Nothing, or the challenge of minimalism

Image credit: Pexels

Monochromic, black and white designs. Sterile environments, full of perfectly Instagrammable cups of coffee, Macbooks and single roses in elegant narrow vases. Absence of any hint of anyone having ever sat on those futuristic glass chairs. You get the picture - the perfectly still face of minimalism, a lifestyle movement gaining popularity not just among vegan celebrities who wash their hair with Evian only, but among us mere mortals, too. So, what’s the deal? Is its snow whiteness the fairest in the land or is it at ridiculous as Pinterest makes it look like?

The driving force of minimalism is decluttering. Getting rid of things you don’t use and learning to make the most of as few possessions as possible. As an international student with no warehouse mom and dad to dump my stuff at and moving house or room every year, I really appreciate the sentiment (especially as I am dreading the prospect of moving all my possessions yet again next week). So, Youtube minimalist vlogs in hand, I decided to see experience this first hand. 

Some of the advice I found was really valuable. We live in a world which encourages us to have as many things as possible - from bulk buying canned food to fast fashion sales. Minimalist principles, at least at the decluttering stage, focus on getting rid of things one does not use. The three months rule seems to be the most popular one - if you haven’t used an object in the last three months and are not planning to do so in the next three, you should get rid of it. Seasonal wardrobe items aside, it is actually quite liberating. Hand in hand goes the advice to get rid of anything that can’t really be used anymore - items that don’t fit you (and if you do change size considerably again, just reward yourself with new buys), fashion items which look outdated, textbooks you will never use and the like. Duplicates, such as second bedsheet or yet another pair or scissors, are also on the fast track to the nearest Oxfam. As with anything, some vloggers manage to make this simple and sensible idea seem ridiculous - a wardrobe of literally ten items will require constant, unproductive and energy wasteful laundry, whereas the advice to ‘not have twenty makeup brushes and limit it to five’ or ‘ditch those thirty tops and have just ten’ seems to come straight from the world of the Kardashians (seriously, though, does ANYONE but the Kardashians have more than five makeup brushes to begin with?). That aside, the decluttering stage went well - ten rubbish bags and four donation sacks later, I felt like something has been lifted from my shoulders. Presumably, those four sacks which I now wouldn’t have to carry to the new room.

Minimalism is not really just about decluttering, though (although some people might need preparing to the idea of parting with their items and a rethinking of the concept of ownership). The main minimalist principle seems to be about changing consumption patterns. There is no use in decluttering if you are going to buy all that stuff again in a month’s time. Minimalism is focused on only obtaining new things if you really need them, on buying durable good quality stuff when you do buy something, on managing your finances and your (head) space in general better and more efficiently. The most unexpected thing I took from it was the need to recycle (not just in terms of rubbish), focus on sustainability and an acute awareness of waste, especially food waste - all very important issues, worth thinking about and incorporating into your daily lifestyles. 

Will I continue the journey? Yes, of course. There will be hazards (only yesterday I saw a book I did not need but really wanted, and now it is a part of my slightly trimmed library, and I think I didn't finish my omelette, either), and it’s important to not be too self-critical and not focus on the negative and on ‘failing’ to implement minimalist principles. Whereas I know my room will never look like it’s just come out of the white&glass side of Tumblr, I am hoping to be at least a bit more organised and more mindful of where ‘my’ things come from and where they eventually go.

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