Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Minimalism- Buy Less, Live More

I am not sure what came first for me, Minimalism or Zero Waste. I think I was in a point of my life a few years ago when I started to feel that stuff don’t make me happy. I had accumulated a lot of things. I wouldn’t say that I was a hoarder or I had a lot more stuff than your average student but at one point it started to feel like a lot.  Books that I only read once (or never), clothes that I never wore and unfinished sewing and craft projects were stored in every nook and cranny. My flat was overflowing and always messy and I never felt inspired looking at my to brim filled cupboards.  It felt pretty suffocating.

I just got back from what I would call a life-changing trip in 2012 (more on this soon) where I travelled with my boyfriend around South East Asia on bikes with just two small bike bags (panniers) each. We hardly carried any stuff with us, but the number of experiences that living this light brought was impossible to count. Everything that we took with us had a purpose and I felt that everything that we needed was stored in those bags.

I came home from the trip full of excitement and then the realization dawned on me. Together with a welcome from our friends and parents, we were also welcomed by our ever-present acquaintance- all of our stuff which we have left in my boyfriend’s parents attic. I completely forgot about everything that was in there as I didn’t use any of it for months. I was mortified to find it just as I left it. I didn’t really need any of it, but I felt almost paralysed with not knowing what to do with all of it.

I turned to the internet for some inspiration and I came across the concept of minimalism. I was really interested to find out that there are people out there who live minimally all year round, not just when they go away on adventures! People talked about how when they got rid of stuff, they started living more. They started accumulating less, experiencing more and feeling happier. I was hooked. I felt incredibly free on my trip and unweighted by my stuff, and I was ready to replicate it in my personal life. There was another incentive which seemed almost too good to be true. Apparently, with minimalism, there is less tidying up! I find cleaning and tidying so boring. I can imagine millions of other things that I would rather do with my life and so I was looking for something to simplify my life so that I could tidy less and live more!

             Experiencing Scottish winter for the first time- are there many things better than that? 

I was motivated to start this new chapter and brought the blue recycling wheely bin into our ground floor flat and filled it all- with cardboard which I saved for ‘’just in case I need it’’ for selling on ebay. That was the start of what was probably 2 years of heavy decluttering! I did it in stages, learning that I need less and less with every round.  I went through everything, from my books, clothes, pots and pans, cosmetic products and fabrics, which I kept for sewing and millions of other trinkets and little shitty things that I accumulated over the years. Through the process of decluttering, I learned so much more about what is important to me and what I treasure the most. (Hint- it is not stuff).  It was not easy and it was definitely a learning curve. I ended up getting rid of about 60% of my belongings. If you asked me what they were, I wouldn’t be able to remember which goes to show that I didn't need any of it.  I also don’t regret anything that I got rid of either.

Minimalism, I discovered, isn’t just white walls and sterile surfaces. It is a concept of owning less and living more and in a nutshell, it means getting rid of what you no longer want in your life and making space for the things that you want. And the best thing about it? I don’t need to tidy up as much as I used to! Sure, a certain amount of house care is needed but I find that there is less annoying tidying up as there is not that many things to put away in the first place.  I now know what all the minimalists mean when they say – you don’t own your stuff- your stuff owns you. It owns your time that you need to give to each item that you have. So I reduced the time that I have to give away and use that time somewhere else. The physical things are just a beginning and as you start decluttering you will realize that you can actually apply this to all areas of your life. From relationships to hobbies, to how you spend your free time. 

       Having a trad climbing rack is not everyone's idea of a minimalist essential, but it is for me 

 Another important thing that I have learned is that minimalism is a process. Decluttering is frustrating at times and you can often feel that the end is not in sight. But we don’t all have to end up living with one suitcase in order to be minimalists, in fact, there are people who own houses and have families and have what you would call quite a ‘’normal’’ life. I guess the goal is to have just what you need and never feel burdened by your possessions. Nowadays I only try to have things which are necessary, bring joy to my life and which allow me to have the life that I want- one of experience rather than filled with material possessions. I have to keep regular checks and do regular quick sort outs as it is easy to slip back to old ways of keeping things.  I have a lot of hobbies which you may think don’t necessarily lend itself to minimalism. I climb, cycle, hike, swim and try new things and you need equipment for pretty much all of it. Here is the thing. I would never want to get rid of my bike as it brings immense joy to my life. So I don't. I recognise that this is something that I want in my life and so it stays. Together with my climbing shoes, trad rack, walking gear, waterproofs, bouldering mat and cycle touring panniers.  The 12 pairs of high heels that I never wore didn’t make it though.