Monday, July 20, 2015

My journey towards simple living and minimalism and 7 things that helped me

I've always found joy in organizing, reducing costs and effort and recycling. But it took me more that 20 years and many struggles to find, that it is actually a thing, and that it might have bigger purpose that just being organized. I've always been rather frugal and minimal, prioritizing emotion and experience over material stuff and money and enjoying living in small spaces, travelling lite and so on. But you know, a girl needs to have a few dresses, and then some more. And if you see a good book, you'll buy it in hope you'll read it some day and when there's a sale you buy one pare extra of anything so you'll eventually end up with more stuff than you expected.

Over a year now I've been purposefully trying to revert into more simple and minimal living. It hasn't been crazy get-rid-of-as-much-as-you-can journey, but a rather slow process. I don't think I even plan to end up with only x items of clothing or completely clutter free living room. It's about the meaning of minimizing and the journey towards it.

 For me it's extra hard to get rid of stuff since I come from a post-soviet country and a rather poor family where nothing was thrown away. We always kept things because we had payed for it (and when you're poor it's a big motivator). Also, I've been  in the same size since I was 15 and I've never had any personal style or care for fashion. So theoretically I'm still able to wear anything I've owned since a long time ago. How can you get rid of anything you can still use? This is why transition into getting rid of things in addition to buying less and reusing old was hard for me.

Also, minimalism has a mental aspect of clearing our daily life as well. Doing only the meaningful activities, giving ourselves only to meaningful people and not over-planning, over-organizing, over-thinking over-exercising or anything over-. And I guess that is even harder part than letting go of physical clutter and stuff.

By now I have around half as many clothes than a year ago (and I didn't have many before, it could all fit into a closet), less shoes, less furniture, less books, less social media accounts, less obligations. Less anything really. And damn, I feel good :)
I must mention I have around the same amount of kitchen supplies, since I didn't have many to begin with.

I don't have any plan to next do this or that. But  regularly try to find items to donate and aspects to minimize. This week I went through my supply of scarves (I had many, I still have many) and I chose around one third of them to donate. As well I took a look at my bookshelf and again picked out books I'm sure I won't read. I still have too many scarves (and maybe books as well), but this is my style to do things gradually.
I always have a bag in my closet where I put things to donate and I try to get it full regularly. I don't live to minimalize and simplify endlessly. I live to live, to enjoy my surroundings and existence. And simplifying and minimizing serve these purposes for me at the moment.

A few things helped me easing my way into transition to minimalist mindset. Some of these might seem unusual for many.

1. Having more money
It's often thought that minimalism is frugalism and essentially to have more money thus more to poor people. I find it wrong. Being poor means owning less usually just because you're not able to get goods. But the items you have, you keep. Growing up, moving out and having my own money taught me that nothing happens if I get rid of something I'll need in 2 years. I am able to get a new item if it's really necessary. And most of the times I won't need it ever. Time changes and who knows what we need in the future.
So even when minimalist mindset can help you save money, it's hard to transition into that mindset if you don't already have enough to get by.

2. Charity
I rarely sell the things I get rid of. There are some things that are practically worthless by the time I'm letting them go, so I try to recycle them. Everything else I donate to charity. Feeling that having less items of my own helps someone else gives me motivation. I do need to put more effort into getting rid of things because it's longer way to charity centers than to the trashcan, but still, it feels way better this way :)

3. Understanding your limits and being realistic
Even the most productive, rich and energetic people have some limitations. Most of us have a few more than some limitations. Like the size of our home limits the furniture we can have and length or the vacation limits how many clothes you should bring.  But continuing from there: the length of your workday and the need of sleep limits the other activities you can do in a day and your body size limits the size of the clothes to buy. There's no point to plan or buy stuff for the the reason that you might be able to do this if you skip sleep or if you lose x-amount of weight and are invited to a wedding or an asteroid hits the Earth. Buy the tings that you're 100% sure actually are going to use. Plan activities that you're sure you're going to do and are needed to be done. And nothing bad happens if you have unplanned free time for an hour.
You need to understand that living is always a trade-off. This is how nature is made. Doing/having one thing means you won't be doing/having something else. Accept the trade-off and don't try to fight the nature.
 For me the turning point was having a chronic health condition that limited my energy. So I started leaving out energy demanding things and replacing them with energy giving things. I started removing items from home because I never used them since I didn't have energy.

So All these thing you have that are holding you back like little time or energy or small home are actually your advantage. Understanding what you can't do or have gives you a starting point towards the things you can have and do. Having pre-existing limits makes your life already so much easier.

4. Trying out minimal life for short periods or only in some aspects of life
Trying out something before deciding if it's good for you is a popular method and why not try it with simple and minimal living as well. You can try it when you take smaller bag than usual while travelling. Or when you visit your summer house where there's only a bookshelf and nature and nothing else to do. And on both occasions you should find that nothing bad happens when you don't always have a plan or a different outfit or  many different choices of entertainment. Try out what happens when you only plan as many chores that you are sure you'll get done.
Implement the aspect you enjoy to your life and find new aspects to try.

5. Visual beauty
Having less things around is beautiful. It means less clutter, less things to keep in order and the items you have can have more effect. But for this one needs to understand that some of the things need to find a new owner.
Getting my home more pretty step-by-step is really inspiring to me.

6. Understanding that you don't need to do this
Having pressure to finish something by deadline might be good at work to get things done but we shouldn't function only by pressure. Do things only when you need that they give something back to you.  Find the small things that give to you. The things you or anyone around you don't feel purposeful are irrelevant.
I feel that giving some of my clothes to charity gives me happiness and that having less clutter in my bedroom improves my living environment. I don't think that having less photos in my home would serve me, so I'm not going to reduce the number of photos.

7. Having purpose
If you feel pure joy of your life, you don't need to change anything. But if you have a purpose, like have more time and energy and happiness, handle better your everyday things, you need to take steps towards it.
I've found that having more energy comes from doing only the most purposeful and meaningful things. That feeling of being in control comes from not trying to control absolutely everything.
Gets kind of philosophical, I know :)

So that was the story behind my journey towards minimal living. I'm not there yet, and probably I'll never be. But already the journey itself has given me so much energy, happiness and I beleive also health that I'll be always grateful.

By the way. I'm using my own photos or photos from Unsplash ( amazing site I already mentioned earlier) most of the time. This time becoming minimalist helped me as well.

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