I used to be a shopaholic and the first person to jump on a great deal. Now, I contemplate for a long time purchasing some of the most simple items…
You might have been aware of this rising social movement called minimalism that seems to be encompassing more and more of the population. It’s almost like spring cleaning for your life… and not just in spring. This idea that living with less can bring more benefit is both intriguing and counter-intuitive to all that has been preached in western society. We are taught to want, ask, and crave for more- which isn’t necessarily false, but we end up desiring material when the material is the furthest thing from what actually will satisfy us. I took the plunge. I discovered minimalism in my own life due to its unconventional trajectory and I am never turning back to the more consumerist habits I held in the past. I didn’t think I would become so passionate so quick, but I am and I want to share what adapting to minimalism has helped me with so then maybe you would become inspired, get some garbage bins and head out to Goodwill!
BROKE FROM THE PAST
I used to be really concerned with what others thought of me and to be honest, I think a small part of me will always have that awareness. I used to want to be seen a certain way, be of a certain class and belong to a certain group to obtain some sense of camaraderie. Acceptance. I wanted to know that I was doing good, or that I was not a loser. In the effort of receiving affirmation, I would accumulate things or spend my money on items that were not good for me in that moment or in the long haul and a lot of that had to do with deeper insecurity with accepting myself and what I had.
I would buy things at a high value to project that I was high value. I felt I needed an ostentatious outward display of status to quench my own destructive ego. Let me share an embarrassing fact about myself- I loved bags (I still kinda do…). I know shocking, right? But seriously, you could count on me to gravitate straight to the handbag section of any store. Even worse, I loved expensive bags. I would work like a dog and drop hundreds of dollars on a designer bag because of the high I would get from moving my existing pile of sh** from one sack to the next. After a while, I had a pretty good collection of bags, but what I realized is that as I would transfer my belongings to the different handbags I had, I would then take that handbag out shopping, or to another endeavor that required me to spend money. A tortuous cycle. It was ridiculous and sadly, I’m sure some of you reading this can relate to exactly what I am talking about. For you it may not be handbags, it could be clothes, shoes, accessories, games, movies, you name it. And let’s be clear here, I realize that some physical things you don’t want to part with, like family photos, or mixtapes, and you don’t HAVE to, but think for a second why you need them. More often then not, it is due to the memories they provoke, or the tactile satisfaction you get with holding them- I get it. I’m the same way, I’m an earth sign for crying out loud! I love STUFF! Yet, there is a point I’d like you to hear… The famous#minimalists talk about this point on their site and in their documentary so I am not going to go too in depth here, but once you realize that what you are holding onto isn’t what you are really holding onto, it’s easier to let go. A great suggestion for old family photos, and the like, is to DIGITIZE them. This is difficult, I know, but it has served me greatly even considering the suggestion. Minimalism has helped me break from a past that did not serve me. It allowed me to unravel all of the strings that I unwittingly tied to myself and by that action, I found a greater sense of belonging. I no longer lust after being apart of the “in crowd” or care if my outward appearance reflects how rich I am internally. I know now that the value that I have could never be bought at Nordstroms or found in a Louis Vuitton purse (even though that is the ONE bag I am not giving up! )
MENTAL & PHYSICAL CLARITY
When you get rid of stuff, you do just that, get rid of stuff which will leave your physical space less occupied than before…Duh.
But I underestimated how physically seeing less made me mentally care less. That was pretty amazing. It’s the whole out of sight out of mind mentality. It truly is impressive how much our physical life affects our mental health and becoming minimalist has made me more calm than I ever was before. Don’t get the wrong idea, I’m no Buddhist monk or anything, but I have the ability to pick and choose what I pour my energy into more than I ever thought possible. There is something about looking around in a clean space with few objects that elicits a kind of peace and control. It wipes away any distraction from the inner monologue that plays within. It gives quality time with myself that I have so desperately sought after for so many years. Why have I avoided true me time for so long you may ask?… It’s easier. It’s easier to ignore what is really going on in life and suffocate it with stuff than it is to sit with any issue and try to solve it. Being clear of unnecessary clutter in my space has acted like an unintentional therapist. I can hear myself think and then begin to notice what patterns and recurring thoughts I have which leads me to what I truly hold dear which then motivates me to make those things a priority. For example, physical exercise has become a huge part of my life. It was definitely there before, but now that I am only focusing on my well-being it has become a top priority. Again, I’m not the picture of perfect health, but I’m striving to be stronger than I was the day before- and that’s really all anyone can do. Instead of shopping to find my happiness, I ride a bike, do yoga, read a book, study my French, or something that engages my mind and ideally, my body. Using what you have already been given to elevate your mood is so much better than shopping for useless knick-knacks or ill-fitting clothing to make you feel worthy. Eliminating the non- essentials has given me 20/20 vision for my future.
EMBRACING MY IDENTITY
In all the clearing out, I rapidly began to realize that all that was left was me. Taking away most items that I used to identify myself left me with a feeling of vulnerability. By removing these things I was finally able to see what remained- my beliefs, my imagination, my dreams, my goals, my desires, my humor, my strength, my thoughts, my integrity.
I didn’t get rid of anything.
Much like the previous point, I had this new-found clarity on what mattered to me and what I wanted from my life. The downside to all this was recognizing all the time I wasted procrastinating in fear with logical excuses to not do what I knew I should. Before, it was easy to say that I couldn’t do what I really wanted to do because “I didn’t have any money.” What a lie… I had money, but I spent it on sh** that served no purpose and that entertained me away from the actions I could have taken which would have fulfilled me. Make no mistake- I don’t regret the things I did or did not do, but I would be lying if I said that I’d be friends with who I was in the past. She was too shallow, but bless her- she meant well. Minimalism now helps me use my time wisely and understand that that is the only currency I have. It’s like I am dating myself, but actually listening to the person speaking instead of cherry picking what I want to hear. My instinct is louder than it has ever been and my confidence is flowing from a healthy place. I embrace the good, bad, and ugly that comes with this life and know that all parts are necessary and valuable. It’s kinda funny to embrace something that is ever-changing and growing. Maybe I am embracing the transformation? Maybe acknowledging that there is an identity causes the transformation? I don’t really know, but what I do know is that since making this change I feel better. I am less anxious and pessimistic. I like myself.
Do you have to go throw out everything you own and start growing your own food? No. Well, not if you don’t want to… Minimalism changes depending on the person and what they value- as it should do. The real benefit that I gained with all of this is to question myself. Questioning my motives. Questioning my values. I think that is an activity that we could all afford to take part in.
Who is really in control? You or your stuff?