As I’ve built my decluttering muscles and let go of more and more stuff from my life, people have asked me questions, some curious, and others fearful. The curious wonder what minimalism is and how it is that I’ve got rid of so much stuff. The fearful ones tend to ask, “But you’re not going too far with it are you?”, or react with horror and say things like, “You won’t have anything left!”
And my answer to them is this: with minimalism, I have only gained. The more stuff I let go of, the more I gain in terms of time, sanity, and self awareness, extra cash, and the more I come to understand true abundance and happiness.
Here’s some of the gains:
Less stress, less cleaning
With less stuff there is far less stuff to store, nothing on the sides, and it takes less than half the time to clean. Before, if I wanted to dust a shelf, I was having to move all my trinkets, figurines, and books, dust the shelf, then dust the stuff itself, then put it all back, all the while worrying I was going to break them or somebody else was. All of this would take hours, and I’d be too cranky and exhausted to want to do much else after.
I was always yelling at my young son to calm down incase he knocked my things over – which one day he did. He smashed a vase and I went crazy at him. In that moment I saw how devastated he looked when he’d been laughing moments before. I stopped yelling as I stared at the broken pieces and thought, ’Why the hell am I acting like this over some physical object when my son was just playing and being a child?’ Soon after that I got rid of all the other things which were needless decorative objects that caused me nothing but stress.
Did I regret it? Not for a second.
Now I just dust the surfaces and am done, or I don’t dust at all because I’ve been able to remove storage and display furniture I no longer need.
There came a point where I’d decluttered so much that I found myself with more free time overall. That’s because my time wasn’t being stolen by caring for, storing, and organising stuff I didn’t need or use in the first place. Of course, I still have to clean and wash clothes and organise what I do have, but it’s effortless and takes a fraction of the time. Even my daughter’s toddler toys are picked up and stowed away in less time than it takes to make a cup of tea.
I’m also far more intentional about how I spend my time. Before, I spent every spare moment scrolling on social media seeing who had a better life than me (and complaining about my own), bingeing video games for days on end , and fantasising about a life different to the one I was living. Snapping back to reality was so awful that I’d buy yet more stuff to try to experience the feelings my dream life would cook up (it never works and never will!)
Now, I mostly spend my time on things which truly light me up inside and which I feel makes a difference in the world. I started blogging about minimalism, am now training to become a counselor (a complete career change), have started learning to drive again, and have recently started a Youtube channel.
Have I taken on a lot? Yes. Do I know it will all turn out as planned? No! But it’s a lot of stuff which is going to level up my life instead of an on-screen character (I still love my gaming, but it has taken far less priority in my life).
Minimalism is far more than just purging the stuff you don’t need, but a journey of self-awareness. What you shed in useless stuff, you gain in layers of self.
The initial decluttering phase makes you ask difficult questions about your stuff and why you’re keeping what you are. I asked myself so many questions, and the more I got rid of, the harder those questions became. “He’s long passed, so why are you keeping this in some dark dusty corner of the attic?”. “What do these old scribbles/writings mean to you, really?”
“Why are you storing the physical reminder of this agonising school memory?” “What are you really trying to say with all these books?”
The deeper you go and the harder the questions you ask yourself, the more self-awareness you will gain and the more your life will change as a result. As you come to understand what you really want, you’ll purge more of what you don’t and will put up with less; not just with your stuff, but with people and life situations.
It goes without saying that the less money you spend on things you don’t need, the more you have for the things you do or would rather invest in. However, it’s vital to first change your mindset and change your relationship with consumption. It’s no good decluttering all your stuff only to replace it with more. Minimalism is a lifestyle and a commitment.
I admit, I still find it hard not to spend spare cash on things like chai latte, takeaway curry, yet another kindle book, sparkling wine, a good digital video game sale, and other frivolities.
But slowly but surely, I’m getting there.
I came to the realisation that no matter what I buy, it’ll never bring me those feelings of happiness and peace I’ve always craved. Happiness where I live on my own terms, and peace where I’m not always desiring more and more to fill an endless and ever-growing void.
Minimalism is key to all of that.
Living with less has helped me to finally see that I have everything I ever wanted and more. A loving family, a roof over my head, nice food, an abundance of choice wherever I go, freedom to believe what I want and be who I am, a light airy space, time to do with what I choose.
Many aren’t so fortunate.
I never needed more clothes to project an image, more books to do the same, more tchotkes to fill space, more videogames to sap my decision making energy, more storage boxes to store my insecurities.
I never needed more.
What I needed was less.