A Lighter Journey

It is no secret that minimalism is trending.

You’ve probably scrolled past a documentary or two on Netflix about it, not to mention a handful of series about tiny homes. It’s easy to scoff at and call extreme. But what if these people are on to an extraordinary idea?

I am a maximalist of sorts.

I don’t know how things got to this point, but I find that uncertainty to be a trademark symptom. I’ve had this talk with many friends and the same question always comes up: “How on earth have I acquired all this stuff?”. Often I can’t even remember why I bought something, especially as I try to rid my life of it. Call it cliché, but I’ve decided to try to realign my perspective: without fully committing to minimalism, I still agree that my life would be plagued with significantly less noise if I could get rid of most of the junk that fills the once empty space of closets, drawers, and shelf space all over my home.

I began listening to The Minimalist’s podcast a few months ago. Led by Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn, a question has come up over and over:

Do I own my stuff, or does my stuff own me?

Let me explain this better with an admission about my closet (a.k.a the black hole in my house). I have entirely too much shit. I apologize for the language, but there isn’t a better word to describe the state of things. My closet is filled with items that I don’t wear, and I have lost hours of my days earning money to pay for these things that I don’t want or need. It’s debatable if I ever needed these things, but that is beside the point. On top of the time I had to spend earning the money to buy these items, now that I don’t want these things anymore, I have to look at my options to get rid of them. Can I earn money back on my belongings? Should I just donate them? What is the economic impact of just throwing the junk away? All of these options clutter my brain as I try to reach a decision. If I decide to take action then time, energy, (and probably some gasoline) must be spent as well. Think of this as a one of those long irrational equations that you learned to solve in 6th grade math class.

Hannah has spent X (amount of dollars), and Y (amount of time) buying U (useless crap). It will take her A (amount of time) and B (amount of energy) to get rid of U. If Hannah could go back in time, should she still buy U?

The answer is no.

I shouldn’t have bought those two black leather purses, especially since I already had a similar product of equal quality. This is one example, but I can apply it to almost any category of clothing or accessory. I don’t own just one nice bracelet. I probably own 16, even though I only wear 3 and they are all versatile enough to be worn with any outfit. What about boots? “Boots are an investment piece” I said. “I’ll wear these for years!” I said. And so I have had this conversation with myself as I’ve made many investments over the years. It has led me to own 2 pairs of knee high black leather boots, 1 pair of black thigh high boots (a slave this season’s trends), 4 pairs of booties, and 1 pair of leather mules. This logic has left me trying to figure out how to house 8 more pairs of shoes in my overflowing closet, when 2 pairs from the collection would more than suffice my needs.

This leads back to the concept of ownership: Do I own my stuff, or does my stuff own me? I spent time at work earning money to buy all of it. These things take up space in a home that could be less cluttered if only I could let go. The things I own increase the amount of time I spend making simple decisions (what to where, pack, keep, get rid of). These things all decrease the amount of money that I could otherwise save each month. This leads to more intense budgeting and stress.

Do I own my stuff, or does my stuff own me? I fear the real answer to this question.

I stand in the midst of a problem, in search of a solution. Luckily, in my case, the solution is simple. My way of consuming isn’t putting me in a position to live my best life…so I have to begin consuming differently. The amount of things I own and don’t need adds clutter to my mind and home, therefor I must get rid of the clutter. Even more important, I must not add after I have subtracted.

The truth here, as I’ve learned with Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, is that it’s not a matter of losing but one of gaining. The amount of time, energy, money, and potential savings I lose due to my consuming habits is changeable. It all boils down to making a choice, and continuing to make it day after day.

I’ve decided to take action, and better equip myself in choosing a lifestyle that works better for me: One in which the things I own no longer own me. My consuming habits don’t have to be about depravity to achieve this goal, but rather about choosing only to own items that have purpose and add true value to my life. This is the entire concept of minimalism (even if I haven’t completely committed that it yet).

I don’t write this seated on any self righteous throne.

Seriously I have no throne (or even a cheap lawn chair) to sit on when it comes to this matter. I don’t wish to seem judgmental towards anyone, because I genuinely believe that everyone has to choose a way of life that works best for them. I write this simply because I am relieved to have identified a problem in my life, and I am excited to pursue the solution.

Adjusting my perspective...

...about my consuming habits has impacted my life positively during the month of January. I’m in the camp that doesn’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, but also I fully support anything that inspires people to pursue positive life change. Thirty-one days into 2017 has me feeling that this is only the beginning. Maybe I’ll curate a capsule wardrobe or a modified one to start! Maybe the money I raise from the yard sale I’m hosting this weekend will be enough to buy a season pass to a ski resort. Maybe I’ll pay off my remaining debts and avoid careless debt in the future. The “maybes” don’t feel impossible anymore, and that’s enough of a reason for me to continue pursuing my goal of owning less.

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