The definition of minimalism according to Dictionary.com is:
1.a person who favors a moderate approach to the achievement of a set of goals or who holds minimal expectations for the success of a program.
2.a practitioner of minimalism in music or art.
3.of, pertaining to, or characteristic of minimalism.
4.being or offering no more than what is required or essential: a minimalist program for tax reform.”
Ok, bear with me readers.
Throughout my life, I really enjoyed my possessions and having them all around me wherever I lived. I considered my stuff an extension of who I was and found it to be so much fun decorating all my dorm rooms in college and then my studio apartment. The problem was that I never got rid of anything. For example, if I liked a band, I would buy the poster and hang it up on my wall. Then, as my enthusiasm would wane for that music, I would take the poster down (to be replaced with a different poster I assure you) and store it away. I would never throw the posters away though because what if I liked the band again? And what if I liked them enough again to put the poster back up on the wall?. Plus I just felt badly about throwing an item away that I had really loved at some point in time. I became extremely attached to all my stuff at an emotional level. I did not realize this at the time of course. It was just how I lived my life and a very happy life at that!.
I have lived in my current studio apartment for 8 years and have been steadily accumulating more stuff for 7 of those 8 years. See, when I moved in, I moved all my stuff from my previous dwellings. And I mean EVERYTHING. Then, over the years I have brought in more and more stuff and never got rid of anything. After some time, my little studio was swallowing me whole. Not in a hoarder kind of way though. It just became a seriously cluttered looking and cluttered feeling space to live in.
After 7 years of living in my cluttered space, I began to learn about how our everyday actions and purchases have a grave impact on the environment. How every dollar we spend is essentially a vote on what values we support. How the price of a particular item is no way a reflection of the actual resources required to produce that item. How accumulating stuff is not really an extension of ourselves but actually a box we build around ourselves that eventually can trap us inside. I saw the Annie Leonard video on YouTube on The Story of Stuff and was so blown away by what I learned. I was so curious and interested that I went on to read the book The Story of Stuff by Leonard and it changed everything for me!. When I finished it, I had one of those moments when you realize you can never go back to the way things were before. I was and still am confused as to why all this information is not blasted all over the 6:00pm news every day but that is for another post.
What this book really taught me was to be mindful of my choices and purchases. To be more aware of how tv and advertisements do not have my best interests at heart. That instead of getting caught up in what Leonard calls the “work, watch(tv), spend cycle,” I could be making a positive impact on the planet simply by not buying. By keeping and using only what I need and by realizing that I don’t actually need stuff to make me happy. And to bring it back to my stuff, I learned that the attachment I have for my things was not benefiting me in any way. On the contrary it was stifling me and holding me back. Having all this stuff from my past surrounding me all the time was making me feel pigeon holed and keeping me from living now, in the moment, today.
The minimalist living movement is a way of life that is simple in it’s message. We don’t need stuff to fulfill us and make us happy. We are not our possessions and will not be tied down by possessions. Live easy and light and you will become free and full of experiences instead of stuff. We are the only ones that can tell our life stories, not our stuff. By the way, this is completely my understanding of minimalism from what I have read and researched over the past year. So if any minimalists are reading this, know that this is not a factual definition!. This is the message I have taken from it. And I believe it is a pathway to happiness and freedom.
I slowly began the task of getting rid of my stuff a little over a year ago. Well, actually it started off as a “getting rid of my stuff” project but it evolved into a “making room for my life” project in the process. That’s what happened when I freed myself from the clutter. Each time I cleared out more space, even if it was just a small shelf, I felt like I could breath easier and enjoy the simplicity of an empty space. I am not on the level of living a full on minimalist lifestyle but I have learned so much from the minimalist living movement. Every time I fill up a bag and donate the items to my local thrift shop, I feel a huge sense of relief and joy. Someone else will get to benefit from this item without having to spend hard earned money on a newer snazzy version of it. The planet will benefit from someone getting the used version as opposed to one more new purchase eventually headed for a landfill. And finally, I benefit from gaining a deeper understanding of what life is really all about.
If anyone was to take a look around my apartment, I doubt they would have any idea that I was on a decluttering mission. I still have a lot of stuff and am still working on letting go of my emotional attachments to things. I am taking baby steps in this journey and am getting closer and closer to that clean slate feeling. I would like to add that although I am getting rid of a lot of stuff, I am not mindlessly throwing items away. I am holding on to useful items and I plan to take great care of them so as not to have to buy newer versions any time soon. I am careful to cherish items that have a history to them or my family and that bring me peace when I look at them while at the same time not needing or relying on them as a source of happiness.
I will keep posting about my de-cluttering journey and share tips and/or any pearls of wisdom I pick up along the way. Anyone have any de-cluttering tips?. Can anyone relate to feeling stifled by their possessions or striving for a more minimalist lifestyle?. Please share!. Comments rock my world.