Becoming More Minimalist

If you’re reading the title of this entry and you know me at all, you are probably thinking, “This girl is crazy. She has the most excessively filled apartment I have ever seen. Is she calling herself a ‘minimalist’?? Is she actually going to become a minimalist??” The answer to both of these questions is no. I just want to do better.

On Friday, I decided to leave work before the typical 6:30 pm I have been growing accustomed to, and I decided to give myself a little bit of “me time” at home. I intended to vacuum before it got too dark outside to use the natural light from the windows to help me spot the cat hair all over the couch.

Once I got home, I realized I still have so much stuff laying all over the floor and on the living room furniture to even think about vacuuming around it all. I thought for a second, then decided today needed to be focused on finally putting it all away, so I can vacuum tomorrow. This stuff is random knick knacks from moving that don’t have an organized “home” on the bookshelf or in one of the closets. This stuff is a pile of Modern Bride and InStyle and HGTV magazines from where I keep saying, “I’ll go through them eventually and tear out the important pages.” I see cat toys strewn across the room from where I feel like my cat gets bored of only ever playing with the same two toys – I’m completely wrong on this since I see her now playing with her “favorite” hair tie of mine. Why do I have all this stuff? Am I ever going to go through it? Is it useful for me in any way?

I also decided to take the time to finally watch the Netflix documentary Minimalism, and it was an incredible experience for me. Minimalism follows the two creators of the website on their nation-wide book tour for Everything That Remains: a Memoir as they discuss their minimalist lifestyle and why they chose it with crowds across the US. The documentary also included commentary from people who live in “tiny houses”, people who minimized the amount of advertisements they allowed in their home by reducing online or television time, and others who just reduced the amount of objects they owned or money they spent in order to lead a more fulfilling lives. The purpose of the documentary, I felt, wasn’t to brainwash someone into wanting to throw out all their stuff, but to encourage people to consider their decisions on what they are exposing themselves to, and decide if those decisions add value to their life or take away from it.

I definitely fall into the category of people who consume things mindlessly. I buy clothes because they catch my attention and they’re cheap so I can buy one of every color. I definitely fall victim to the eye-level shelf advertising. My shopping cart at the grocery store should be about half of what it currently is, and all of the contents are from the center aisles with non-perishable goods. I don’t even think about all the advertisements I subject myself to – worse, enjoy – in a normal day. Walking down the street looking at the next Broadway show coming to town, browsing online to see how well Amazon knows me and my shopping history, enjoying the hilarity of the super bowl commercials with the catchy jingles to make me remember them. I feel like a sheep after becoming aware of all the things I haven’t been aware of.

I also tend to hold onto things forever. I think about the memory of the State Fair when I see the stuffed animal on my bed my fiance won me. I also still have the wristband from that State Fair. And the ticket stub. And the shirt I wore. And the jacket. I hold onto things because they remind me of a good time I had. This alone doesn’t seem like a problem, but I have had so many good times and there are so many items attached to those good times. Where do I draw the line? I tend to think about the people I was with when I had those memories, so I tend to keep the stuff, even though I still have the people in my life to share the memories with. Why don’t I just talk about the memories with the people that were there instead of wishfully hoping an inanimate object will bring back the flood of joy from the memory? There is definitely a change that needs to  be made here.

This is when we start to get into the concept of getting rid of stuff. This is the most challenging thing for me, because I love my stuff. I LOVE it. I pride myself on the fact that my car is still shiny after having it for 9 years, and that my lip stick can be a different color every day for a month or two before I have to repeat the cycle of colors. I love my bulky bedroom set and how it makes my room look “princessy” but also “grown up”, and I’m proud of the decorations I feel I have meticulously picked out or painted at a Wine and Design class to give my apartment the “me” vibe. I tend to get so connected to the objects that I care more about how they look  than their function, and that should be a red flag for me.

One of my favorite quotes from the documentary was “Love people, use things. The opposite never works.” I should focus more money and energy on making sure my relationships with family and friends stay as shiny as my car or as unscratched as my furniture. I feel like it’s something worth giving a try.

So I may not actually become a “minimalist”, but maybe I can put some of the principles and practices to work. Maybe I can start to reduce my dependency on stuff, even if I am selective about getting rid of what I already own. Maybe I can save some money by going out of my way to use the stuff I do have to its potential instead of letting it be something that sits on the shelf. Maybe I can start separating myself from the distractions of the world, whether it’s advertisements or making vibrate setting on my phone silent. I may even start simply putting away my phone while I talk to others I am close to. Maybe these seemingly small changes can make me happier than I currently am – even if it’s only as one of the commentators in the documentary said, 10%.

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