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Monday, March 13, 2017

Minimalism: What it Means to Me

I just finished listening to a podcast by The Minimalists and found it hugely inspiring (and relaxing as well!) I have been interested in minimalism for many years now and to me, it's more of a mindset rather than an aesthetic choice.

For example, in the past year, I have bought very little in the way of "stuff". Sure, a lot of that has to do with conserving funds, but another part of it is the need to focus on who I am and what I'm doing.

Clothing-wise, my purchases have included two pairs of shoes. That's it. Much of my wardrobe has been rediscovered since I decided to throw out my unnecessary stuff. I consider the unnecessary stuff to be clothing I have never worn, clothing I have worn once and clothing that I will never wear (which usually includes items I haven't even looked at for two months or more). When I got rid of all the junk, I found six of my best t-shirts just languishing at the back of my wardrobe. Now they are back in circulation, along with my one main pair of jeans. For more info on my wardrobe adventures, check out 9 Items to Build Your Capsule Wardrobe.

So far, my minimalist goals are coming along nicely. This is the main thing that has worked for me but feel free to modify as you see fit.

Throw Out Five Things Every Single Day 

This is the most useful thing I have done in moving towards minimalism. Most days I manage to throw out between three and five items. They can be anything, I don't set any rules. Things I have thrown out include: socks, items of clothing with holes in them, old packets of tea (from 2006!), old makeup (you should replace mascara and other makeup items every two months to keep things hygienic), old bills (shredded), junk mail and various other stuff.

The fun thing about this is finding a few things to throw out every day. It's manageable and doesn't cause undue stress. Some people throw out one thing a day, others try for more - it's up to you which way you want to go with this. The thing to remember is that you are getting rid of a few things every day - that's the focus.

Things That Went Well

I immediately felt lighter after dropping off a load of good quality, name brand stuff to a charity store. I knew the stuff that didn't suit me was no longer cluttering up my wardrobe and that someone else would benefit from finding a new item of clothing to make them feel good.

I have less things to wash up in the kitchen. All the stuff I use infrequently is stored away and the only things that are left out are the things that I use all the time. A couple of glasses, mugs, minimal cutlery and a few storage containers. There is a lot more space on my bench to do useful things like... cooking stuff.

I got rid of a lot of dust, along with the junk. Dust counts as a thing, right?

Things That Didn't Go So Well

I tried to think of a more positive, empowering way to put this. I've got nothing so I'm going with it. Starting to become more of a minimalist is not without stress. I made the mistake of tackling too much at once so you can learn from this.

My thought process went something like this:

Okay, got to get rid of the rubbish and empty the coffee plunger.
*internal monologue as I'm doing this task*
What about the bathroom floor? It needs a mop. By the way, the mop is busted. You need a new mop. But that's buying new stuff. Maybe use one of those microfibre cloths.

Right, just got to hand wash these t-shirts and hang them up
What's the point? You can't put them back in your wardrobe. It's dusty in there. You'll be sneezing all day. You have to clean out the whole wardrobe and vacuum it and...

I'll just wash out the water filter
Stuff! Books. Get rid of books. Can you sell them on eBay? What about other sites? Oh, but hang on, what about postage. You need to make a profit otherwise there's no point. But what books should be culled? Oh, and they're dusty as well...

You can see how this kind of thinking can quickly lead to overwhelm and the feeling of just wanting to give up. I had to take a break, lie on the couch and decide to do nothing but listen to a few podcasts and stop cleaning for a bit. It helped. Now I understand that you can't do everything at once, and thinking that you can is counterproductive.

What I have taken away from this is to do ONE thing at a time. If that thing is getting rid of five things, I count that as one thing. If that thing is clearing off the kitchen table, then do ONLY that. One thing at a time is the key here. Keep it manageable.

Minimalism is not a Religion

A lot of people seem to get caught up in the "rules" of minimalism. For example:

If you own more than 300 things, you're not a minimalist

If you have an internet connection and a TV, you're not a minimalist

If you don't have an all-white room with two pieces of furniture and a succulent plant, you're not a minimalist

You get the picture. The thing is, Minimalism is not a religion. You don't go to maximalist hell if you only pick the things that work for you. For example, you might be a visual artist, a musician or a fashion designer. Is it a good idea to get rid of all your paints, paintbrushes, instruments, sheet music and fabrics?

It's pretty clear the answer is an emphatic NO.

Minimalism is a tool, not a bizarre ideal or some kind of judgemental monkhood. Minimalism is what you make of it, and you can take the basic concepts and fit it to suit your particular lifestyle.

And anyway, I'm allergic to all-white, polished chrome, veterinarian table chic.

Just call me the Scruffy Minimalist, I guess.


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