Eight months ago, I was the girl with all the stuff. I had well over 100 pairs of shoes, two closets full of clothes, and an entire bedroom in my house dedicated to “storing” all of my excess things. I was one of those women who shopped weekly, gleefully purchasing bargains at whichever store I wandered into that day, only to take them home and leave them in a bag for weeks at a time.
Then one day, I began to realize that it was getting a little claustrophobic in my place. It started with wanting to go somewhere for the weekend, but realizing that my discretionary funds were running a little low because I’d purchased a few “gifts” for myself over the last few weeks. Then, I realized I was tired of all the clutter in my home, but couldn’t make room for anything because there was just too much stuff. I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of THINGS that I owned… but I had no idea what to do about it.
Somewhere along the way I discovered the concept of minimalism. Minimalism is defined as “the intentional promotion of things that we value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it”… in other words, learning how to value those things in your life that are important by making conscious decisions to eliminate the excess.
I initially became interested in minimalism after reading one of my favorite blogger (Rosetta Thurman of HappyBlackWoman.com)’s journey to a location-independent lifestyle through minimalism. I was fascinated by the freedom that Rosetta enjoys in her life, and decided that I wanted that same freedom in my own. There were several things that Rosetta did over the course of 2-3 years to create the lifestyle she wanted, but one of the major things she did was divest herself of most of her material belongings. Rosetta now states that everything she owns in the world fits into two carry-on size suitcases, and yet she is one of the happiest people I’ve ever seen.
The secret, I’ve since discovered, is releasing your attachment to material things. Rosetta is an extreme example of what minimalism looks like – she gave up her car, most of her personal belongings, and now lives in a room that she rents from someone else. While most of us (myself included) may not be able to take such a major step in our lives just yet, here are a few things I’ve learned over the last few months of incorporating the principles of minimalism into my own life.
- – You really can do more with less
One of the hardest things for me to do has been to pare down my belongings. This is because I tend to only buy things I really like, and so the idea of getting rid of them is pretty difficult for me. In going through my shoes, for example, I found myself “discovering” pairs I’d forgotten I had because it’d been so long since I’d worn them. Some of them had never been worn! It just felt wrong somehow to give away something I’d never even had the opportunity to enjoy myself.
But the thing is, that was exactly the point. I had to really be honest with myself, and realize that I was never going to wear those shoes. No one with 100 pairs of shoes can actually wear all of them (unless, of course, you’re Kim Kardashian). I found that I was really only wearing the same one or two pairs every day because I couldn’t be bothered with the hassle of digging through my closet for something different.
So, I brutally slashed my shoe collection from over 100 pairs to less than 20 pairs, and honestly, I feel much better about it. As an added bonus, I can now see all the shoes in the bottom of my closet, so I’m more likely to wear the ones I decided to keep – meaning that, even though I technically own fewer pairs of shoes now, I’m actually getting more use out of them now than I was before, because I can actually use/wear them.
2. – It is easier to incorporate minimalism when you’re making other lifestyle changes as well
One of the things that has made my journey toward a minimalist lifestyle easier has been that I view it as a necessity in order to get to my next goals in life. Instead of taking on minimalism on its own, I partnered it with another lifestyle change: moving across the country.
Last October, my world was turned upside down by a layoff. I’d already been planning to sell my home, but being laid off from my job definitely expedited that process. In planning to relocate, I also managed to do some serious decluttering. Once I made the decision to sell the house, I needed to start thinking of where I would (ideally) live next. I decided that, based on my current status in life, a small (one bedroom or studio) apartment was the best fit for me. My home had been great for the years that I owned it, however I found myself utilizing the space less and less, and the required upkeep of yard work, repairs, and other things a homeowner has to contend with just aren’t something I’m interested in anymore.
Deciding to leave my 3 bedroom/2 bathroom house for a little apartment somewhere meant leaving behind all of the things I used to fill up my 3 bedrooms! I am a person who has always taken pride in the way that my home looks, and relished in the idea of curating the perfect blend of rustic/eclectic décor in my space. Therefore, it was difficult to pare down my things to just enough to fit into one bedroom – however, I’ve found that I’m happier and free-er now that I do not have to contend with all of that stuff!
3. – Finding a cause to donate items to makes the process easier
Arguably the hardest area I’ve attempted to downsize during this process has been my book collection. I am a voracious reader, reading anywhere from 5 – 7 books each week. I’m sure you can imagine then, that my book stash is more than a little ridiculous. Also, the very idea of throwing away books makes me ill. So, what’s a girl to do?
I went through my collection and culled nearly 100 books. Then I set about finding a place to donate them. The college that I worked for takes book donations, so I decided that was the best place to donate all of them at once (because there were several different types of books and I wanted to make sure they were donated to the most appropriate place without having to go through the hassle of splitting them up to give to several places).
This made me feel better about getting rid of the books I’d treasured for so long, because I knew they were going to be put to good use in the school library, as opposed to sitting in a dark box somewhere inside a local thrift store (which may or may not be how I came about half of them in the first place).
So far, I have to admit that, even though my journey toward a minimalist lifestyle is definitely a work in progress, I am enjoying the changes I’ve seen so far. Without all of the “stuff” around me, I feel more relaxed and clear-headed, as though I can focus on the things that are really important to me now. Also, because I’m no longer throwing so much money away on material things I neither need nor use, I am much less stressed about how to pay for things, and I have much more freedom to make larger moves in my life. I have several large projects coming up in the next few months that will require my time, energy, and focus, and I am happy to report that, as a direct result of my efforts in minimalism, I have significantly more of each area to devote to myself and my future.
Below is a great video from Sadiya Marie for anyone interested in getting started on the path to minimalism. She shares five quick tips for refocusing your energy and figuring out the best way to incorporate this powerful practice into your life.
Have you ever thought about/tried minimalism? What were your results? Let me know in the comments, and as always – make it a great one!