IF YOU ARE CONTEMPLATING BECOMING MINIMALIST, THESE PROVEN TIPS AND FIRST-HAND THOUGHTS WILL EASE YOU INTO THIS AWESOME LIFESTYLE
■ text by Bartosz Och | photos from Pexels
Like most of you, I was thrown into a whirlpool of indoctrination and brainwashing. From my earliest days, I was bombarded frantically with colourful and alluring advertisements displayed on … pretty much everything. Capitalism, the obscure system we live in, was built on a shaky foundation of repetitive, continuous consumption. A process that requires you to buy, dispose, and replace. A vicious circle that perpetuates this fragile system. There are some more and some less obvious issues with consumerism. As we continue to accumulate more and more stuff, we not only exploit our planet’s natural but finite resources but also the people who work in ferocious conditions for less than you’d ever bother to pick off the floor. Moreover, we voluntarily fill our homes and lives with clutter we don’t need in order to impress people we don’t like. We no longer fix or care for anything. How have we come to this? Everything wrapped in plastic, coated with glaze, made to shine, destined to break.
I don’t come from a rich family, and, as a child, I was never spoiled for choice. When I grew older and was finally handling my own money, I would immediately spend it on stuff I had always wanted (mainly crap and clutter): things, clothes, games, phones, etc. It felt like I was on top of the world—buying things, owning things, and, finally, owning my life. But the truth is, I didn’t own my life. An illusion that somehow happiness, friends, and reputation can be paid for with a touch of a credit card controlled my life. It wasn’t until just about over a year ago that I realised how stuck I actually was both mentally and physically. I could no longer afford to pay rent and my letting agency wasn’t up for any kind of negotiations. I had no choice but to move out and move on. I was overwhelmed by the amount of stuff I managed to fill every corner of my tiny flat with. I was literally drowning in the mixture of things I don’t recall ever buying and shit I never needed. It was at that moment I was forced to ditch anything that ever attracted more dust than anything else. I could no longer be a prisoner of my own collectibles, shitty ornaments, unread books, unworn clothes, whatever else that’s barely significant anymore.
So I went cold turkey. I sold most of my more and less valuable things on eBay. The rest I donated to friends and charity shops. I was left with nothing more but what I have actually and truly used and needed at the time: a pair of torn pants, a camera, and a laptop … and some more necessities, of course. Becoming minimalist wasn’t easy. As a matter of fact, I am still finding it hard sometimes to part with things that no longer serve me any purpose. That’s because swimming against the current is not easy—it takes practice, strength, and lots of determination. I am hoping you will find my personal list of tips and thoughts on becoming minimalist helpful!
~ LESS IS MORE ~
At its core, minimalism is a luxurious lifestyle. It’s not about being so poor that you have the inability to have things. That’s poverty (eww). It’s more about being so rich you can afford to live like a poor person. Bingo! At least that’s what a lot of people think of minimalism these days. The truth is, one of the happiest and richest countries in the world, Norway, as well as the rest of the Scandinavia, have adopted minimalistic lifestyle long before it became fashionable. These countries have a different set of values to what’s commonly practised in the rest of Europe. They know that seemingly empty but highly functional spaces are a huge benefit in day-to-day life. They spent a lot more time socialising with family and friends and building strong relationships. It’s not all about work, work, and more work … and shopping!
~ DON’T PROCRASTINATE! BE PROACTIVE ~
For a very long time, I had a strong but shaky relationship with procrastination. I would often avoid doing something by attending to other, in my mind equally important, stuff. For example, back before I embraced minimalism, instead of finishing writing this blog post, I would engage in some silly meaningless household chores: vacuuming, laundry, shopping, ironing, often stalking people on Facebook and sometimes on the street (who knew restraint orders were actually a thing) … This would make me feel like I accomplished something, like I was being productive while, in fact, I was simply putting away things I had been dreading most. That’s not only quite unhealthy, but a terrible habit to have. When I got rid off things that were diverting my attention away from real priorities, I was left with no excuses not to do something, because I had nothing else to do. Not only did I feel more relaxed not having to worry about ‘first-world problems’, but I gained more time I could then spend with family and friends, or I don’t know … getting rid of more clutter. The bonus is, I now don’t vacuum because I don’t need to … because I don’t have a vacuum cleaner … because I don’t have a carpet. I actually no longer have a home. I also don’t do much laundry because I don’t– you get the drill.
