What I Think it Means to be a Minimalist

I was raised in a setting in which every physical item was kept, saved, stored, displayed, stacked, or piled in the house.

Let’s just start off by acknowledging that we all have different points of view, different backgrounds, income levels, past experiences and so forth. Those details will surely influence our opinions and decisions in obvious ways and subliminal ways, as well. This story is about what I think it means to be a minimalist.

OK. Groovy. We are all kind of different but pretty much alike in our human-ness.

I am, in general, a “try-to-consume-as-little-as-possible” girl. I really do not support things such as fast fashion, buying the latest gadget or version of anything, or any sort of subscription where they send you things automatically and then bill you. I choose to make the majority of our food at home for many reasons, one of them is to not promote the “consumption machine.”

I believe that if you have to “buy things” specifically to “be” a minimalist, something is getting lost in translation.

This has not always been my outlook. I was raised in a setting in which every physical item was kept, saved, stored, displayed, stacked, or piled in the house. I learned from a young age that this was appropriate behavior. It took me many years to start to overcome that set of beliefs. Following are the 3 biggest stumbling blocks of my clutter-filled and excessive accumulation of ‘stuff’ past, and how I began to change my attitude toward it.

Future Value of an Item

 Someday this is going to be worth a lot of money. When you hear this over and over from the time you are a child you don’t even question it. It is just a fact to you. We were not a family with much income, so whatever this “treasure” was, it was surely not a high buck or high quality item. Let’s be realistic, most things depreciate over time, especially if they were mass produced and not a quality item to begin with. Now we have all heard of the Cabbage Patch Kids that are “worth a mint” 20 years later, but what exactly does that mean? How much would someone honestly pay for them?

My guess is that if you would have taken the same $20 and invested it in a balanced fund, you would have the same or more return on your investment and you did not physically have to deal with a doll in a box for 20 years. How much did the physical storage cost you? How much mental storage did that take up in your head?

Then, take that 1 cabbage patch doll and multiply it by 100 beanie babies, a Betty Boop watch, 4 Hummel figures, 10 Precious Moment figures, 15 Snow Babies and 8 Department 56 Christmas Village buildings, entire Coca Cola collections from dishes to coolers, radio, watches, pencils, towels, napkin holders, puzzles, ornaments, drinking glasses, eye glasses…… and so on and so on.  You get the idea, now imagine you had to store and maintain that stuff for 20 years… or more… only to find out that there’s a 99% chance that you can’t sell the stuff for $1.00 at a garage sale or on Ebay.

The Person Dwells in the Things

This one worked against me in 2 ways. One, ole Uncle Frank always sat in that chair – thus I have to keep the chair. And the other way – Oh, Aunt Sadie always wanted you to have her doll collection and fine china. It would break her heart if you didn’t keep and cherish them.

Well ….. I think dolls are creepy and dust magnets personally, and that particular “fine” china is not my taste, cannot be used in the dishwasher or microwave, and is full of many chips and cracks.

Now a “reasonable” or less sentimental person, or a person who was not raised that way, reads that and has the stuff in the garbage, pawned off on a different family member, or donated to a thrift store in about 15 minutes. Not so with us poor saps.  We agonize over it.

Remember this is a process. For me, a very s-l-o-w process. I tell myself that it is impossible and completely illogical to keep my mom’s stuff, my grandma’s stuff, my kid’s stuff, and my stuff. I remind myself that one cannot put 25lbs of manure in a 10 lb bucket.  That means that no matter how I stack it, there is a limit. The capacity of the house, closet, shelf, is only so much and I have to come to terms with that. One trick I do with certain items is to take a photograph of the item and then get rid of it. Also, I have made lots of progress over the years to live more mindfully and joyfully to enjoy this moment. Spending too much time (in my head) in the past or projecting into the future really amps up the anxiety and heartache over purging and decluttering things.

Scarcity mentality

This is where you have more than 1 of something but you don’t get rid of the second one (or 3rd, 4th) because you don’t know if you will be able to afford it later or, why get rid of a working 3rd blender; it works.

It boils down to a couple things. One, trust in yourself that you will have $35 when/if you ever need a new blender. Two, the mental weight of those extra things is burdening you more than the nervousness of letting them go.

There are a lot of moments along this journey which are painful for us, know that, and try to accept it.

This can be a long journey for some of us, don’t give up. Progress, not perfection. Physical clutter around me also clutters my brain and keeps me from enjoying things. The less weighted down version of me feels better. I find that I really don’t miss most of the things that I have chosen to let go of, but it didn’t come easily or quickly. That’s ok.

NO-BOD-DEE would ever call me a minimalist. That’s ok.

What I believe a minimalist is someone who believes things will turn out ok. Someone who is in the moment and doesn’t need ‘things’ to validate themselves, or their existence; Someone who can travel light through this world, making them nimble and available for new adventures. Someone who finds more pleasure in doing than consuming. Someone who can give more of their love away because they are not managing things.

So … grab whatcha got and let’s go!