the hot part of the day so I can soak up the cool AC.

    Writing is a rhythm activity. Once you get into the rhythm the creativity flows more smoothly and generally the output is higher quality.

    Wishing you the best,
    Russell

    1. You’re absolutely right about writing being a rhythm activity! I love that phrase.

      And stay cool with those outdoor projects. Watch out for those mornings when it’s in the triple digits by 7 AM.

  2. I do love to declutter. It instantly makes my brain feel cleaner, which, as a fellow anxious person, is HUGE.

    However, I will say that when I lived in a 350sf studio, I wasn’t creatively productive at all. I didn’t have space for a desk or even a table, so there was nowhere other than the couch or my bed or the floor to sit and write (or do x creative thing). The expanse of my desk and kitchen table are heaven for me now, creatively. I think just having A PLACE to go for writing/music/whatever is huge for me, you know?

    1. I completely get that! If there’s no room to work, then it’s hard to get in that zone. This is the only reason I went with the 700-square foot place and not the 500.

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