I looked around the room. A room packed with haphazardly collected items that were either too good of a deal or too sentimental to throw away. For the first time in my life, it hit me: all of these things, these relics of my stitched together life were weighing my life down and constantly reminding me of every part of my past (both good and bad) that I couldn’t seem to shake.
But what was I supposed to do? I needed, or might need, or wanted every item that I had brought into my life. I couldn’t just get rid of my stuff and climb out of my material abyss into something more meaningful. After all, if it was that easy to create a life constructed with meaning wouldn’t everyone be doing it?
Minimalism. It has been such a buzzword lately that I initially resisted the urge to gravitate towards this popular, yet misunderstood lifestyle. For years my concept of minimalism was deprivation just for the sake of having less stuff. Living in cold, stark houses with as little stuff as possible just to prove that a lack of stuff made you superior to your possession-loving friends. Then I became a minimalist.
It started with a shirt. It was just a plain white T-shirt from H&M. Though I had several white shirts from other fast-fashion retailers, this one was my favorite. It fit in all the right ways and forgave in all the right places, my love for this shirt was compounded by the fact that I had paid next to nothing for this already dangerously cheap shirt during a sale. Not surprising, being a white shirt owned by a slob meant that this shirt was bound to ride a few wash cycles.
Having done my research on clothes care I had always babied my clothes: washing them all inside out, with cold water and letting them air-dry. But my careless horde of cheap clothes wasn’t a baby that would grow and mature with care and love, it was a rapidly disintegrating puff of smoke. Extremely environmentally hazardous smoke.
It was the second time I had washed the shirt. After an afternoon air drying, I went to carefully fold up my two-week old shirt and noticed pilling all down the front. Pilling?! After two washes?! I was infuriated. Our consumer-driven society has taken a toll on the clothing industry, no longer selling clothes, just renting a look that will self-destruct in time for the newest trend. There had to be a better way.
During my attempt to defuse the disintegration time-bomb that was my expansive wardrobe, minimalism began to creep into my life. I realized that the key to clothes that would last more than a month was to buy higher-quality clothes, and the only way that I could afford to buy better clothes was to be very intentional about what I wore and buy less; way, way less.
Pretty soon the theory that I was applying to my closet begin to seep into other areas of my life. I discovered that when you begin to demand value in one area of life it exposes the areas of your life that are lacking value with stark contrast. I begin to see my closet as a reflection of my life. I started to notice just how many things I kept and maintained despite their obvious flaws and lack of fit.
With the cheap and ill-fitting clothes, I also began to throw out cheap distractions, ill-fitting relationships and poorly constructed life-goals. What I discovered was that all the physical and mental clutter in my life was feeding my stress and lack of fulfilment. I alleviated this stress with the distraction of consuming more stuff, committing to more things I had no interest in, and maintaining relationships that added no worth to my life.
While I am still a long way from a fully curated life, I am beginning to discover just what minimalism looks like in my life and realising that it’s nothing like the stark, recently robbed look that I had come to believe was a minimalist requirement. I am discovering that minimalism is a constantly evolving, difficult journey that takes a lot but gives back so much more; so long as we enjoy the process instead of focusing solely on the destination.
This is the beginning of the end of a life without value.
Image courtesy of Unsplash
Also published on Medium.