Minimalism, my way.

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For years I have been asking myself the same thing:

What do I really need to survive? To thrive? To be happy?

I’ve always felt like I was on the hunt for more, for better, newer, fancier… but this endless prowling never pacified me. I never felt at peace. Actually, the more I searched, the more I accumulated, and the more frustrated I ultimately became.

I felt there must be a state of existence that would prove to be the most satisfying for me, and true to human nature I’d assumed this equation only included addition. More is better, right? If I just get one more cardigan, my wardrobe will be complete. One more book and I’ll finally become that impressive intellectual. One more gadget and my life will finally run like a well-oiled machine. One more and I’ll finally be done. One more and life will be complete.

“There is more joy and fulfillment in pursuing less than can be found in pursuing more.” ― Joshua Fields Millburn

“There is more joy and fulfillment in pursuing less than can be found in pursuing more.” ― Joshua Fields Millburn

But that magic “final item” never presented itself, because it doesn't exist. Each time I’d discover something I felt would, for example, complete my wardrobe, it would initially give me this feeling of there we go, this is finally it! which would inevitably fade later into no, actually, that wasn’t ‘it’ at all and the search would begin all over again. In reality, I was well-overdue for a total overhaul in the way I thought about life and possessions, but I’m getting a little ahead of myself here.

Though I’ve been contemplating the question of what it is I truly need in life for years, exciting things didn’t start developing for me in this area until relatively recently. Sometime in 2015, while casually browsing Pinterest, I came across a handful of pins related to capsule wardrobes. I was perplexed. How could having less clothing be easier? Wouldn’t that get boring? It definitely could not be more satisfying, like so many of these pins claimed. I began to admire these people, elevating their status in my mind to those of martyrs, and filed the idea of capsule wardrobes away under “heck nope” and never looked back.

That is, until about a year later. One morning, while furiously scrolling Facebook in a desperate plea to postpone getting out of bed, I found myself captivated by an ad for Cladwell:

"We want to make lives better. We believe we can do that by helping you own less, while loving it more."

Wow, that actually sounds really good, I thought.

Something about that video spoke to me; I was intrigued.   Before the day was over I had already become a member and was hard at work designing my own capsule wardrobe. Over the following months, I was delighted to discover that for me, yes, actually using a capsule wardrobe is easier and more satisfying. By diligently following Cladwell’s steps (the first of which is called “Closet Cleanout” and is as terrifying as it is self-explanatory), I felt empowered. Who knew saying goodbye to things that no longer served me would feel so good? Who knew it could maybe even quench that proverbial thirst for completeness that had been eluding me? I’ll go into more detail about my experience using capsule wardrobes in another post, but suffice it to say that I took the message of “less is more” and really ran with it. I’m talking, like, couch to 10K, here. Surrounding myself by only the clothing I need and love was such a profoundly positive feeling that I wanted to apply the practice to other areas of my life.

Thankfully, during this time I surreptitiously happened upon that well-publicized book of a very accurate name: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo (AKA the KonMari Method). While some parts of this book are a little on the cheesy side, I gobbled this book up whole anyway. I was so eager to apply the motivation and momentum for decluttering I’d gained through using a capsule wardrobe to other areas of my life, and this book literally gave me a blueprint for how to do just that. I’ll share more of my experience with this book in another post, but for me, the two big takeaway messages from this book are

  1. Ask yourself what you want to keep (instead of what you want to discard -- this was a game changer for me), and...

  2. Make sure everything you keep has a place and that each item returns to said place after each use.

Even though I had gotten rid of a decent amount of clothing during my Closet Cleanout (6 big, black garbage bags!), I revisited my wardrobe to apply the KonMari method. I was absolutely amazed (and embarrassed and disgusted and alarmed and and and) by the number of items I was now able to easily part with. Now, when it comes to apparel, I’m a girl of discriminating tastes (so says I), and I knew that many of the items I was ready to part with would easily find happy homes; many of the items were very nice (Frye boots, Anthropolgie dresses, my weight in Lululemon apparel etc.). I’d heard my neighborhood was having its annual garage sale weekend in the not-too-distant future, which inspired me to commit to having my own sale during that time. The second I slapped that bad boy on my calendar, discarding items became even easier. This is one area that was not covered at all in the book, other than the author mentioning a few times that discarded items could be donated or sold, so I will detail how I prepared for my very successful sale in yet another post (or a whole series, actually).

After consuming and digesting the book, and slowly but surely working through the KonMari checklist, I had an intense feeling a switch had been flipped in my brain. The way I viewed my possessions completely changed, and I really, truly knew that the feeling I described earlier, of knowing a satisfying way of life was out there, was now within reach. That equation I mentioned earlier, it turns out, has a heck of a lot more minus signs than I ever could have imagined. I diligently worked away, trimming and tossing and paring down my belongings, all the while the pile for the yard sale grew and grew, taking on a monstrous life of its own. This was going to be one stupendous sale! With the number of items I wanted to keep whittled down to a rewarding and joy-sparking shadow of its former self, I pondered, Under all this stuff, am I actually a minimalist?

“The things you own end up owning you.” ― Chuck Palahniuk

“The things you own end up owning you.” ― Chuck Palahniuk

I read up on the topic. I perused tiny houses on the internet, read about a couple who had no couch and only one car, and watched the documentary Minimalism. The message of the documentary was powerful and applicable, however, I was particularly struck by how little personality many of the subjects' living spaces had. This is not a slam against these individuals (more power to them!), though I caught myself thinking, This is maybe a bit beyond my comfort level. The experience of further researching minimalism was overall positive, and through all this, I was able to determine my boundaries. I now have an idea of the level of minimalism that will work for me. That Goldilocks kind of sweet spot to aim for that I can nestle into a really thrive. That space where my small, little world feels limitless without the needless chatter of unwanted belongings and clutter distracting my attention from what truly matters in life.

“The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.” ― Marie Kondō

“The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.” ― Marie Kondō

For me, it isn’t about forcing myself to have nothing or even the bare minimum. It’s about having just what I need and what gives me joy, but also striving to be more content with what I have and letting go of that endless desire for more. Really, this whole time I was actually searching for simple.

And that brings me here, to share this journey with you.