~ EDUCATE YOURSELF AND BE CAUTIOUS ~
By nature, humans are quite selfish creatures. But what sets us apart from other animals is that we have consciousness (that’s however questionable). That’s a big advantage and we should use it! But did you know that, after 3.8 billions years of evolution on Earth, human beings seem to be the only live forms that need money to live? Unfortunately, it’s against global economy to promote minimalism. It’s vital for the survival of capitalism and monetary value to promote and invest in consumerism nurturing factors. It wasn’t until recently that we have become more and more aware of how things work and how they affect us and our planet. There are some really good sources of information out there that will put a few facts in order for you to be able to understand why it’s important we stop the wheel. We and this big blue ball we are orbiting the universe on can’t go on like this for much longer. We deprive Earth of its natural resources, poison it and kill everything that we have no financial benefit in. So put those plastic bags where your mouth is and go watch some documentaries. I recommend you start with watching The Story of Stuff (you can also read the book) and Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things (again, you can read the book instead). Hopefully, it will trigger and open up your mind.
~ HAVE STORIES TO TELL, NOT STUFF TO SHOW ~
My life motto in this short sentence summarises perfectly what’s wrong with our kind. Humans are born collectors. Our earliest ancestor were hunter-gatherers. They would stock up in a case of drought or winter. Later, a number of possessions would indicate whether someone was important or not—a factor dictating wealth, power, and social status. But we no longer need to chase buffalos, and, if you are reading this, you probably don’t live in a cave either. From hunter-gatherers, we evolved into consumers-hoarders. We buy the biggest houses we can afford so we can turn them into junkyards of useless stuff we don’t need and often can’t afford so that we can impress people we don’t need or care about. Bravo! Unfortunately, our possessive behaviors are engraved in our genetic code and that’s a little harder to alter. But what we can do is move on for God’s sake! An army of clutter and shoeboxes packed with old love letters and postcard from people you barely even know won’t save your life when you find yourself cold, hungry and vulnerable. I guess what I am trying to say here is that you don’t need to surround yourself with things to feel safe, comfortable, and happy. In fact, try the opposite! Now that I can fit all of my possessions into one backpack, I feel lightweight, as if someone took the chains off my feet. I was a slave of my own materialistic desires. Now I can travel whenever and wherever I want and move places quickly without any hassle. Instead of drowning in stuff, I make—and often loose—friends, memories, and have more and less amazing stories to tell!
~ THINK BIG, START SMALL ~
For eight years I lived in the same place I used to call home. I was renting a small two bedroom high street flat in London. It was comfortable and everything I needed was at my doorstep: shops, banks, pubs, gym, cinema, work. When I moved in, I bought all the furniture, pretty things, and clutter to make it look like less like a cell and more like a showroom. It took me less than a year to fill up every corner of my flat with junk (giving myself a pat on a shoulder). I would never throw or give anything away because you know, “you never know when you might need that again”. Slowly, I turned myself into a prisoner in my own home. I couldn’t really pack my bags and move because I simply had too many things, too many bills and debts to pay. My life was practically contained within this box of wafer-thin walls. I began to hate it there but was too overwhelmed by the thought of having to deal with all the crap. So I didn’t do anything about it. Eventually, one day, I received a letter from my agency asking me to move out. I panicked. I tried to negotiate with the landlord but to no avail. So I was left with no choice (or desire) but to pack my life away and go. And it was one the best thing that has ever happened. Because I was going to move in with a friend of mine temporarily, I didn’t want to dump all of my shit in her place. I sold a huge chunk of it on eBay, made a few extra bucks, and the rest I gave away. What was left is what I needed, and it fit pretty much in a large backpack. I never looked back and missed anything. So my advice to you would be: start small. It might take a few weeks for you to declutter your life, but Rome wasn’t built in a day either. But remember to be ruthless! I would advise you first to put aside everything that you would take with you for a two-week-long camping trip. For two weeks use just that! You will see how little you need to live and be happy.
