Friday, 10 January 2014

Guest post by Jane about minimalism

Hi, I'm Jane from Texas! I'm a 30-something Art Teacher and I'm a minimalist.

I found Anita through my passion of Filofax organizers and I was amazed at the fact that she only had two Filofaxes. (Now, she has one!)

I've actively pursued the minimalist lifestyle for four years. I first discovered minimalist living in December 2009. Since then, my husband and I have de-owned about 70% of our belongings. Anita asked me to write my thoughts on minimalism--and I warn you, this will be a lengthy article. (Ironic? Absolutely.)

What is minimalism?
The minimalist lifestyle is now considered the forefront trend in modern living. It's often poo-pooed as a fad, many people can par down all their possessions to a single backpack? To me, minimalism is simply getting down to basics. I can only wear one shirt at a time--why own 50? Minimalism is taking the time to step back from shopping, deciding my criteria for a purchase, and buying for usefulness or beauty. 
Not because of a sale.
Or because a famous celebrity owns the same item.
For example, I had a black purse I used for ten years. I reluctantly let it go because it was battered--without having a replacement lined up--and it took me years to figure out my ideal purse is a cross body. After deciding what I needed (pocket on outside for keys, zippered top, adjustable strap), I'm the happy owner of three purses that are high quality, durable, and washable.
Once you take the time to figure out your needs, it's as if objects that you know won't work, suddenly don't jump out at you and scream 'buy me' anymore. Even if they are on sale.

What has minimalism done for me?
Mentally, I'm a much more peaceful person. I have time to think about my character strengths and weaknesses--and take the time to make improvements. This has improved my close relationships. Other friendships I've had to let go. I've also had to set some boundaries.
Because I'm not spending my time organizing my possessions or extreme cleaning (it's very hard to clean a knick-knack shelf or deep clean multiple rooms),
I have time to work on a future career change.
I'm also at the peak of my creativity. If I need something, I try to think of a similar item that would substitute. Or try to think of a way to repair an item. For example, a friend gave me a travel mug, but the open/closed lid broke. Instead of tossing it, I studied it. I gave myself mental space to see that it'd originally been glued on. So, I pulled out the crazy glue, and secured it back together. After a day of curing, I washed it and poured myself some peppermint tea.

What has minimalism done for my family?
We are debt free, haven't had a car payment since 2008, and had the financial resources to move to a new state because of a career opportunity for my husband. After a year in the new city, we realized it wasn't for us, and minimalism gave us the ability to pack up and move back home (in a considerably smaller truck, I might add).
I know that when my time on earth ends, getting rid of my possessions won't be a burden on a loved one. 
Minimalism has given my husband and I a mental sense of freedom from worrying about keeping up with the Jones', guilt about our previous lifestyle, and we've released the fear surrounding life's uncertainties. 

Hmm, this minimalism stuff is starting to sound good. Where do I start?
There are many, many inspirational sites online. One suggests getting rid of one item per day. Another suggests packing up your entire house and only pulling out items that you need, as you use them.
I want to offer one word of caution. Some minimalists have gotten rid of most of their possessions in a short period of time. However, this is not a requirement, nor do I believe to be the norm. It's taken my husband and I years to de-own. Plus, we've also moved 5 times within four years. Moving always helps you decide what's important enough to pack, and what isn't. 
What helped me the most was realizing I've always been minimalist in certain areas of my life. I choose quality shoes over seasonal styles, for example and I bet the most I've ever owned is ten pairs. I've kept a fairly empty purse--including things that are essential like lip balm, sunglasses, tissues, and wallet. Once I realized  I wasn't into kitchen equipment, or bathroom products, or make-up, I started clearing out those areas first. I focused on the belongings where I showed a natural tendency for less, cleaned out the unwanted items in those areas, and my successes snowballed. (Note: I am cheap. If I had soap, toothpaste, or shampoo samples or partially used bottles, I used those up before purchasing more.) 
And on and on it went. I eventually went through my entire house.
There were things I knew I should downsize, but that I wasn't mentally ready to deal with. So I gave myself the gift of time.
Things equalized.
Then, I'd find an item and realize I didn't need it. I'd go a few more days and think, "Why did I want that?"
And I'd start a box, it'd get full and I'd either donate the items or save it for a garage sale.
We had a lot of garage sales.
And eBay auctions.
The cycle continued and we'd have another massive clean out. We'd rest. And do it again.
It's a continuous action in our household now.

So, I'm a Minimalist Now...How do I get rid of all my stuff?
First, take a deep breath, and relax. De-owning and studying our individual habits that led to needless purchasing will take time. Start with the medicine cabinet. Clear it out. Then clear out the spices and seasonings. Before grocery shopping this week, take an inventory of all the food items you have in your pantry and see if you can't use up 3 items in your menu for the upcoming week. Strive for daily progress instead of a marathon clean out. Be especially careful of family members who are used to clutter and allow breathing room as you slowly remove a figurine here or a decoration there.
Look at why you shop. Do you feel powerful when you find a sale? Does this feeling make you feel like you're in control? Why don't you feel in control in the rest of your life? Do you shop because you're around other people and you're really lonely? Do you purchase items because you're keeping up with others? Right-sizing (a more positive term than downsizing) is a journey that can bring up emotional issues, so you might want to journal about new emotions that pop up during this process. It's okay to move slowly, backslide, stop altogether, and start again.

I've gotten rid of 80% of my stuff...but I'm still not happy. This Minimalism business is a joke. 
Being a minimalist won't make you happy. Happiness is a moment-by-moment choice. After you significantly reduce the amount of your possessions, you might suddenly realize you're sad, or angry, or perhaps not like parts of your personality. This very much happened to me. 
I was angry I couldn't purchase happiness. Objects can distract us, but they will never fix unsettling emotions. Events that we've never dealt with might come bubbling up to the surface, and they'll remain there, driving us to do the opposite of we truly desire. Why? They haven't healed.
You might realize you need to learn coping skills, how to set boundaries, or to make some major lifestyle changes. It's so easy to buy a book or workout equipment, but your self esteem won't change unless you use the techniques within them. 
Dealing with the emotional journey of minimalism can allow you to be the person you are destined to be.

1. A great little video of a man who retired at 42 and who truly has achieved personal happiness by owning less.
2. A Podcast about a Pastor who realized stuff was robbing him of time with his family.
3. Finding the courage and freedom of honoring our true interests.
4. This story simply cracks me up. If all robbers were faced with nothing to steal!
5. A look at visual peace in a Minimalist Apartment.

Thanks for a really interesting post, Jane. It's a subject close to my own heart and I very much enjoyed hearing about your own journey. You can read all my posts about minimalism here

1 comment:

  1. Interesting guest post :) If you read my blog, you might know I've been an aspiring minimalist for 3 years now. I go through phases where I want everything though, so I don't call myself a real minimalist! Granted, I don't buy "everything", but I haven't found that centre of calm around belongings, and I think I place too much emphasis on the satisfaction of de-cluttering.

    Anyway, the real point of this comment was so many people have misconceptions about what it means to be minimalist, so it's always nice to see a blog post pointing out that you don't have to live in an empty house with just a mug for company to be minimalist!