When you pack to go somewhere, a vacation, a weekend trip, what do you pack? Depending on where you’re going and what you need it will differ for everyone, but basically you pack what you consider the essentials. All the extra “stuff” is unimportant. Part of leaving it behind is letting it go for little while, but you know you’ll return soon. Now what if you decided that whatever you weren’t carrying, would no longer serve a purpose in your life? You no longer needed to own it. Think about the objects surrounding you right now.
A lot of factors pool into this idea of minimalism- a new label (I’m not into labels, let’s call it a lifestyle choice). For me, I returned from 4 months of living in a small room in Costa Rica, with all of the clothes that fit in my suitcase for under 50 pounds. Limited number of clothes, shoes, bathing suits, everything. And after only a couple weeks, when you realize that people around you, are too, re-wearing that shirt with those jeans, or they too only have 3 different shoes, you let down this face that you put on. Everyone knows that those are the only pair of sandals you brought because you wear them everyday even though they are falling apart. But guess what, they have only brought 2 pairs, big whoop. My point is, people around you are less judgmental on what you don’t have. It’s actually quite incredible to see the items that we own, yet can live without. Upon my return to the States, I was overwhelmed. Why did I have so many clothes in my closet? Why did I have 20+ pairs of shoes? Not even just clothing, but any item. Why did I have multiple jewelry holders with jewelry that I never wore? The quantity of stuff that I owned, things I claimed ownership of, was overbearing. I wanted to throw everything away. I knew what I needed, and everything else was extra. My mom told me not to just give stuff away. But she didn’t understand, I didn’t (don’t) want it! I’m sorry, but why do I have a robe? I don’t personally have a need for a robe, I no longer want it. Hey, if you wear your robe like it’s your job, you enjoy it. But for me, it served no purpose. I thought, maybe it’s part of reverse culture shock, it’s typical to feel guilty for things you have when you return from a place much less fortunate. My personal twist on my first epiphany of minimalism, and I didn’t even know it.
In January, I was packing again— for college. A lot of my friends have packed everything and basically live at college in their apartment; moved out, in one way or another. Me, I took a bin, packed my outfits, and did as best I could (‘Hey, I’m a great packer’). I arrived at college with my parents and realized I had packed far too little. I cried because I had forgotten so much. But I hadn’t been thinking about a mattress topper and hangers for my 5 outfits! I didn’t think it would be 70 degrees one day and 15 the next, I had sneakers and Ugg slippers.
In February, one of the articles I was assigned to read for my ethics class was one by Peter Singer called Rich and Poor. Singer talks about relative poverty in comparison with absolute poverty and our obligation to help end extreme poverty. Sometimes we consider people around us poor, but they still have a house, and a car, and furniture in their home. This is relative poverty. Those items are not essential for life. Absolute poverty categorizes people who are short of food, cannot send their children to school, live in an unstable house, and some other factors. Although for my class’s purpose, we are researching world poverty, I also took something else from it. What we have, the extra stuff that is not essential to live, we do not need. Singer seemed to be going right along with the philosophy that I had discovered upon returning to the U.S.; the idea that people thought I was crazy for having. Now obviously this is a very wide net to cast because in the U.S. you may need a car to get to work, and a full bed to sleep in. Yes, we do not have to feel guilt for having those things. I suppose we shouldn’t feel guilty about having what we have, but understand that sometimes it’s hard when you have seen the alternative. And for some people, they will take that and move on happily. But for myself, I do not want to move on the same. I want to make changes. As I have. I noticed that many objects didn’t make me happy. That’s the goal in life, right? To be happy? No, it’s not money, are you shocked? Which brings me to my next factor of discovering this little lifestyle labeled minimalism.
A couple weeks ago, I came across a newly added documentary on Netflix, called Minimalism. I watched it, and was like ‘What? There’s a name for all this stuff that I’ve been thinking? Giving away things that do not add value to my life? Other people do that, too? And they are also happy doing it? What! Mind blown.’ In any event, all of these prior notions to this newly labeled lifestyle began to make me feel less “abnormal” (some of my friends still can not wrap their minds around the fact that I no longer have snapchat, instagram, facebook, or twitter on my phone, or that I’m totally okay giving away more than half my closet). Two men tell their stories of going from a monotonous and dreary life to a happy one filled with only things that put value into their life. They say that there is no right or wrong way to do it. Everyone’s version of living minimally is different. Different things put different levels of value into a person’s life. If your hairdryer is something you love and carry every time you stay somewhere, that’s great. Keep you hairdryer and enjoy using it. So how can you and I be “minimalists”?
Steps to the ‘little lifestyle’
Little that does not serve you, little that is not of value to you. And much more happiness, love, and purpose. Are you as excited as I am?
Start by thinking of things you pack for a trip somewhere (hot climate or cold climate, pack for both just in case). Now, throw out everything else…
HA just kidding, imagine. But really, think about the things that you would not bring with you, and out of those things, which would you not miss or necessarily be sad without?
Which of the things that you would not bring does not add value to your life? Why did you only choose to bring your hiking sneakers and a pair of comfy sandals? What about your other sandals and other sneakers, or the heels at the back of your closet? Does your ownership of them make you happy? Could you be happy without them?
Practice distinguishing items with value by a standard of what makes you happy. Not how much it cost. Or how much it is worth. Is your life better because of it?
Stop buying unnecessary items. Your buying is done. You have more than enough stuff, cut off the supply, end it now. You don’t need more.
Look at your counter tops and shelves and clear them except for essential objects that are special to you or have sentimental value. Get rid of that random object that makes the room look more aesthetically pleasing.
Begin detaching yourself emotionally from things that do not really carry any value in your life. This is hard. With time, it will be easier.
Don’t buy new toiletries just because they are on sale, use all of what you have got first. It saves you money anyway!
Do not be discouraged. Minimalism is not getting rid of everything. It’s a physical and mental organization and simplification of your life and career. You can still own lots of objects and follow a minimalist mindset. Just don’t let those objects chain you down or hold you back.
Hope this gave some insight and you enjoyed reading! I actually found a great blog that I linked below, along with the article by Singer.
Read this awesome blog I found to learn more about an experienced and happy minimalist
If you want to read the article by Peter Singer here ya go!