There’s something you should know about me: I consider minimalism to be a big part of my life.
I’m not the kind of minimalist who counts her possessions, but I’m aware of how much I own, and I regularly go through my belongings to get rid of stuff I no longer use or want.
Some people refer to this as simple living, due to minimalism’s reputation for stark white walls or people who live out of backpacks. I like the word minimalism, so I’m sticking with it.
I have definitely not mastered the process: I’ve held onto certain items way longer than I should have, just in case I might need them someday. I’ve started challenging this way of thinking though, and over the past few weeks I’ve made an effort to identify and get rid of stuff I rarely (or never) utilize.
The Minimalists have a recommendation for the just-in-case scenario: if the item you’re not sure you should give away costs less than $20 to replace, you should get rid of it. Odds are you won’t need it again, so if you do have to replace one or two things in the future in order to discard a bunch of stuff right now, it’s worth it. (Another thing to keep in mind: if you give something away that you rarely use and find you need it again later, you could very likely borrow it from a friend rather than buying a new one.)
One of the items I recently donated was a cupcake carrier which could transport up to 24 cupcakes at a time (I used to take them to family gatherings and friends’ parties on a regular basis). I haven’t made cupcakes in over three years, since before I went gluten-free. There was no need for this contraption to take up valuable kitchen cabinet space if I couldn’t fathom when I’d use it again. Out it went.
I’m also much less likely to hold onto sentimental items. A few years ago I took all the photos I owned, scanned them to my computer, and threw away the physical copies. I don’t keep ticket stubs or other paraphernalia from events I attend; an entry in my calendar is sufficient to remember it.
I’m not completely unsentimental, though. I do own items which don’t serve an immediate purpose (several stuffed animals from childhood, high school yearbooks, mementos from foreign travel). Since these items don’t take up a lot of room and I have space to store them, I’m okay with holding onto a few keepsakes. If I need to get rid of them someday (like if I decide to drastically downsize my possessions and move to a foreign country), I would do so in a heartbeat.
I feel like I’ve been editing my possessions for years, but obviously I’ve had things coming in or I wouldn’t have anything left to get rid of. For example, I purchased a number of items from estate sales last year when my husband and I thought we might purchase this really cool old house which needed a ton of renovation. (We ended up purchasing a move-in ready house instead, which was half the square footage of the first, and may I just say…thank god. What a waste of space the larger house would have been for two people.)
I kept some of the estate sale items I bought, but the rest of them were donated (not the best use of my money, but at least none of it cost very much). I’ve since vowed to be more vigilant about what comes into our house, whether it’s something we purchase, or offered to us for free.
It helps that I don’t enjoy shopping. I never did a formal shopping ban – I had no reason to – but the amount of stuff I buy has markedly decreased over the years. Browsing clothing racks fills me with dread rather than anticipation. I rarely buy anything for myself, other than groceries, toiletry items, and household needs. While I do purchase certain things in bulk (toilet paper, hand soap, recurring food items), it’s always something I know we’ll use up, and buying a large supply means I won’t have to seek it out again for a while.
I really, really like not owning a lot of stuff. I’m not weighed down by my possessions. I’m not constantly hunting for new items to acquire. Although there have been times I’ve waffled over whether to keep something, once I’ve sold or given it away I’ve never felt a moment of regret. Once out of sight, it’s completely out of mind.
If my husband and I were asked to pack up next week and move thousands of miles away, we could do so with very little headache and drastically fewer boxes than many others in our situation (a child-free, middle-class, mid-30s couple who own a home).
Minimalism can also be applied to mental clutter – reducing stress and not overextending yourself. As an introvert, I’ve adopted strategies which are conducive to maintaining a minimalist approach in my daily life: My full-time job as an admin keeps stressful situations at bay 95% of the time. I don’t pack my schedule full of events. I don’t feel guilty refusing a request if I don’t want to do something. I read a lot of books.
For me, a minimalist lifestyle is about freedom. My husband and I would prefer to quit our full-time office jobs before reaching what most people consider a normal retirement age. The less stuff we buy, the more money we’ll have to contribute to our investment accounts.
It’s my hope that minimalism – along with our commitment to frugality – will help us meet our ultimate goal of financial independence. Obtaining financial independence will let us choose how we spend our time, pursue a wider range of hobbies and experiences, and provide more flexibility on where we live and how often we travel, instead of being chained to our current 5-day-a-week work schedule (and in my husband’s case, regular 10-12 hour workdays).
You may not focus on minimalism as much as I do, but I encourage everyone to think about what they own and honestly assess what is taking up too much space. I have a feeling you won’t regret it.