My Experiment With Minimalism: HOW IT ALL BEGAN

I always thought about myself as a bit of a minimalist. I love minimalistic interiors - the zen places where it is easy to relax. I like it when the small things in my home are hidden away from view and are in their right places leaving my surroundings more spacious and free of clutter. I think it is simply easier to live this way - you save energy of being frustrated about the mess around you and the need to constantly clean it up.

But if I REALLY think of it, I am still very far from being able to call myself a true minimalist. That is because I own too many things.

A while ago a friend of mine was moving houses. Because he rents and because he was moving far away and had limited resources he decided that he would only need to take with him the items which he has been using over the last 6 months. He got rid of the rest - of most of his things really. And you know, he called it a very refreshing experience. Let me tell you, his move was very easy. He realized how much stuff he had accumulated which he was keeping for no reason whatsoever. He sold or gave things away. He said he got some money he channeled to better purposes or simply helped people who were in need of things he was not anymore using.

In the West we live in a society which suffers from an extreme case of consumerism. We keep buying things because we believe we need them, but is this really the case? Worst of all we fall into this vicious circle - we believe we need to WORK to be able to buy and maintain all these things - all these things we do not really need.

I have recently come across The 100 Things Challenge book and got inspired to revisit my relationship with things and do a clear out of my space and also my world. I give myself time till May 1, that's 2 weeks worth of effort.

Within the next 2 weeks I will proceed with the following 3 steps:

1) Space Clear Out

The plan is to go through all my things (clothes, cosmetics, books, CDs, household appliances, etc) and get rid of the ones I no longer use. I need to end up with really useful things I need, things that inspire me and bring joy. Storing them away doesn't count! They need to be sold on e-bay, given away or simply thrown into the bin. Bearing in mind every single thing not only occupies a bit of space but takes away a bit of my energy, I should definitely regain loads in the end!!
Rule number 1 is: Do not buy new things if the old ones can still serve you well (Why do you need 7 pairs of jeans or 5 bottles of perfume??)
Rule number 2 is: Buy good quality products which will serve you longer. Yes, this is the case when you save by spending more once.

2) To-Do List Clear Out

Remember how long you were planning to finish that book for? How long you were promising to visit your friends who moved, but never found the time? Become a sponsor for pet charity? And never found the time to go do it? How many of similar activities were accumulating in my to-do list making it long, heavy and later almost unbearable to carry. The time has come to decide what to do. There are 2 options: 1) go and do it 2) decide not to do it at all and cross it out of your to-do list. It's time to stop carrying all that load of the uncompleted tasks!

3) My Environment Clear Out

Clear out of my environment - look at all the unhealthy relations which have a negative impact on my life. Finish all the interactions which bring negative effect on me. For the ones where there are potential misunderstandings - initiate dialogue to resolve them. Learn to say 'no' when the situation requires. Allow yourself to be 'ungrateful', 'crazy' or 'not well behaved' if that is the price for freedom.

So that's for starters - I will provide updates on my progress here on this blog.

I realize I'm being slightly hypocritical talking about minimalism here. I'm a privileged white female with income and savings. That’s an easy position to be in to get rid of the things you don't need. I have the luxury of being able to buy the food I need or walk into a restaurant to have it made for me, while so many people in the world need to stock up large volumes of food to be able to afford eating in principle. I also have a credit card to fall back on in an emergency while most people in this world do not.

I have funds to survive and that’s an enormous privilege. Nonetheless, I recently feel that all these things are dragging me down and complicate my life instead of giving me freedom to spread my wings. I still feel the lifestyle of less is better than the endless consumerism we suffer from where buying and hoarding stuff (which doesn’t make us happy) has now become standard.

This is part one of a series of blog posts on minimalism. You can link to part two and three here:

part 2: My Experiment With Minimalism: SPACE CLEAR OUT

part 3: My Experiment With Minimalism: TO-DO LIST AND MY ENVIRONMENT CLEAR OUT

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Natasha D said...

I so much agree with your initiative to clear your life of all the unnecessary things/people/thoughts/to-do lists. While not very good with some things, I have become pretty good with my closet. I only buy things that I have no doubt about and I periodically get rid of things that I don't wear. No matter how much I love that blouse, if I haven't worn it for a year, it has to go.

I am curious to see how you will feel after this experiment. When I moved from New York to London and then back to New York, I got rid of 80% of my belongings and felt great. We really don't need much.

The only clutter I keep - sentimental things: old postcards, letters from grandma, old photos. What to do with that?! I can't let go.

Priyanka said...

Olga, you have inspired me... I'm gonna start with you... actually behind you... This article is really well written and my favorite lines are 'I have funds to survive and that’s an enormous privilege. Nonetheless, I recently feel that all these things are dragging me down and complicate my life instead of giving me freedom to spread my wings'....

Priyanka Prakash

Olga said...

Natash, thank you for the comment. You can actually read an update on the 'stuff clear out' in my latest post here already :). Well done with your closet! I think it is actually one of the biggest challenges for many.

Yes, I absolutely agree with you on feeling free when you have less stuff. When we move to London, we came by car and we brought our pets with us from Poland. So we took only things which fitted in the car. It was almost like starting life from scratch :) Our first apartment wasn't big, so before buying things we'd always think if they'd fit and most of the time decided against them (I guess this was how we saved for our current house!). Having more space, it's easier to keep things, but these clear outs are a necessary thing to do, especially with all the baby things your child is quickly growing out of ;)

And so true about the sentimental things - they are priceless and they are the only things that need keeping. I think many of them are reminders of how we became who we are. And it is important to look back on our milestones. Love from us!

Olga said...

Priyanka, thanks for checking this post out! it really warms my heart to know that you found it inspiring. I'd be curious to know how it goes for you :) Love to Kriti!