~ DITCH TIME-WASTERS ~
Other people, just like things, have the ability to clutter and even ruin your life. Negative thoughts, meaningless conversations, never-ending drama, questionable rumors, hurtful opinions, unfulfilled promises, sweet lies … The list rolls on like toilet paper! Do you often feel angry, sad, or tired because of certain someone? Why do you put up with it? Let me tell you a secret—you don’t need to! Ha, I will tell you more—you shouldn’t! I used to hang out with people I thought of as my friends, but these friendships would usually start and end in a pub with a pint. The only questionable recollection of these friendships was vaguely memorable series of selfies on someone’s Facebook page titled #yolo. It may be a big and hard pill to swallow, but a majority of these people wouldn’t care if you vanished from the face of the earth. When I changed jobs, hardly any of my workmates ever bothered to invite me out. On rare occasion, I would get a like on my profile picture from some of those people. This philosophy comes down to a simple formula: quality over quantity. Surround yourself with people you like to spend your time with, people who motivate you and bring the best out in you. Stop engaging in pointless arguments with assholes who don’t deserve your time and energy! Don’t bother! Instead, spend that time evoking positive emotions in you and people you want to surround yourself with! That is time well spent!
~ JUST QUIT ~
This might sound familiar to you. How many times did you reach for a cigaret, a phone, a drink, inside a fridge when you knew you must do something but were too stressed or really didn’t want to? Yes, me too. Snacking was my cigaret. I never knew why, but I could hardly focus on anything that I knew was important. More than often, as soon as I would start writing, a flood of thoughts would wash my creative process away and leave me thinking about what someone said, what else needs to be done, etc. Overwhelmed by the amount of things piling up and weighing me down, I would fill the void with food, Facebook or YouTube. Since the moment I decluttered my space, kicked toxic people out of the window (not literally), I’ve had very little to stress about and, as a result, no desires to reach out for any kind of time fillers and killers. I became a lot more productive and happy with myself.
~ BOX IT UP ~
This is one awesome method you can try to declutter your space. Basically, box up everything that you own, so if you are living with friends or family, only box up the things that are yours: clothing, cosmetics, jewellery, accessories, gadgets, artwork, books, clutter. This might take a weekend or so, so make sure you got the free time to do this or dedicate a full day to doing this as a project. Put some music on, make it a fun process, and for now don’t think of anything that you got to get rid of and just box up absolutely everything and then, as you need things, slowly take them out. So, for example, when you need to go have a shower you need to get some fresh clothes or some pyjamas. Go into your boxes and get what you need to wear just for that one day. Say you want to read a book—just choose one book out of those boxes. When you use whatever item you took out of those boxes, you can put it back in its place so you don’t have to go back and put it in the box. If you take out a shirt or a dress that you are going to wear for an evening, then when you are done wearing it, hang it up in your closet. And it might be the only thing in your closet for the time being. Do this process for a week, two weeks, maybe a month if you are comfortable doing that. What you will most likely find is that you will have this minimalist amount of things already that you have been using for a month, and it will really show you that you have been probably using less than ten percent of all of the things that you own (depending on how many things you have, of course). A lot of people are using a lot less of the things that they own than they realise. Once you have been doing that, it kind of shows you how little you need to go on through an entire month. If you later decide to put all that stuff back into your closet (that’s ok, no one is judging you), you will probably feel a bit tense and it will feel like a burden trying to find the 10 percent of the things you have been using amongst all the rest of the clutter. I believe this process will help to ease you into minimalism and you will be able to really understand how and why it works. It’s a baby step into minimalism rather than if you suddenly decide overnight to get rid of all the stuff you have been hoarding and holding onto for years. However, a lot of people get to that point when they don’t even need to do that box method; they just know and realise they don’t need all this stuff. There are people out there who would love to have some of these things so if you donate it, they get a chance to use it and enjoy it.