“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.” Kurt Vonnegut
The connection between holistic minimalism and decreased isolation may not be immediately obvious, but it’s nevertheless the case. When we truly integrate minimalist principles into our lives we open ourselves to a way of being that is focused on experiences and relationship instead of material gain. It should go without saying that one of the best ways to avoid having to own and buy things is by having a solid network or “community” from which to source things…from specific physical objects to emotional support, without which you might otherwise turn to the easy temporary solutions one can buy to fill the void and distract from our inner turmoil when things get tough.
23.1 # 1 Sharing: A Key Element of Sustainable Minimalism
“Happiness quite unshared can scarcely be called happiness; it has no taste.” Charlotte Bronte
Sharing in it’s very nature implies developing and maintaining positive relationships with other people, a.k.a., building your own community. Sure you can get away with living a minimalist lifestyle without sharing…but you will almost inevitably end up buying or renting something that you could probably have found someone to lend to or trade with you if you had simply put more energy into certain relationships in your life.
Cars are a great example. Most people who own them don’t really need them most of the time, but find them really useful every now and then. Co-owning is one option that can save you a lot of time, money and headaches. If you’re not into sharing in such a concrete way, you can set something up where you borrow your friends car every now and then and they borrow your power drill, or whatever else you may have that they need. It may not even be an object, but could be a skillset! Or something that seems really simply to you but makes a huge difference in their lives, like cooking a bit of extra food for lunches so they don’t have to. There’s always something you can provide someone even if you think you own basically nothing and don’t think you have any special skills.
The point is, you can drastically minimize the stuff you need to own by being open to, and even actively seeking, sharing relationships. Making active sharing a part of your lifestyle is an incredible way of increasing the quality, duration and frequency of the relationships involved in the exchange. It also just feels good! When you have something awesome, knowing other people you care about are also going to get to enjoy its benefits is actually a super satisfying experience.
23.2 #2 Prioritizing Experiences Over Accumulation of Things
“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.”Dorothy Day
When we take a holistic minimalist approach to life we start prioritizing experiences over the accumulation of material goods and, in fact, consumption of all kinds. By default, this means we end up slowing down so as to get to a deeper level of presence in every moment and thereby experience life to its fullest. When you’re more present in your daily life you’re also more present with the people around you and the new ones you meet while travelling through the world. And as more and more people are realizing, authentic presence is an essential element of positive, lasting relationships be it in leading a business, a family or creating friendships. Presence to experiencing life opens the door to positive relationship in any environment or situation, from home to abroad. In this way it increases our ability to create and maintain community in our lives.
23.3 #3 Less Time Wasted Taking Care of Stuff = More Time to Connect
“There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.” Margaret J. Wheatley
Decreasing the amount of stuff we own and have to manage frees up our time for more important things like connecting with people we care about. From the time it takes to choose something online or in a shop, to the transportation of said object, to the unpacking and figuring out how to rearrange your space to make it fit, to maintenance and cleaning, there’s no end to the drain of excess clutter on our free time. We may not always realize how much time we spend taking care of and managing clutter until we get rid of it.
This applies to families just as much as it does to individuals, if not more so! Dealing with clutter gets overwhelming very fast as a parent and eats up huge amount of focus and energy. Plus, as minimalist mom Elizabeth Tenety puts it, “getting rid of the excess toys, I believe, has helped free my kids to have a more creative, less chaotic childhood.” Getting your kids into a minimalist mindset at an early age can have huge positive impacts on their adult lives (so long as you don’t impose the process on them in a heavy-handed way!).
One of the important pieces she puts forward is also getting family and friends to gift experiences instead of objects, i.e. instead of giving your kids yet another toy, ask people to offer them a trip to a museum or an awesome meal…anything that won’t add to your household clutter and that will encourage them to also appreciate experiences over accumulation of stuff! Don’t be afraid to integrate minimalism on all levels of your life, including with your kids and partner. You’ll be amazed at the increased range of connection and activity that can emerge when you make lifestyle changes into a collaborative effort!
23.4 #4 Better Relationships Through Minimalisms Impact on Your Mental Health
“In every community, there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is the power to do it.” Marianne Williamson
Psychotherapist Linda Esposito is one among many writing about the link between reducing clutter and improving mental health. As she says, “awareness is everything to anxiety. Too often, energy is squandered between two mental states: rehearsing the future or rehashing the past.” In other words, when you shift your focus from material gain to experiencing life in the moment you no longer get caught in the stressful thinking patterns that lead to anxiety and depression. Less stress means more time, energy and focus and an increased probability of creating lasting interpersonal bonds in every sphere of your life.
Removing physical clutter reduces our level of mental distraction and dispersion, which is at the root of a lot of our everyday stress. Esposito simplifies this concept as “every day you see that shiny new purchase, your mind is distracted, because it has to register another thing. What would your life look like if your mind had less things to process?” 
What would it look like? Well, first and foremost, you would have more space in your heart and mind to focus on the important relationships in your life. Cultivating positive mental health is a huge part of building and maintaining healthy relationships, especially because when we’re at peace internally we’re more open to connecting with others, more able to be present, and generally more confident in ourselves. Stress is a huge drain on our energy and leads to all sorts of physical problems in addition to the negative mental states it can induce. The effects of stress can often cause a downward spiral where we become less and less able to connect with those around us, caught up in our inner world of anxious ruminations. Integrating holistic minimalism into your life is one great way to drastically reduce your level of stress and improve your ability to build positive relationships.
23.5 #5 Know Thyself, Know Thy Needs…
“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” Brené Brown
This point is very much connected to the mental health aspect of minimalism. In choosing to live a holistic minimalist lifestyle we create space in our lives for increased self-awareness. Through the simple fact of, again, having more time, energy, focus and space in our minds and physical environments you creating the possibility for deeper presence and authenticity in your life. Self-awareness means getting clear on your personal wants and needs, your values and direction in life. It also leads to a more refined analysis of our interpersonal relationships and the dynamics that have been staring us in the face but that we haven’t addressed because we’ve been too distracted or stressed!
To live a truly holistic minimalist lifestyle you also need to think about cutting out clutter in your relationships! You need to start asking yourself some potentially hard questions. Ask yourself, which or your current connections truly feed you? What people support your becoming who you truly are and accept you as you grow and change over time? What relationships bring positive energy or important challenges to your life? If you don’t feel those qualities in any of your current close relationships, what can you change to start building more positive connections in your life? What type of community network would you like to cultivate? As unpopular as this idea may be with some, there comes a time when we need to let go of old relationships that aren’t serving us just as we would old objects hanging around the house. Ideally with respect, but also with clarity and decisiveness. Holistic minimalism can help you do just that!
23.6 Action Point Summary – Here’s What You Need to do Now!
As you’ve seen, there are numerous ways holistic minimalism can contribute to building community, It’s up to you to decide how intentional and conscious you want to make the process, but if you integrate some of these basic principles into your life there will almost inevitably be positive impacts on your interpersonal relationships and the quality and strength of your social networks.