Becoming a minimalist

I was listening to the minimalists podcast earlier today and one of the points brought up that really stood out to me was about minimalism not being a destination, or even a path to follow, but rather a tool to clear the path so that you can get where you want to go. In case you’re reading and you have no idea what this whole minimalism thing is, the best way I would describe it is the same line I use to describe what my blog is about: intentional living.

You can still be a minimalist and own more than 100 things. It’s not about obsessively counting what you own, wearing the same thing every day, decorating your house in solely black and white with sparse furnishings, or otherwise conforming to a certain stereotype. It’s not really even an ascetic lifestyle of denial, it’s just about focusing on/buying/owning/consuming only what brings true value to your life, and letting go of anything superfluous that might get in the way. And again, it’s not a journey or a destination, but a consistent mindset that helps you to live with purpose and not get bogged down by clutter, mental or physical. So, today I want to talk about my personal experience with minimalism and how it has affected my life (spoiler alert: only good things).

Let me start by saying that I was the furthest thing from a minimalist: I am extremely sentimental by nature, and as an only child I also had a tendency to give a lot of personality and weight to objects because playing often revolved around things instead of other people/siblings. So naturally, I held onto every little thing that came into my life because I wanted to and I had no reason not to, and I loved collecting pretty knickknacks. Being an only child and living in the same house from age 5 to present meant that I didn’t have to compete with any siblings for space, nor did I ever have to confront the full scope of my possessions…until I began preparing for college. I realized that not only would I have to pack up a condensed version of my life to move into a small shared dorm room, but there was a real possibility that I might not live at home with my parents for more than another summer or two if I followed the seemingly common college student pattern of getting an apartment, then an internship, and eventually a job.

So, sometime in late 2013 or early 2014 during my senior year of high school, I discovered the concept of minimalism. At the moment I can’t remember how or where, but something led me to the minimalists blog¬†and from there my mindset began to change from sentimental hoarder to (still-sentimental but no-longer-hoarder) self-proclaimed minimalist. It definitely started slow, but looking back, it’s amazing how far I’ve come. Initially, I only had time to declutter while sorting out the necessities to pack for college. After living in a 12’x12′ shared dorm room for the 2014-2015 school year with only the necessities and for the most part feeling like I still had more than enough, I returned home with renewed resolve to pare down my belongings so that if I needed to pack up and move in the near future, it would be simple instead of overwhelming.

I ended up not following that “typical” college pattern of dorm to apartment, and have been living at home ever since for various reasons, which admittedly was helpful in the process of minimizing my life. Two years later, after packing away too many bags and boxes of donations to count, plus a few neatly organized containers of sentimental items that are truly worth saving, I am finally almost done utilizing the tool of minimalism to clear my path. Of course, I will continue using this tool again and again as more clutter inevitably makes its way into my life, but the large pile of debris has been cleared. My parents even removed a significant amount of their own clutter in this time as well.

I would estimate I now own about 25% of what I did when I started, and I feel physically lighter and much happier. The new things I bring into my life are carefully considered, and though I now own mostly things I love and use regularly, I do also feel less attached to “things.” As a Christian, my personal values are rooted in my faith, and minimalism fits right into those values. As I strive to live intentionally with my values as the core motivation of my actions, I knew that before anything else, I needed to clear the clutter. I wanted to share this story of how I became a minimalist in case you’re feeling stuck, or like your things own you instead of the other way around, to show you that even if you’re a sappy sentimental weirdo like me, you can still learn how to disengage your emotions from your “stuff” if you’re willing to put in a little effort to change.

Minimalism in a world of consumerism and indulgence can be quite countercultural, sort of like Christianity or veganism, but I challenge you to challenge this culture. Life is freer when you don’t have your path blocked by stuff you’ll never use, and it’s so much easier to be grateful for what you do have when it’s all stuff that actually adds value to your life. Maybe you’re like me and you need this challenge, or maybe you’ve been a minimalist since before minimalism was cool. Either way, remember to challenge yourself once in a while. What could you change in your life to better align with your own values?

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