Before minimalism was all the rage, I was already something of a minimalist. At least in terms of physical objects. Maybe this just comes along with growing up with very little, but possessions have never been as important to me as they are to many. I generally only buy things that bring me joy and easily let go of what no longer serves me. Marie Kondo would be so proud!
I use electronics until they die. I have only bought new cars when the other one died. I fix things that don’t work or reuse them in some way if I can. I donate things that no longer work for me but might work for someone else. And if all else fails I’ll say the ultimate goodbye, thanking it for its service. Almost every time I’ve moved, everything I’ve owned has fit into my car.
Overall, I strive to live a minimalist life because it’s good for me. Minimalism equals less clutter and stress and more peace, time, clarity, decisiveness, creativity, joy, and connectedness to myself and others.
Still I have my own struggles with minimalism. But as I struggle I come up with ways to create a simpler life. And since I have a lot to say about this and May is spring and we deep clean in spring (I realize I’m stretching for a gimmick here.), this will be a multi part series every Friday in May.
So let’s take a closer look at minimalising our stuff. Stuff is the goods we own (Or rent, borrow, beg, steal.). Things we can touch and use. Clothing, books, furniture, electronics, etc. Most people have way more things than they actually need, which causes problems such as stress and overwhelm.
Yet, getting rid of stuff often causes people anxiety. What if I need it later? My best friend’s ex-boyfriend’s cousin’s niece gave me that necklace! So what do most people do when they feel anxious? Avoid what makes us anxious. Spoiler alert, avoidance only makes our anxiety worse. We have to look fear in its freaking clutter-filled face and get rid of some stuff. Here’s how:
Our surroundings reflect our inside and our inside reflects our surroundings. Letting go of crap that you don’t want or need creates some space and healing within. Also, healing the crap within makes it so you don’t feel the need to fill the void with stuff. Again, Marie Kondo is onto something here. Get some help if going within is too scary to do alone. Honestly, it’s probably the scariest and bravest thing a person could do. I’d much rather swim with starving alligators.
Check Your Beliefs
I have mostly healthy beliefs around stuff. How, I have no idea, but if something’s working for me I’m not going to question it too much. My beliefs are that I don’t need much to live a happy life, I can get anything I need pretty easily, and I’m willing to wait to find the perfect item rather than rush into buying something I feel meh about. This is the joy part. I don’t buy things I’m not excited about. So I don’t attempt to fill voids in my life with stuff. If you find that you don’t have healthy beliefs around stuff, work on that. Again, get help if you aren’t able to identify and change your beliefs on your own. Beliefs are habits so you’ll find yourself having to challenge them over and over until you develop new ones. Stick with it, though. I promise it’s worth it.
Being a minimalist doesn’t mean you can’t own anything that doesn’t meet your basic needs. There are a couple subcategories of stuff I struggle with. One is books. Not necessary for physical survival, but I love them so much. I love to read and I love to touch their pages as I read them. I love to admire them on my bookshelves. They bring me a lot of joy. But they also take up a lot of space. And are freaking heavy to move. So I now make an effort to give books away once I’ve read them and I try not to buy any new ones. The only exceptions to both of those rules are if I’m sure I’ll reference it more than one read through. So I’ve become an even more hard core public library user now instead of book buyer. I also admire the books in our last few remaining physical bookstores and libraries, even if it means sitting with the urge to take them all home with me and then going home alone.
This is a process. Don’t expect to be an expert minimalist overnight. In fact, it’s probably a lifetime pursuit, especially living in a consumerist society. The other category of stuff that I struggle with is clothing (including shoes and accessories). I have a knack for finding really cute, high quality items at insanely cheap prices. And I almost always shop at thrift stores so that’s better than direct retail, right?
I often use these as excuses to own way too many clothes. This causes problems because it takes me more time than I’d like to decide what to wear. But as I’ve tried to Marie Kondo my closet, the majority of my clothing does actually bring me a lot of joy. Especially the sparkly, velvety, uber dressy stuff I barely ever have any reason to wear. So for the time being I’ve accepted that I’m choosing to have a full closet and maybe that’ll change in the future. Until then I’ve committed to not shopping for anymore clothes (unless absolutely necessary) for at least the next year. It’s all about compromise and small steps.
These are just a sampling of how I practice minimalism with the stuff that I own. There are a million ways to minimize the things you own and the rest of your life. As with anything, it’s really about finding what works for you.
But if you’d like more information and directions, another fantastic resource is The Minimalists. If you couldn’t tell by their name, these dudes are way more into it than I am. They have a website, blog, podcast, documentary, and a book. Maybe more than one book? Full disclosure, I’ve only listened to a handful of their podcasts, but I want to be their friend and found their suggestions to be helpful and realistic.