Minimalism usually evokes images of spartan living spaces, airy closets, and few personal possessions. In essence, minimal living is usually tied to physical items, or the lack thereof. That's an important aspect of minimalism, but it's not the end-all-be-all of what it means to live minimally. In fact, I don't think it's even the most important part. Minimalism can, and should, be applied to the unseen components of life, too.
It doesn't matter how tranquil and serene your living environment is if you spend your life rushing from one commitment to another. I think it's interesting how many people who are interested in living a minimal life are also the type of person who is very driven and dedicated to personal development. Sometimes, the two values clash with each other. In the quest of self improvement it can be tempting to take on too much at a time. Start restricting yourself to only the commitments that speak most directly to your values. What you'll sacrifice in breadth of activities you'll easily make up for by becoming more deeply involved with your remaining responsibilities. The deeper you get into your commitments, the greater chance you have for impact, too.
A component of David Allen's Getting Things Done system (a keystone for organizing my life) is the idea of having a Someday/Maybe list. This is the list where everything that you think you might like to do at some point, but can't right now, lives. When these lists are up to date and truly reflect your passions and desires, it can be exhilarating to look at.
However, the longer something sits on this list and you don't take action on it, the more likely it is to weigh you down. I recently took a look at my someday/maybe list and had well over 50 things on it. Some of them had been on there for so long I couldn't even remember when I wanted to do it. I certainly didn't want to now. After I purged those lists and was left with the few things I knew I still wanted to do, I felt better. Unfulfilled commitments, even to yourself, can become draining. You have control over that, so don't let it happen.
PERSONAL WISH LISTS
I keep a simple list in my Evernote account of things that I want. It also serves double duty as a 30 day waiting list for significant purchases. It's easy to have a handy list to give someone who asks about birthday or Christmas presents and it keeps me from buying unnecessary things on impulse. Over time, though, the list becomes littered with 30-day-wait-items that failed to pass the test and items I no longer yearn for. Having a huge list of things that I wanted didn't feel very minimalist, so after I cleaned it up and purged the majority of it, I felt like I was closer to living my value of mindful consumption.
How many gigs of music do you have on your computer that you never listen to? I used to have a massive iTunes library that routinely pissed me off. I couldn't listen to the entire library on shuffle because I had to keep skipping songs I didn't like. What the hell is the point of that? With Pandora and other streaming radio, keeping actual music files on my computer is almost redundant. I know this isn't true for everyone, but it might be worth looking at how much you're actually storing on your computer. Almost everything can be accessed on the cloud now. That means you don't have to store it plus you can access your data from anywhere. What about crappy photos that are mixed in with your good ones? Old work reports you'll never need again? That middle school paper you wrote 11 years ago? Why keep digital detritus around when you wouldn't dream of keeping a physical folder of old algebra homework in your minimal office?
An outwardly minimal life marked by unseen clutter is minimal in nothing but name. Minimizing the visual and concrete is only the first step that allows the space to minimize the more abstract components of life. Out of sight minimalism is just as important, if not more so, than visual minimalism.
Where are your out of sight trouble spots?