6 Months of Minimalism
by T. Souther
Six months ago I decided to practice minimalism.
"minimalism: only what lifts you up"
I discovered minimalism six months ago, and I want to share my story.
Minimalism looks different for everyone. Minimalism is probably most accurately defined as the process of eliminating excess and non-essentials from your life so you can focus on what makes you happy. I want to live with only what I love and value, so my time and energy is focused on better understanding those very things that I love. Life is confusing enough, even with focus.
At the end of my spring semester of college, I felt uneasy. Things were good. School was over, I was about to head home, and soon after that, leave the country for Eastern Europe. My school year was fun, informative, and shaping, both academically and spiritually. All things considered, I didn't really have any right to be uneasy- but I was.
The last few weeks of school, I started to have a desire to get rid of my stuff. At that point in time, I had never heard of minimalism, and didn't know I was looking for it. All I knew was that I had more things than I needed or wanted. I started to give away clothing, knick knacks, duplicates of things, odds and ends. I threw out a lot of things.
The challenge was not at school, however. I left college and returned home and was greeted by ambivalence: a clarification of what I was looking for (good) and facing cleaning up my room and other possessions at home (bad).
I was sitting in my kitchen talking about my possessional purge when my mother mentioned that my desire to simplify sounded very minimal. The word tumbled around in my mind for a bit before I came to a reasonable understanding of minimalism thanks to some literature and websites. This is when I understood that minimalism is different for every disciple of the lifestyle and I could guide my own steps within minimalism.
So I was home. I decided I would test run minimalism for the summer; I was going to be gone for most of it anyway, and I still had a desire to remove excess. I had one month to clean up home and prepare for two months overseas.
My two first weeks at home consisted of transforming my room. It sounds easy; many of us admit we could give away a lot, but that is because we have a lot of things we don't care about. At some point you have to start giving away things you do care about, and it gets very hard; cards, T-shirts, knickknacks, drawings and video games that all hold immense sentimental value. These items were a mental roadblock for me. Over those two weeks I paired down all sentimental items to a small box.
These photos showed my lifestyle; messy and unorganized. This is where things become personal. I can't tell anyone else their room isn't allowed to look like this- but I can tell myself. It was eye opening to see how I was living. It was too much. I didn't have any purpose for most of the things in my room. So over the first week at home, I sorted, donated, and threw out nearly everything in my room.
The last two weeks at home before Eastern Europe consisted of preparing for my trip. With my newfound desire for minimal living and simplicity, the idea of bringing the bare minimum to Latvia excited me. I started researching minimal travel and immediately found onebag.com. Onebag is all about traveling with just what you need and no more. Thankfully, I had a bit of leeway with personal funds at this point and some good connections, and I found the perfect backpack for my travels. I replenished the basics of my wardrobe. I figured out what else I would need for travel, thanks to onebag, and with time to spare had become as prepared as possible for my time overseas (camping, city living, and everything in-between).
Everything fit in the backpack shown here.
I spent mid-june through early august in Europe. More functional European living contributed to the continuation of my minimalist mindset. In my downtime I found time to read Walden by Henry David Thoreau, which was, in hindsight, quite important in my process of converting to minimalism. Walden promotes simple living and does so both eloquently and succinctly while still retaining identity despite the books age. I do not spend a lot of time being internally cognitive, so the time I spent reading Walden over a busy Latvian city street ranks high in my trip memories.
Similarly, I was living with four other guys. We lived fairly simply and we had common goals for the duration of our time together, which reduced friction between us and our personal choices because we had a more important, more direct purpose. These guys also became great friends, and whether they were aware of it or not, encouraged me in my lifestyle. We also went over material that helped us to step back and take a look at our goals and ambitions in life- something I think everyone should do regularly.
Living abroad as a minimalist was successful. Time away solidified my desire to be a minimalist, and upon my return it was easier to take a second look- do a second 'possession purge'- and again figure out my purpose as a minimalist. My room at home transformed again.
A mattress, a nightstand, a table, a chair, three stacked clothing/storage cubes, a trash can. This is what, as of late August, my room contains. When I return, I'm going to remove the table in favor of an Ikea Lack Sidetable. I'm actually happy with the size of my room (roughly 100 square feet), as anymore would be extra at this point.
I am currently at college, and most of my possessions are with me. I have hit a point where there are still a lot of things I want to get rid of, but it becomes more difficult- some things need to be sold over given away, but are difficult to sell (anyone want a mid 2000's gargantuan beat pad? Yeah, me neither, even though its apparently worth something). My possessions are probably now only a fifth of what they were six months ago and probably five times more valuable to me. This is an excellent question that I keep on asking myself: as I reduce numerically, am I increasing sentimentally?
My room at uni currently looks like this:
Even clutter has purpose in my dorm. I don't claim it's perfect, but I use that clutter to motivate myself to reduce more and more. If I put it all away, I could probably hide it; half of my drawers are empty. But minimalism is about being honest with where you are at and what still needs to be done.
Computers are a big part of uni, for better or worse, and I have seen it as equally important to have a "clean room" within my electronics. I am content with my dumb phone. I don't miss my gaming computer that I sold this summer. I simplified and organized my '08 Macbook.
Minimalism has transcended the physical and become part of the mental and spiritual. Some things are easier than others. That is normal. The point is that my action of reduction has completely changed and renewed how I think and feel about every area of my life. It's funny. Sometimes "just doing it" really does make a difference. It has made a difference in me, and has helped me come to this conclusion.
I think I am officially a minimalist.
No more theoretical testing. I'm living this way now, and I wanted to share.
The intention behind this post was not to convert anyone or rationalize what I am doing; it is simply to show my lifestyle and how I came to be in this situation. I created this blog purely for this post, but I see the rich potential to keep writing. Yet if this is the only post ever make, so be it.
Thank you all for reading and keeping me accountable. I urge each of you to think about your own lifestyle. It is a broad but rewarding question.