So, decluttering. Becoming a minimalist. Simplifying. The minimal movement is becoming more and more popular, as we begin to feel the effects of ‘peak stuff‘ and yearn for something more than another shopping trip, another credit card bill. Minimalism, with its image of empty, shiny counter-tops, statement art pieces in downsized lofts, less expenditure and more time, is an ideal that more and more people are striving for in these tumultuous times.
And doesn’t it look attractive? Who wouldn’t want any of those things? Streamlining our lives, jettisoning everything that’s unimportant and finding happiness on the way. That calm serenity, a world away from the bad news and multi-media screaming that makes up our modern, ‘advanced’ lifestyle. Just get rid of our clutter, and we too can have our own slice of this perfect life.
And arguably, that’s the easy part. Once we’re over the initial attachment, the sentimentality, getting rid of bric-a-brac clogging up the attic actually becomes a bit of a breeze. We donate and throw away to our heart’s content, unveiling those clean worktops, shiny surfaces, and indeed, empty shelves. The momentum gathers until we’re left with just the important, just the utilitarian, the things that we actually need. And as we stand in the middle of our tidy, sleek houses, we feel content that we’ve achieved that minimalist utopia. That’s great, we think. Now I can start really enjoying my life.
And that’s where we come unstuck. Minimalism is seen as unsustainable by many because all they see is the initial phase. By getting rid of the unnecessary, we’re left with a nothingness, a void. Once we’ve created that breathing space…well, what do we fill it with? We take away our knee-jerk reaction. We take away our crutches. And without a plan, a support…it’s very, very easy to fall right back in to that consumer cycle. Minimalism is boring, we think. There’s nothing to do. I miss my shoes.
Minimalism is a long term game. Hacking back the clutter, removing those thickets and weeds, clears the space to plant and grow whatever we like. It’s important to have a plan, have an idea of where we want to go after the initial declutter. Surrounded by shoes, toys and clothes, we dreamed of spending less time at work. We wished we had more time to spend on our hobbies. We gazed, starry-eyed, and built little domestic dreamworlds of tidy drawers and organised cupboards. But if we don’t envisage exactly how we’re going to do that, it’s easy to flounder once we finally have the space to do so. In the space that remains, we begin to know ourselves, removed from the distractions of purchases and consumerism.
Living a more minimal life isn’t an easy fix. It’s not a solution to all life’s problems. What it is, is an opening of the eyes. To our self. To a world ungoverned by advertisers and big business. And it’s a tool, not an answer. A tool to wield however we want. Some of us will put it down and walk away.
Others will use that tool to help us begin to build the foundations of a life renewed. We can fill up the space we’ve created, not with more possessions, but with experiences, travel, hobbies, friends and family. Minimalism isn’t a boring way to live life – because minimalism isn’t the thing that changes our life. We are the ones with the opportunity, with a palette full of paints and the chance to make our life as colourful as we want.
Minimalism itself isn’t one single thing. It’s not decluttering. It’s not throwing away anything you no longer need. Minimalism is multi-faceted, just like ourselves. Let it be a part of us, growing and changing alongside us, as we continue on through our days.