Earlier this year, I had to travel between two cities regularly, and I decided that I should be able to live out of a suitcase to make things easier. A lot of things changed when I made that one choice in my life. Unknowingly I was a part of a minimalist moment. I had seen the famous Netflix documentary; I had practiced everything I could learn from it. I even gave away all the clothes that I never used to save more space. Minimalism was such a big part of my life that I could also link my work to the way I choose to live. I still believe that my lifestyle and work are related.
Reflecting on my life after nearly a year of living the “Minimalist” life, I see tons of changes in my life. Of course, it hasn’t been as smooth as I expect it to be, but I feel like I am only able to handle these ups and downs because of how I have been able to only worry about the things that matter the most to me. For those of you who are thinking of taking up minimalism or want to or are curious about it, here are some things that I wish I knew.
1: Keep an eye out for the different seasons
For me, the first step towards minimalism was giving up all the clothes I never used. I never had a lot of clothes, so it took me no time to donate my extra shirts and sweaters. In the summer, I had 7 of the same t-shirts, 5 of the same shorts and three jackets in case I wanted to put something on. But guess what, here in Canada we have four different seasons, and there is no way I was going to walk out in the winter with my shorts and my t-shirt. So, I had to add more sweaters to my clothes, which made me uncomfortable. What did I end up doing? Now I have a box at home where I keep my summer clothes in. Is this the best way? Probably not, but I wish I had realized about this before.
2: Be accommodating of your family/roommates
One thing to keep in mind is minimalism is very subjective. What may seem like too much to you might be too little for someone else. There is no set of rules to become a minimalist. You set your own rules and boundaries. Compared to a lot of other people in my community, my family doesn’t hoard on to things. We have enough space in our house to add plenty of ideas. But in my opinion, we already have everything we need, and we don’t need to add anything else. One lesson for me here is, if I want to live a minimalist lifestyle, I cannot expect my family to do the same. But I can choose to do what I want in my room. The number of things outside my room is not in my control.
3: Let minimalist seep into work
At work, I had nothing but a single screen, a laptop, a folder, and a book to take notes on my desk. I would continuously digitize all my papers, upload any receipts on to the cloud if I had to, and I had no clutter on my desk. As soon as I sat on my chair, I knew what I had to do when I glanced at my notebook. When I left for home, I knew I had nothing on my table that I could forget. The lesson here for me was, I don’t necessarily have to bring my home to work and vice versa.
4: Extra time on your hands
With very few things to worry about, everything had a place and a process in my life. If I got a paper receipt, I would immediately store it on the cloud, and if I got a book, it would directly go into my bookshelf. When I stopped paying attention to things like what shirt to wear today, or where to store this extra piece of paper, I had plenty of time. My room was always clean, and I didn’t have to spend time cleaning or organizing. I had so little that even if a pen was out of place, I could tell, and it would only take 2 seconds to put things back in order. On average, I had about 10 to 15 extra hours on my hand every week. Most of the days, I just spent time with my family or friends doing nothing. I would read a book or spend time on my phone.
5: Digital overload
Reducing digital noise was the toughest part of taking up minimalism. You can choose what you have in your closet, your room or your table at work, but you cannot control the amount of data on the internet. You can spend countless hours on the internet, watching videos, reading blogs, or scrolling through social media. I noticed that I spent more time on my phone, thanks to the tracking apps. When you look at all the posts trying to sell you a new shirt or a new pair of converse shoes, you want to buy it. Digital marketing can sometimes make you feel overwhelmed and tempt you to give in and buy something.
6: Brace your self emotionally
When you give up on loving things and start loving people around you, it can get very touchy and emotional. The one big message of minimalism is “use things and love people.” I noticed that every minute I spent with people had an impact on my life. I started to live in the present because I had every “thing” that I needed. To be honest, you begin to realize a lot of things about the people you love. You start to notice their desires, the things they love, their habits and their temptations.
7: Prepare for spurs of growth
Being a minimalist is a cycle. One day you can wake and realize you have too much again. When you do, you start to shed things still. Sometimes, life sends you a message even before you know it. During the time you are giving up on the things that are weighing you down, you see a lot of growth. But you reach a point where you can quickly settle down. When that happens, let us hope you are mindful enough to know if you have started to hoard a lot again and have more than what you truly need.
I hope that these tips help you ease into your path into minimalism or encourage you to take on this challenge. In a future post, I will talk about how I was able to overcome these challenges and share my findings. Life is nothing but an experiment where you learn and share, don’t you agree?