Ever since I first moved out on my own at 20 years old, I have been learning the lesson of stuff. What stuff I needed, what stuff I wanted to buy, what stuff would make me feel better, more fulfilled, more successful? From my first own studio apartment in Vancouver to the tiny room I subletted in downtown Toronto, it was always about filling it with stuff; whether it was books to show how well-read I was, or pretty lamps or shelves and knick knacks, to having a full walk-in closet that had wooden hangers only and displays of costume jewelry that I never wore.
You may have seen the new documentary on Netflix, “The Minimalists”, it is a great study on how many people, who were living the “American Dream” one day woke up and realised that all these things, all this material wealth… they still felt empty, unfulfilled. It’s an inspiring, impactful, and quick watch on how we as humans can fill our lives with meaning, not by buying more things but by minimizing what things we think we need to filling it with genuine interactions, fulfillment through community or by just having space to breathe.
I have always been a bit of a hoarder, I think it runs in my family. My grandma’s house is full of crap that the family never uses but cannot seem to get rid of. I think there are toy cars from when I was a kid to yoga mats that have never been touched, to piles of baby clothes and knick knacks that lay around. The first time I was inspired to get rid of everything was when my friend had me over to her place in Vancouver. She was picking up and moving to California with her boyfriend, and instead of selling everything, or getting rid of it on Craigslist, she invited all her friends over and gave everything away. For free.
To me, this was such an inspiring moment, to hear her say “It’s just stuff. I’m not going to use it or take it, I’d rather have someone who will use it have it.” I cannot describe how it felt, this veil lifted off of me that, yes, these are just things and these things are not irreplaceable. They do not have to have monetary value, they can be given away, freely.
So, when I moved from Vancouver I gave everything away. I had a wild going away party and people took books, furniture, figurines, art supplies, full length mirrors – they took it all away and whatever they didn’t take, I left. After almost four years of living there I had somehow accumulated so much junk! Buying all these things to fill my home, I had an extensive and heavy book collection, some books that I never read (granted, most were used!), I had clothes I never wore, milk crates full of… I don’t even know what anymore. And I left it all, just like that. I packed up only the books that meant the most to me, I took my notebooks with old writing, new notebooks (because I knew I’d need them for future writing), whatever clothes I had and my tapestry that comes with me everywhere, and I moved back home.
Then, when I moved to Toronto I had two big suitcases, mostly full of notebooks and sketchbooks (priorities). I sublet in a house full of fellow film students (seriously, the best luck because I moved into a house full of people that are now my best friends) and I owned nothing. How nice was that!? How free did I feel to have everything in two suitcases, ready to go anywhere at a moment’s notice? How simple did it feel to live so lightly?
Well, it’s been three years and I have again accumulated lots of things but I am much more mindful of my spending. And, as in The Minimalists, I live more deliberately. Every dollar I spend, I think of, everything I buy, I ask, “Does this bring value to my life?”. And I can say that mostly everything I have does, it’s mostly art supplies and books that clutter my free space and my wardrobe is pretty minimal now.
So, I went on a bit of a long tangent there, if you have actually read all of the above, amazing!! And if you haven’t that’s cool, here’s my quick list of how I live more minimal:
- I only buy used clothes, trade clothes with friends/at clothing swaps, take hand-me-downs from friends/family (exception for underwear and shoes because shoes fit me weird and I have bad knees, and used underwear… well I don’t think I have to explain that)
- My closet is cleaned monthly and if I don’t wear something I put it in a donate pile which I go through later and then donate or trade on Bunz
- Things I keep – Do they bring value to my life? Is this important to me in some way? (Sentimental or otherwise, for example, I keep all my notebooks filled with my writing because… well, it is quite literally a piece of my mind and life!)
- Every season change I do a deep clean and declutter
- I try to do a daily 5 minute declutter, always looking at what has entered my life and if it has a purpose or if it can be recycled/thrown out/given away
- Start small or start in your closet! I guarantee you will have at least one thing you can donate in your closet, and you can challenge yourself by turning the coat hangers around (the Oprah challenge) or by minimizing your wardrobe to 33 items, or just aiming to donate one thing a week and seeing how you feel – imagine if everything in your closet is your favourite thing to wear
- I don’t go shopping, and on the rare instance I do it’s for something I absolutely need. Try going on a shopping fast, or if you love to shop, try noticing how much stuff is being sold and for what?
- Have a COLD and WARM wardrobe
- If anything, think of the environmental and ethical impact your shopping habits have! (Only if you want to)
One person’s junk is another person’s treasure; don’t feel bad if you want to be a minimalist but have a lot of stuff! It’s up to you what brings you value and what you consider clutter. Not everyone can have that Helvetica, sans-serif lifestyle with five utensils in the whole house, and that’s OK. Just look around and see what you don’t use that someone else might be able to!
Now, I am looking around and seeing a few things I need to get rid of!