On December 31, 2016, I calculated all my personal expenses for the month (that calculation didn’t include my bills/rent/ and so forth). Moreover, on personal expenses alone I spent well over $1,000.
Over $1K on my hair, nails, shopping, and miscellaneous items for just me in thirty-one day. While the calculation was to aid in the process of better budgeting in the new year, the number overall didn’t sit well with me. One thousand dollars and I couldn’t even remember where most of it had gone, or what I did remember, wasn’t that important to me anymore. After wallowing in my self pity, I thought about a documentary on Netflix I watched earlier in the month called, Minimalism, the purpose of the documentary was to show viewers how things/stuff/material possessions have consumed our lives. This unfulfilling hunger that we have to buy more, have more, and want more is driven largely by our consumer based society that tells us that what we have is never enough. It’s the reason so many people feel compelled to buy the iPhone 7, when they just got the iPhone 6 less than a year ago, and their phone works perfectly. It’s the reason that most Americans own two cars or more cars. It’s the reason we will buy items in bulk that we don’t need. It’s the reason we will rush to the malls on Black Friday for sales that really aren’t that great. So on and so forth.. Minimalism is the choice to disregard that way of thinking, while owning less and doing more.
It was perfect. Minimalism just made sense and I knew this is the direction that I wanted and needed my life to go.
I’ve never been one for New Year’s Resolutions as I believe goals can be set and obtained anytime throughout the year, but the transition to minimalism, for me, wasn’t a goal or an aspiration, it was rather a lifestyle change that needed to happen for me. So on January 1, I woke up and began.
After watching a million and one “How to Start Living Minimally” or “So You Want to be a Minimalist” videos on Youtube and reading blog after blog, I got the point that you were to begin with the area in your home/life that caused you the most stress; for me that was my closet. I’ve always been organized and tidy, but I had way too much. My closet was bursting at the seams, and most of the clothing, shoes, and handbags I owned weren’t adding direct value to my life. So, as advised by fellow minimalists, I got rid of anything that wasn’t adding value to my life.
How did I determine that, you ask?
Great question. First I divided my closet into six sections: tops, bottoms, shoes, handbags, scarves/belts, and miscellaneous items. Working section by section I would look at any duplicates I may have had and choose just one, tossed anything I hadn’t worn in over 3 months (within the season), tossed anything that was too big or too small, and finally tossed those “just in case” items.. as those “just in case” times rarely come around. Now don’t be fooled, this wasn’t a process done in one afternoon. It took me nearly 3 weeks to purge through my closet and the process overall was really overwhelming. As I was comparing my closet to the minimalists who were literally down to 100 items or less in their entire home. Did you you know the average household has over 300,000 items.. I had so much stuff and was oddly attached to it..
“Oh, I can’t get rid of this shirt, I got it when I went out of the country for the first time.”
“Yes, I need all 5 colors of the SAME Michael Kors poncho.”
“No, you’re not getting rid of that limited edition Louis, it took you forever to find it!”
It was a constant internal battle that not only was draining but made me very frustrated. The process took so long to pick and choose which items that I wanted. There were nights that I’d wake from my sleep at 4 am and started working on downsizing my closet again until I had to great ready for work at 7 am.. I looked at my closet feeling overwhelmed, and more than that, I was ashamed. Ashamed of how much I had and how little I actually appreciated. And this was just my closet, I hadn’t even tackled other parts of the house, but in the low points of my decluttering process I learned the best lesson from minimalism.
Minimalism at the root is an art of appreciating and being grateful for the things that we have in our life. I didn’t appreciate the many clothes I had, I just had them because.. I felt that I needed to have a lot of clothes, or a lot of shoes, or a lot of anything to be doing things “right” or to send this message that I was “successful” or “financially able”. . Like there was some correlation between an excess of material things and “making it”.
LOL – literally.
On today, January 25, 2017, I am proud to say that I have removed 129 items from my closet, yes I counted. Most were sold and the funds were put into savings, while the remaining went to local charities or were recycled. I no longer get overwhelmed when I walk into my closet and getting ready in the morning is so much easier as I have nothing in my closet that I don’t like. I feel a weight off of my shoulders and know now that I’ve tackled the hardest part of home, the rest will be down hill. And most importantly, I feel really content with what I own now.
Minimalism in just 25 days has taught me that value lies in what we chose. There’s nothing wrong with things, or liking things or even buying things. The problem is when we use people and love things. Minimalism in just 25 days taught me that I don’t love anything I own, I appreciate it, but at the end of the day they are just things. Minimalism has taught me the importance of being present. Minimalism has taught me the value of saying “no”; I don’t need everything that’s new, on sale, or that I am able to buy. Minimalism taught me to find the beauty in less, and open my mind to understanding that the societal pressures to have/want more is a choice.
I now choose to live simply, I now choose to live in a way that makes me happy, and I now choose to be purposeful in all that I do and add to my life/space.
Lastly, and most importantly, minimalism looks different for everyone. There are some that will live literally out of a suitcase, and for others that just may not be a possibility due to lifestyle. There are some that will live on a beach and quit their 9-5 job, and others (like myself) just aren’t at a place where that’s financially possible. Minimalism isn’t a life of poverty by choice. It isn’t not buying anything else or going “off the grid”. It’s being purposeful, it’s being present and it’s placing value in people, not things. And truthfully, it’s one of the most freeing lifestyle decisions I have made in my 22 years of living.
I own my things, they no longer own me.