I am converting. Converting to an ideology of simplicity.
I think when most people hear the word, “minimalism,” the image that comes to mind is of some twenty-something year old hipster that spends their time in coffee shops reading obscure books and dressing sharply. Or a rather austere or crazy individual that lives with, like, only 30 items in a knapsack out of a huge, artistic loft or a tiny apartment. Now, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t stumble across minimalism solely for the aesthetic. I was planning the layout for my room next year at University and decided I wanted to live in an art museum so I could be a cool and classy almost adult. But when I stumbled across an essay from The Minimalists, I could feel something beginning to click inside me.
Packing up all my belongings to move to college was an insurmountable task. I had spent 4 years in the same room, the most I ever had because of my life as a military child. And let me tell you, I shoved as much as I could into that room in that amount of time. I became a hoarder of paper mementos like concert programs and event posters as well as useless knick-knacks, all in the name of nostalgia. So when it came time to consolidate my items, I broke out into a cold sweat. After what seemed like days of going through stack after stack of items, I resolved to get rid of everything, all of it. Eventually, I was left with only enough boxes to fill the backseat and trunk of my tiny Honda Accord. I was proud, and yet sad that all of my worldly possessions could fit into my 10 by 10 dorm room. I felt kind of like a snail, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But again, when packing day snuck up on me this past May, I found myself throwing out, shocker, stacks of concert programs and useless little items I just HAD to have.
Since I moved back home for the summer, I have left most of my boxes virtually untouched in the attic of my house. And I realized, I haven’t needed or used anything in those boxes. I mean, granted, my room at home is already furnished and decorated and I’m recycling the same 10 outfits. But that’s kind of the point. I have a whole room full of things I haven’t missed or needed sitting above my head. It’s almost comical how ridiculous it is.
I found many of my sentiments reflected in the writings of self-proclaimed minimalists. They wrote about how letting go of their physical clutter helped to alleviate their mental and emotional “clutter” as well. While I came for the aesthetic, what really resonated with me was the emotional focus and centering that minimalism proclaims to offer. Josh and Ryan, better known as The Minimalists, wrote about this in an essay, saying that, “Happiness, as far as we’re concerned, is achieved through living a meaningful life: a life filled with passion and freedom in which we grow as individuals and contribute beyond ourselves. Growth and contribution: those are the bedrocks of happiness. Not stuff. Minimalism is the tool that helped us simplify our lives by stripping away the excess so we could focus on what’s truly important.” It seems such a simple, yet joyful life. A life where meaning and purpose is not dependent on possessions. Sounds tantalizing, doesn’t it?
“Well, I’m young,” I tell myself. “I’m not going to waste my life away being unhappy dang it!” So starting tomorrow, I am going to mercilessly go through my belongings for a second time this year. Next to nothing will be spared in this war, because if there’s one thing I want, it is to be joyfully free. What I intend to change this time though, is my purchasing habits. Getting rid of unnecessary items is an important step but it means virtually nothing if in 6 months I’ve bought it all back. The Minimalists sum it up nicely: “As a minimalist, everything you own serves a purpose or brings joy—everything else is out of the way, which allows you to focus on what’s truly important: health, relationships, passions, growth, and contribution.”
So see, minimalism isn’t a competition to see who can survive using the least amount of items. It’s about finding true joy by eliminating the distractions of stuff, and this is what I intend to find for myself.
To read more from The Minimalists, you can visit their website at www.theminimalists.com.