I remember when I discovered Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits. I remember sitting in front of the screen for hours, devouring every single word, elated to finally have found something that felt, well, just right.
I bought Leo’s book, The Power of Less*. And bit by bit, I began to simplify. I still read his words regularly.
Fast forward a couple of years to The Minimalists. Ryan and Joshua’s honest, beautifully written site finally gave me a push to take a big step with minimalism. I read about Ryan’s ‘packing party’ and I read about Joshua’s year buying nothing. And I looked at my bank account and decided then there I could do it to. Fed up of frittering away pound after pound on useless, meaningless material goods, I resolved not to buy anything for an entire year. What an adventure.
Freedom from the shopping cycle
I gave myself some rules. I’d buy toiletries if necessary, deodorant, toothpaste, etcetera. I’d buy food. I’d buy petrol as my job at the time demanded it. I gave myself a little leeway to purchase work clothes only if absolutely necessary, as again, my job demanded I project a certain image. In the end, I bought one outfit in the whole year for work.
What I found
The biggest surprise was that I didn’t miss shopping at all. I admit that towards the end of the year it became somewhat tiring, as my clothes were getting slightly threadbare, but in general…it was fine.
Previously an avid consumer of high fashion and lifestyle magazines, once these were removed, there was no temptation to buy expensive items. I started avoiding shops and so didn’t even acknowledge changes in high street fashion. No displays to tempt me. I even became blind to advertising as it was aimed at ‘consumers’, of which I was no longer one.
The year inevitably came to an end. January 1st rolled around. I didn’t change. I still didn’t want to buy anything. I remember the first thing I bought was around March the following year and I felt strange, like I’d done something wrong. Guilty for falling back into the consumer cycle.
It’s been a few years since my ‘year of nothing’, and so much has changed my personal life. I’ve got married, bought a house, changed jobs more than once and set out on a whole new journey of happiness and adventure. But minimalism still works for me. I buy less. I buy better, local, engineered to last. I hardly buy clothes. I fix my shoes. I look for experience, not for materialism.
By nature I’m scatterbrained, creative, wild-haired and messy, so the sleek, magazine-ready idea of a minimalist lifestyle doesn’t really float my boat! But the beauty of minimalism is that you can adapt it to your lifestyle. Who’s to say you need to get rid of everything? My personal brand of minimalism allows me to appreciate beauty, to focus on what matters to me. If shoes and bags are really your first love, you should celebrate that. And there are some epically beautiful bags and shoes as we all know! You can use minimalism in another way. How about applying it to productivity? What about your office or your computer desktop? The people you interact with? A single room in your house? An over- cluttered mind? Minimalism can bend and change like the wind.
Personally, I cleared out a lot. Maybe too much for me. (I donated all my books and cd’s and later realised I missed them so much, of course I forgot to digitise most of my music like a fool, so I’m still learning!) So physically I still don’t own as much as before, but I was given a Kindle and discovered the delights of iTunes and Spotify so am back in the consumerist loop in regards to books and music unfortunately, albeit digitally. But it works for me.
I’ve managed to make minimalism work for me. I find beauty in the things I own and each item has meaning and memories. No longer the wardrobe full of generic high heels. No Primark-filled closets. No more Vogue. I can’t remember the last time I went clothes shopping. Seriously. I still tune out adverts with a healthy dose of cynicism, luckily for me. What a skill to acquire! I love it.
Going forward-OneEmptyShelf and minimalism
I strongly believe that consumerism is excellent at hiding our real selves. Adverts give us false images to make us feel like we don’t measure up, playing on human traits to make us spend more on stuff we don’t need to keep the machine going. We feel we must ‘have’ better stuff and more stuff and fill our homes, our designer bags and our lives with more and more, so we can be ‘happy’. But as Joshua and Ryan have discovered, having it all doesn’t mean having it all. What will you remember when you’re old and grey? The amount of watches you once owned? The money you worked yourself into the ground for that you never had time to spend? Or the memories, adventures and experiences you lived through? The laughs, the love, the sights, smells and sounds?
My consumerism is now knowledge and experiences. I’m addicted to being amazed. I find beauty in the universe and the world and passion in enjoying and immersing myself in it. The connection that’s made by nature, not by big business.
Minimalism. When you take away the physical, what’s left? When you strip away the material, who remains?
I was shocked to a point. I’d leaned on the consumer cycle to define myself for so long, I stumbled when it was taken away. I was sad. I was lost, confused. But little by little, I found the real me, a person with beliefs and purpose, with direction and thoughts and fears and loves. Take away the physical and the person that remains?
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